MEDICINAL HISTORY

The Origin of Aloe Vera

There are nearly 360 different Aloe species. As of 2016 and with recent DNA comparison puts the Aloe in the order of Asphodelacea family in the order of Apsaragales.  Previously it was associated with the Xanthorrhoeaceae, which was used for the family in the APG classification system as well as the Liliaceae family.

Among all the various Aloe species, only one variety has a legendary medical reputation dating back thousands of years, to the times of Ancient Civilization: the famous Aloe Vera plant. The proper scientific name is Aloe Vera (L.) Burm.f, but the synonyms Aloe barbadensis or Aloe barbadensis Miller are frequently referred to as aloe vera.

However, most botanists agree, and historical evidence suggests, that the Aloe Vera plant originated in the warm, dry climates of Africa. However, because the plant is readily adaptable, and because man has been so eager to carry it and bring its benefits with him from place to place, it now can be found in many warm lands.

Etymology

Aloe Vera is derived from the Arabic word Alloeh meaning bitter because of the bitter liquid found in the leaves. Vera, which means true in Latin, was added to this particular species to distinguish its primacy among the other Aloe plants.

Other common names are: Chinese aloe, Indian aloe, true aloe, Barbados aloe, sávila, Curaçao aloe, burn aloe, first aid plant etc.

Ancient Use

The virtues of the plant have been recorded by many great civilizations, from Persia and Egypt in the Middle East, to Greece and Italy in Europe, and India and the African continent.

The plant is widely known in Asia and the Pacific, is found in Japanese, Filipino, and Hawaiian folklore. The Spanish used Aloe, and carried it to their new world colonies in South America and the Caribbean.

Many believe that a Sumerian clay tablet, found in the city of Nippur, written around B.C.E. 2200, was the first document to include Aloe Vera among plants of great healing power. Two of the oldest and most profound medical documents known to civilization—the Ebers Papyrus and the Edwin Smith Papyrus (ca. 1552 BCE)—recorded ancient Egyptian medical men using Aloe Vera.

The first Western benchmark in man’s understanding of Aloe Vera is the Greek Dioscorides (41 A.D.-68 A.D.). This master of pharmacology gave the first detailed description of Aloe Vera, and attributed to its juices the power to loosen the belly and cleanse the stomach. He further added that this bitter Aloe (the sap) eased haemorrhoids; that it aided in healing bruises; that it was good for the tonsils, the gums, and all general mouth irritations; and that it worked as a medicine for the eyes. Dioscorides further observed that the whole leaf, when pulverized, could stop the bleeding of many wounds.

Is it magic?

The ancients certainly seemed to think so. The Egyptians called it the plant of immortality. The Bible mentions Christ being removed from the cross and his body being wrapped in aloe and myrrh. The women of the East placed great value on aloe vera as an aid to enhance the beauty of their skin. But, despite the profound faith of the ancients, modern sciences tells us that there is no magic as the term is popularly known and understood in aloe vera. It is a plant with a deeply intriguing chemical and nutritional composition that has set up and propagated its legacy over the years.

Read about the INTERNAL and EXTERNAL benefits and uses.