By Liliana Usvat
In each age, on each continent, in each culture, Aloe Vera has drawn the attention of the most sophisticated of minds.
The virtues of the plant have been recorded by many great civilizations, from those of Persia and Egypt in the Middle East, to those of Greece and Italy in Europe, to those of India and the African continent.
The plant is widely known in Asia and the Pacific, and is found in the folklore of the Japanese, the Philippines and the Hawaiians.
The Spanish used Aloe, and carried it with them to their new world colonies in South America and the Caribbean. Not that this considerable pedigree should call forth images of primitive peoples and their witch doctors.
Among the plant’s earliest champions were some of the great figures in the history of medicine and medical thought. One of its earliest proponents was the Greek physician Dioscorides.
There are over 250 different species of Aloe grown around the world. However, only four species are known to have special healing and nutritional properties. Aloe Barbadensis Miller contains the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino-acids, enzymes and other valuable ingredients, and is rightfully called Aloe Vera, which means the True Aloe.
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.
The first detailed discussion of Aloe’s medicinal value is probably that which is found in the Papyrus ebers, an Egyptian document written around B.C.E. 1550. This document gives twelve formulas for mixing Aloe with other agents to treat both internal and external human disorders.
In Greek pharmacology, the plant was first mentioned by Celsius (B.C. 25-50 A.D.), but his comments were limited to its power as a purgative.
The first Western benchmark in man’s understanding of Aloe is the Greek herbal of Dioscorides (41 A.D.-68 A.D.). This master of Roman pharmacology developed his knowledge and skill as he traveled with that great empire’s armies.
Dioscorides gave the first detailed description of the plant we call Aloe Vera, and attributed to its juices “the power of binding, of inducing sleep.” He noted as well that it “loosens the belly, cleansing the stomach.”
He further added that this “bitter” Aloe (the sap) was a treatment for boils; that it eased hemorrhoids; 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.
23-79 A.D. Pliny the Elder, a Roman physician, generally repeats the findings of Dioscorides. Adds that the juice checks perspiration and the boiled root heals leprous sores. States that fake Aloe was being made and sold near Jerusalem, he calls it the “bastard kind”.
200 A.D. Aloe had become an important part of Roman medicine. Used by physicians such as Galen, Antyllus, Aretaces, and many other southern European physicians. Used as described by Dioscorides and Pliny, with some additions.
700-800 A.D. Chinese “Materia Medicas”, first use of Aloe in China. Chinese referred to plant as Lu-hui, meaning “black deposit,” or “Hsiang-tqan” referring to the bitter taste of Aloe. Notes Aloe’s value as a sinus treatment and treatment of fever and convulsions in children. Also re-confirmed use as a treatment for skin diseases. Whole leaf ground and boiled down.
900 A.D. AL-Kindi, Arab philosopher, engineer, and physician. States that Aloe is an effective treatment for inflammatory pain, eye ulcers, melancholy, and other medical problems. He adds that Aloe is used in Iran as a purgative, and in Egypt as a detersive to clean the digestive system and detoxify the entire body. Method of processing not mentioned.
Aloe Vera is one of the oldest medicinal plants. It is native to Africa and is also known as the “plant of immortality”. It has a long and illustrious history dating from biblical times.
Ancient Egyptians and Greeks have used the plant throughout the millennia and wars had been fought over it. Aloe has confirmed its “magical properties” for many years and it was rediscovered in the middle of the last century. It was given many beautiful names such as: plant of immortality, fountain of youth, silent healer, plant of life, celestial blessing, harmonious medicine and desert lily.
- The Egyptians uses aloe vera to help mummify dead bodies. This makes sense because worms and bacteria that help decomposition cannot survive alongside aloe vera.
- After Jesus Christ was taken off the cross, aloe vera was one of the plants bought to prepare his body for burial
- Cleopatra did use aloe vera on her whole body including hair and nails to keep her looking younger.
Historical uses of Aloes/Sandalwood:
- Enhance deep sleep.
- Rub a drop above eyebrows in a wide circle around the eye 1-3 times daily to help with vision.
- Used as cologne.
- Combined with bath salts for a relaxing bath.
- Used for dry chapped skin and wrinkled skin.
- Used for acute or chronic diarrhea, rub on stomach area.
- Place a drop on cold sores to help heal.
- Massage in hair and on scalp to retard graying.
- Put a drop on an incision to speed wound healing.
Aloe Vera in America
Aloe Vera was brought to the American continent by the Jesuits during the Spanish invasion in the XV century. It can only be grown in warm tropical areas. It belongs to the Lily family (together with onion and garlic) although it looks more like a cactus. The leaves of the Aloe plant grow from the base in a rosette pattern.
