The aloe vera plant is native to the dry, hot area of Northern Africa, but it was so popular that it spread across the world. There are more than 400 different species from those that grow very large and tall to the houseplant with which most people are familiar. The scientific name is aloe Barbadensus Miller, and it is mostly known for its medicinal properties. Aloe is also known as the Miracle Plant, Natural Heal and Burn Plant.
Aloe plants look like a succulent or a cactus, giving the impression of having fleshy leaves with thorny edges. It is actually part of the lily family, yet it is a succulent that does not require a great deal of water. The plant is stemless with lance-shaped leaves that are thick and full of a substance that looks like gel. The gel and the inside walls of the leaves are used in many medicinal preparations. The houseplant variety grows to about 6 inches to 1 foot tall.
Aloe vera was very popular with several ancient cultures, including Egyptian, Greek and Roman. According to an article published at the Disabled World website, a papyrus from 1550 B.C. tells of aloe being used as beauty products for queens of Egypt, including Nefertiti and Cleopatra. Greek and Roman physicians wrote of the healing properties of aloe. There are also writings from India and China where aloe was used to heal. One of the earliest written records of using aloe was carved into a Sumerian tablet from 2100 B.C., according to Aloe Vera Aid.
Aloe Vera Aid notes that aloe was grown on the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean. There is a legend about Alexander the Great stating that he conquered this island just to be certain he had enough aloe to treat the wounds of his soldiers.
Aloe is mentioned about five times in the Bible, according to Aloeria. It was known as aloes. The most popular story concerning aloe in the Bible occurs right after the crucifixion of Jesus. The verse states that Joseph of Arimathea feared damage being done to the body of Christ, and asked Pilate if he could take it and bury it. Nicodemus came before the body was taken and anointed it with myrrh and aloes reported to weigh 100 lbs.
When the leaves of the aloe plant are split, a sticky gel comes forth. This gel has been used for centuries as a topical cure for wounds, burns and skin problems. In Egypt, the leaves were ground and mixed up with other herbs and preparations used to heal. The first Greek physician who used aloe was Dioscordies, and Hippocrates also used aloe preparations frequently. Today, research is being done using aloe to cure irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.