There are 300 or more different species of Aloe. The most prominent variety, Aloe barbadensis, Miller commonly referred to as Aloe vera, is especially noted for its amazing healing abilities. Although Aloe vera resembles a cactus, it actually belongs to the family of liliaceous plants and is indigenous to subtropical regions and deserts.
The etymology of the word Aloe is Arabic; It’s derived from the Arabic word “Alloeh,” which means: “shining bitter substance.” While the word “vera” stems from Latin and means “true.” 6,000 year old stone carvings containing images of Aloe vera plants have been found in Egypt, where Aloe vera was known as the “plant of immortality”. In fact, it was commonly given to deceased pharaohs as a burial gift! 2000 years ago Greek scientists deemed Aloe vera the “universal panacea.” Historically, Aloe vera has been successfully used by traditional medicine practitioners in many disparate cultures including: Greece, Egypt, India, Mexico, Japan and China. According to legend, Egyptian queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra used it as part of their regular beauty regimes. Alexander the Great and Christopher Columbus used it to treat soldiers’ wounds.
The first reference to Aloe vera in English was a translation by John Goodyew in A.D. 1655 of Dioscorides’ Medical treatise De Materia Medica. Aloe vera was first used as a laxative in the United States in the 1880’s. In the mid-1930s, it was used successfully to reverse chronic and severe radiation dermatitis.
“The potency of Aloe vera is due to its rich variety of ingredients which are present in perfect balance and work together as a team. Although the solid portion of the plant forms only 1%-1.5%, the rest being water, this small amount of active ingredient can produce a substantial effect. The only way to account for this is to accept the philosophy of synergism within the plant. Synergism means that the effect of the whole is greater than the effects of the component parts, so although individual members of the team could only have an effect, together they can achieve a great deal more.” Aloe Vera – The Medicine Plant’, Dr Peter Atherton, p25
The Structure of the leaf is basically made up of:
• The Rind – is the tough outer layer and is where the synthesis and production of all the nutrients in Aloe Vera takes place
• The Sap – is bitter and contains anthraquinones (latex)
• The Mucilage layer – is rich in long chain sugars called polysaccharides
• The Inner Leaf Gel – is sterile and can be used immediately and contains the majority of nutrients in the Aloe Vera plant