They are long, hard and green, shaped like a sword and end in a spike. During its flowering season, Aloe produces a light yellow flower on the stem which grows from the middle of the plant, much higher than the leaves. The clear gel is stored in the succulent leaves. As a member of Xeroids family of plants, Aloe is able to minimize the loss of water after a leaf has been cut or damaged by promptly closing its stomas (minuscule epidermal pores on a leaf). This property enables the plant to survive long dry periods and repair any damage to its leaves.
Aloe Vera in Jamaica
Aloe Vera is classified as bitters in Jamaica. All herbs that are classified as bitters have a bitter taste and have strong healing properties.
Bitters are used to balance out imbalances that may occur in the body such as cancer or any autoimmune diseases. These imbalances can be caused by having too much salt or sugar in the body. Other popular bitters in Jamaica are sarsaparilla and serosi.
Aloe Vera is administered topically or internally. It can be cut into small pill like blocks and swallowed. It is easy to swallow because it is slimy.
Some people soak it in coconut water and drink it. The electrolytic properties of coconut water help to makes the nutrients in the aloe vera more bio-available.
The medicinal uses of aloe vera consist of applying it to the skin or hair similar to a lotion or shampoo.
Aloe Vera is called Single Bible in Jamaica. It’s like the holy grail of all healing plants. In Jamaica, aloe vera is used to cure majority of all diseases that is a result of an imbalanced digestive system. For example, worms within the intestines or too much bad bacteria in the intestines can easily be resolved by aloe vera juice.
Worms and bad bacteria are both anaerobic respirator’s and release toxins into the human body. This in turn results in a plethora of sicknesses. This is where the plant has its strongest healing attributes.
Cold and flu – Aloe Vera boosts the immune system. It contains a long list of Phytonutrients. It also contains Vitamin A, B, C, E. It contains most minerals, plant sterols and enzymes. Therefore, the nutrients in the Aloe Vera reinforce each other. The onset of a cold is believed to be caused by a lack of these nutrients along with a stressful environment. Therefore, one the use of aloe vera is to replenish the body with the necessary nutrients to fight a cold.
Ulcer -One of the medicinal uses of aloe vera is that it forms a protective coating over ulcers and slows the progression of ulcer sores. This coating protects the ulcer from future damage by the stomach’s acidic juices. The nutrients in the aloe vera also counteract the bacteria responsible for the progression of ulcers. All these factors combine to help the stomach repair itself of the ulcer and return to normal functioning.
- Gastroenteritis, Diarrhea and Constipation Aloe Vera is the number one cure for Gastroenteritis, Diarrhea and Constipation in Jamaica. It is the surest cure. Gastroenteritis and diarrhea is normally caused by a select couple of very stubborn bacteria. These bacteria release very potent toxins that can literally shut down the body and result in death.
- The diarrhea is a result of the intestinal track desperately trying to remove the bacteria from the intestinal track unsuccessfully. Fortunately soaking the aloe vera in some coconut water and drinking it will easily eliminate the bacteria from the intestines.
- Constipation is alleviated because the aloe vera removes the bacteria that are paralyzing the intestinal track and it helps to push through hard solid body waste.
There are six references in the Bible of Aloe Vera:
- “And they took the body of Jesus and wound it in linen clothes with the spices and aloes as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”
“As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of aloes which the Lord hath planted, [and] as cedar trees beside the waters.”
“All thy garments [smell] of myrrh, and aloes [and] cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.”
“I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.”
“Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.”
Song of Solomon 4:14
“And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound [weight].”
The Many Uses of Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera taken externally is most efficient as a
- first aid in treating various wounds and injuries caused either by freezing or burning (hot water, electricity, radiation, sun burns).
- It relieves pain,
- prevents infections,
- stops bleeding and
- speeds up wound healing.
- In dermatology, it helps the eczema,
- fungal infections,
- rashes, dermatitis,
- teen acne and
- diaper rash.
When taken orally, Aloe Vera
- improves the balance of almost all body functions,
- from improving digestion to
- providing a good night sleep. It provides the vital elements necessary for proper body functions.
- It detoxifies the whole body and
- stimulates liver and
- kidney functions.
- It regulates digestive tract,
- food absorption and
- bowel movements.
- It helps the endocrine system including pancreas,
- thyroid gland and
- blood circulation.
- It alleviates the side effects of chemo and radiation therapy.
- It helps to reduce fatigue and tiredness,
- increases immune system and
- has anti-bacterial,
- anti-viral and
- anti-fungal properties.
- It helps to reduce arthritic swelling and pain,
- reduces inflammations in joints and muscles.
- It rejuvenates and slows down the process of aging.
