The Aloe vera is a member of the lily family, Liliaceae. It is native to the southern and eastern parts of Africa. Aloe vera is a succulent leafy plant, and the leaves produce two types of solutions that are used for medicinal purposes. There is a juice that is collected and boiled for laxative purposes. There is a gel in the leaf that can be accessed when the leaf is cut. The Aloe vera is best known throughout history for its healing powers.
The history of Aloe vera goes back more than 3,500 years to the ancient Egyptians. They were one of the first to realize the benefits and healing values of the plant. It was used as an embalming element and portrayed in wall paintings. They called it the "plant of immortality." It was even believed to have been mixed with myrrh in the linens that Christ was wrapped in for burial.
The history of Aloe vera also includes the Greeks. A Greek physician named Pedianus Dioscorides is documented in the 1st century as giving the first description of Aloe. He discusses the sap or liquid solution as the healing agent of the plant. He noted that the more bitter it tasted, the better it worked. He prescribed it for sleep problems, stomach problems, tonsillitis, diseases of the mouth, hemorrhoids, dry skin, hair loss and soothing the eyes. Hundreds of years later, Alexander the Great also publicized the healing nature of Aloe.
Others in History
The Ancient Persians, Japanese, Russian, Indian, and Chinese all used Aloe Vera as a natural healer for hundreds of years. In China it was fist described in the 11th century and was called "lu-hui," meaning black deposit. In the 17th century the West Indies were the main commercial trade region for Aloe, which residents sold to the Europeans. The Dutch also had Aloe plantations as the demand for the healing properties of the plant was high.
Researchers today are trying to explain exactly how and why Aloe vear works. Some say the gel inside the leaf reduces inflammation, which in turn helps the healing process. The other side of the debate says it's the mixture of vitamins and minerals in the gel moisturizer which helps a wound to heal. No matter what the debate, Aloe is still popular today and is used for many conditions, most popularly to soothe burns and minor wounds.
Meaning of the Name
The meaning of the name Aloe vera echoes the healing properties of the plant. The word Aloe is a derivative of an Arabic word, alloch, meaning shiny, bitter substance. Vera, the species name, means true or genuine. The plant has certainly helped to genuinely heal many ailments throughout history.