Aloe Throughout History
Aloe Vera has been used extensively for many years in many cultures. It’s said that it originated in southern Africa and spread to other warm climates via trade routes.
Aloe Vera has been found in carvings on Egyptian walls and coffins from 4000 B.C. Queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti were known to have used it for skin care as a secret beauty treatment. Aloe softened and soothed skin parched from the hot desert sun. Africans hung clumps of it above their doorways to ward away evil spirits and bring good fortune. In some countries, it is given as a wedding gift wrapped in paper, unplanted and unwatered. As long as it continues to put out new shoots, the couple will have good luck. Aloe Vera can put out new shoots, without water, for up to seven years.
Going back to ancient Greece, it was said that Aristotle was able to persuade Alexander the Great to conquer the island of Socroto off the east coast of Africa, for the purpose of obtaining sufficient amounts of Aloe to heal soldiers’ wounds. If you believe it to be true, Aloe is also mentioned in John 19:39 as being a part of the mixture used for anointing the body of Jesus after his death.
On this continent, The Mayan, Yucatan, and North and Central American Indians also used Aloe to smooth complexions and heal raw skin. According to myth, Florida’s Seminole Indians described the fountain of youth as water that flowed from the center of a cluster of Aloe Vera plants!
We have the X-ray and the atom bomb to thank for the scientific attention to the Aloe in recent times. The skin ulcerations caused by radiation burns were almost incurable until doctors tried the old Aloe Vera leaf remedy. Aloe worked better than anything else they had tried. The only problem was that nobody knew how to preserve the juice, which meant that the leaves of the plants had to be shipped in from the tropics.
Enter Rodney M. Stockton, a chemical engineer vacationing in Florida back in 1942 who was given Aloe gel to spread on his sunburned skin. He knew right away just how important this healing gel was and set to work trying to solve the problem of stabilization so Aloe could be preserved for medical use. A report in 1959 showed that his AloCreme ointment could, in 2 days, change a deep thermal burn to a minor second-degree burn by regenerating tissues.
As Aloe Vera gained notoriety, many companies started incorporating Aloe into products such as moisturizers, face cleansers, shampoo & conditioner, deodorant, and more.
Aloe, Why Do You Do What You Do?
According to the Egyptian Papyrus Ebers from 1500 B.C., the medicinal value of Aloe Vera was widely acclaimed and had been for many centuries before. Dioscorides, the author of Greek Herbal from back in the first century A.D., wrote an extensive report on Aloe’s success as a treatment for conditions including insomnia, stomach disorders, constipation, hemorrhoids, itching, headache, mouth and gum diseases, sunburn, and blemishes.
There are over 300 species of the Aloe plant, but the species used most frequently is Aloe Vera. It is a perennial plant, meaning it only needs to be planted once. It is characterized by tough, fleshy leaves that appear triangular or spearlike in shape. The inner layer contains the gel used in treating a variety of conditions.
This innocuous looking plant has been found to have a wide range of pharmacologic activity. The anti-fungal and antibacterial properties are effective against certain types of staph and strep, e-coli and candida, or yeast. It is very effective against feline leukemia, typically a terminal illness in cats, due to the presence of acemannan. This is exciting as it indicates the acemannan in aloe could have practical applications in treating HIV and other viral-based illnesses. However, currently Aloe Vera is best-known soothe a variety of irritations.
There are two main constituents for Aloe Vera: the drug and the gel. The drug is taken from the juice obtained from cells underneath the outer skin of the plant. When it is dried and purified, it yields extracts that contain resins, anthraquinones, and anthraglycosides. The crystallized anthraglycosides are also called aloin. This is the yellow substance that you may see if you cut open Aloe. This has an extremely biter taste and is what has been used for centuries as a laxative. The main ingredient of aloin is barbaloin, which is also known as aloe-emodin. Along with it’s laxative attributes, it also has sunscreening attributes. It is often used in cosmetics to protect from UV rays.
The gel inside the leaves is the lifeblood of the Aloe plant, rich in nutrients and moisture. It has a high water content of 96%. Aside from water, it contains hundreds of different substances. Inorganic substances that can be found in Aloe Vera are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus. Organic substances include glucose, protein, cholesterol, triglycerides, salicylic acid, and bits of magnesium and zinc. The amazingly powerful Aloe Vera contains eighteen of the twenty amino acids found in the body. These are what help to build healthy skin. It also has a super high vitamin content, including vitamins A1, b1, b2, b3, b6, C1, E, and B12(in small amounts). One of the major uses of Aloe Vera gel is as a skin-healer, skin softener, and moisturizer. It is believed that the moisturizing and healing properties of Aloe gel are due to the polysaccharides present. The major polysaccharide present has been found to be a glucomannan. Other polysaccharides containing galactose, uronic acids, and pentoses are also existent. It is likely that the gel’s advantageous properties are from the combined presence of these polysaccharides interacting with other substances present in the Aloe gel. The anti-inflammatory and painkilling attributes of Aloe Vera can be traced back to the anthraquinones found in the gel. They are, in a way, like endorphins in that they numb while they heal.
Aloe Vera has a long history of use with no negative side effects. Although it has been documented to improve a wide variety of ailments, Aloe Vera is not specifically approved for anything other than minor first aid. Please obtain qualified professional attention if you have a medical problem and want to include Aloe use in your course of treatment. Very few people are allergic to Aloe, but a few do experience a stinging sensation or a mild rash. If this happens to you, DO NOT USE Aloe Vera.
Relatively little research has been done to study how Aloe gel works externally to heal wounds and keep skin healthy, but it is thought that Aloe Vera’s unique combination of chemical compounds work together to stimulate cell regeneration, and that the enzymes effect chemical changes which intensify healing. Either way, we know that it is doing something right! The proof is in the benefits!