Aloe Vera gel is non-toxic, has no adverse effects and cannot be overdosed.
- Cancer Treatment – The main medicinal use of aloe vera is reversing the effects of cancer. The University of the West Indies and Northern Caribbean University did a joint research about treating cancer with aloe vera. The aloe vera contains a super mineral called organic germanium. Most of the healing properties of the plant is attributed to this mineral. The reasearch done by the universities proved that organic germanium helps to shut down cancer cells. The properties of the aloe vera plant basically sends a message to the cancer cells DNA that gives it instructions to stop replicating and shut down.
- Topical Treatment –Whether you have oily or dry skin, one of the major medicinal uses of aloe vera gel is to revitalize the skin. Just cut it into big pieces and rub it on the skin. Use aloe vera to relieve pimples, eczema and any other skin ailments. It also tones the skin to its natural color.
Interesting Facts about Aloe Vera
- Some organic farmers use aloe vera as a effective organic insecticide, pesticide and fungicide.
- Most Jamaicans use aloe vera as a last resort when pharmaceuticals do not work.
- Aloe is one of the main ingredients used in the cure for AIDS!
- Rural Jamaicans always have a stash of aloe vera in their house.
- Aloe vera can be used to preserve foods.
- Aloe vera can be used to wean stubborn babies off sucking their fingers or sucking on particular items by placing a small amount on the fingers or items. (it is safe in small amounts, very bitter though)
- After cutting the plant for storage. It can preserve itself for storage for many years without modification.
- It is fed to animals that are involved in sports such as race horses or fighting dogs as a form of tonic.
- Although Aloe Vera is a tropical plant, the root can survive freezing air temperatures, so long as the ground is not frozen and the root destroyed. (When this took place in the Rio Grande Valley in the winter of 1983-84, ninety-six percent of the local crop was lost.)
- The plant need not be destroyed for damage to occur. The leaves may be damaged and vital nutrients may be lost at air temperatures of forty degrees Fahrenheit.
- Such damage may be severe at thirty-five degrees.
- Conversely, the plant can grow at temperatures as great as 104 F. It will survive temperatures higher still, and can withstand even severe drought.
- Nonetheless, it will thrive in humid jungles, so long as the root itself does not stand in water and drown.
Aloe vera is one of the easiest plants you could ever try to propagate from cuttings. You’ll have so much fun, that you’ll want an aloe vera growing in every room of the house. It also makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift.
Preparing the Leaf
Examine your aloe vera plant for a healthy leaf. Cut the leaf at a length of 3 inches or more with a sharp knife. Find a warm, dry location to lay the cutting. You can place it on a table or any place where it won’t be in the way or disturbed. The cut end of the leaf has to heal over or dry before you can plant it. This process takes approximately 1 week depending on the humidity in the air. If it is really humid, it will take longer to heal or scab over. The reason hat you allow the end to heal first is to keep it healthy. If you were to put the cut end into the potting soil right after cutting, it is more susceptible to disease and rot.
Prepare the Pot
When the end has crusted over, find a small clay or plastic pot. Use a coffee filter to cover the drainage holes, but you can use little pebbles, packing peanuts or a window screen cut to size. Some people use marbles.
Wet the Soil
Dampen the cacti soil. An easy way to dampen the sol is to pour your soil into a bucket, or worktable. It is a good idea to cover the worktable with an old tarp or plastic tablecloth to help contain the mess and make cleanup easy. Sprinkle a little water over the soil and mix it with your hands. Don’t use too much water that you make the soil too wet or soupy.
Planting the Cutting
Fill your pot or pots with the dampened cacti soil. Insert the aloe vera leaf with the scabbed side going into the soil first. The cutting should be about 1-inch deep. Firm the soil around the leaf to hold it upright.
Place the pot in a room that stays warm and dry. Do not water your aloe vera or it will rot. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering. It will take two or weeks for the roots to form. When that happens, care for your plant as you do the mature aloe vera.
- Aloe Vera (alongthegrapevine.wordpress.com)
- Aloe Vera Relieves IBD and Peritonitis (aloeveranaturalremedies.wordpress.com)
- Aloe Vera (morningmistnutra.wordpress.com)
- Uses of Aloe Vera for Your Healthy Body (bodyandbeautyclinic.wordpress.com)
- Aloe Vera Skin Benefits (instructables.com)
- Aloe Vera – Nature’s Miracle (diet4women.wordpress.com)
- How Aloe Vera Benefits Dogs and Cats (aloeveranaturalremedies.wordpress.com)
- Aloe vera (morningmistnutra.wordpress.com)
- The Benefits of Aloe Vera and How To Make Your Own Moisturizing Spray (wakeup-world.com)