From Cleopatra to Beyonce, some of history’s most famous figures relied on aloe vera for its healthful properties. It is also known as burn plant, lily of the desert, plant of immortality, and the “wonder plant” depending on who you ask.
Trying to define the location aloe vera first originated has led to mystery and intrigue. Researchers have narrowed down the options to the following three locations: Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Canary Islands. This became increasingly difficult with trade routes that moved throughout the Middle East, Central Africa, and Mediterranean regions. No matter where it originated, it has made its way across the world and has become a household name.
Aloe can be grown indoors all over the world, but aloe vera can be found to thrive in various regions of the southwestern US, southeast Asia, the Bahamas, Mexico, central America, and the West Indies. Let's take a step back in time and learn how different countries and cultures utilized the properties of aloe vera throughout time!
The importance of the Aloe plant in Egypt can be seen as far back as 2100 B.C. where drawings of this miracle plant were found on temple walls. Sumerian clay tablets have been found that explain the health properties of this plant that suggest Aloe was used long before the drawings found on those temple walls. These images depict how Aloe was used to treat a wide variety of ailments from ordinary people to the kings and queens who ruled them. It is known that kings and queens would use the juice from the Aloe plant to wash their skin and as a beverage to improve their internal health. People believed this plant held the secrets of beauty, health, and even immortality.
Evidence has been found on ancient Egyptian papyrus that depicts Cleopatra using and expressing her love for Aloe vera. During this time, unhealthy skin was considered a sign of possession which left her on a mission to find the best natural products to maintain her beautiful skin. She would request that Aloe gel be applied to her hair and scalp to aid her skin's health and beauty. The Aloe plant was considered a spiritual symbol due to the medicinal healing capabilities they had discovered. Some would hang the aloe leaves in doorways because they believed this would protect them from evil spirits.
During this time, one of the largest events you could attend was a funeral for a Pharoah. This would be a time for people to get together and pay respects to their fallen leader. You would only be able to attend one of these events if you were invited and it was necessary to bring a gift to take part. A large variety of gifts would be presented to their fallen Pharoah, one of the most common gifts would be Aloe vera. It was believed that a man's wealth and esteem towards a pharaoh was dependent on the amount of aloe, in pounds, was brought as an offering. The aloe would be used in the embalming process to slow down the decomposition process. It was believed that stopping the decomposition would lead that person to eternal life.
The miraculous Aloe vera plant first made an appearance in China by Arabian traders and continued to make its way across Asia. It was used by medicinal scientists to relieve symptoms their patients were suffering from. This ranged from symptoms such as regulating fever, brightening the eyes, calming the mind, controlling a child’s epilepsy and convulsions, killing parasites, healing boils, and attempting to alleviate chronic illnesses. As per the king's request, aloe was recorded in the medial encyclopedia by scientists in 973. This encyclopedia included 21 books with 983 diverse herbs and their medicinal benefits.
A common use of Aloe in this part of the world was mixing it with licorice to make a medicinal remedy for intestinal disorders. This drink was believed to control diarrhea and constipation which was a major cause of death from gastrointestinal infections. Without proper care, these infections could lead to malnutrition and a weakened immune system, which had the chance to lead to further infections throughout their body.
In 1976, The founder of Univera, Yunho Lee, had a powerful vision: To bring the best of nature to humankind. After he experienced the miraculous power of the Aloe Vera plant for himself, he dedicated his life to discovering, developing, and delivering botanically derived and revitalizing compounds that can benefit people all around the world. For more than forty years, Univera has remained at the forefront of helping the world re-discover the powerful capabilities of the aloe vera plant, while giving back to the communities we serve.
With the rapid growth and exploration during the 15th century, the Aloe plant found its way to Europe. The ability to build ports drastically changed the landscape of people's lives and gave them the opportunity to be introduced to things they did not know existed. This was most prevalent in Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and Britain due to their resources and ability to successfully build ports.
These ports allowed people to associate and trade with other countries and cultures that were previously inaccessible to them. During Christopher Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas in 1494, a letter was sent to him from his doctor, Dr. Diego Alverez Chanca. In this letter, he wrote about the Aloe plant:
“Four vegetables are indispensable for the well-being of man: Wheat, the grape, the olive, and aloe. The first nourishes him, the second raises his spirit, the third brings him harmony, and therefore the fourth cures him”
This letter provides context to the thoughts and healthful properties of aloe and the dependency of this plant during this time. Especially while travelling across the seas to uncharted territories where medical help was not available if they were to become ill. They would store the Aloe vera plants on their boats to support their health and fight off illness as they travel for months on end in search of land. Researchers believe this to be the introduction of Aloe vera to the Americas.
As we transitioned to the age of modern medicine, the Aloe plant started to lose its healing reputation. As the world became more interconnected via ships and ports, the medicinal properties of Aloe started to diminish.
Researchers and scientists started to realize the pulp of Aloe as most effective when it was fresh. As the oxidation effect started to take place, it would limit the healing properties of this plant. Oxidization is categorized as the loss of hydrogen, which limits the medicinal properties of Aloe the longer it was stored.
In the 1970s, scientists were able to perfect their techniques to create a stabilized gel from the aloe plant that retained all the healing properties people have written about for centuries. This allowed Aloe vera to make its way back to the forefront of modern medicine.
Evidence has been found that credit for introducing Aloe to the Americas belong to Spain and Christopher Columbus. Christopher set sail to the Americas in 1494 and made sure his boat was stocked with Aloe vera plants. They stored this on their boats to aid with gastrointestinal discomfort, malnutrition, and minor wounds and burns received during their voyage.
As early as 1810-1820, United States doctors described aloe vera as a skin protectant and an effective topical treatment for first- and second-degree burns. It was said to reduce healing time of burns by nine days when compared to alternative topical treatments used during this time. People started to see the healthful benefits of Aloe as folklore since it was not as effective other alternatives that had been developed through research studies and clinical trials.
For a while, Aloe was not utilized as heavily for its healthful properties. These properties would be reduced significantly after the long trip to the Americas. This resulted from oxidization that occurs with storing Aloe for extended periods of time. Research scientists were analyzing the Aloe to try and find better ways to isolate the beneficial compounds found inside the Aloe vera plant.
In 1939, Hilltop Gardens planted its first Aloe plant in Texas. This was one of the first commercial aloe farms to be opened in North America and is referred to as, “The Historic Home of Aloe.” This farm is still operational to this day with USDA NOP (National Organic Program) and Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certificates. It was purchased by AloeCorp in 1988 and joined the Econet family, one of the world's largest and most technologically advanced producers of aloe.
In 1950, American scientists were still very intrigued by the healthful benefits of Aloe and continued to research and test this miraculous plant. Sadly, many of these experiments would fail due to overheating the Aloe during their tests. It was not until the 1970s that scientists figured out how to isolate the medicinal properties found with the Aloe plant. With this new research, the Aloe plant started to be used more as a medical treatment.
Aloe Vera Today
Recently, it has regained its popularity with the isolation of stabilized aloe gel that can be stored and transported across the world while retaining the remarkable properties it was once praised for. This has led to increased testing to supply a wider range of use for this amazing plant. Our sister company, AloeCorp, has been expanding their research and has been able to fine-tune their harvesting practices to supply the best aloe possible. AloeCorp is the only aloe supplier with a full range of biological, chemical, and medicinal research and development capabilities. This has allowed them to improve their processes and find out how to get the most out of their ingredients, including the creation of ACTIValoe.
ACTIValoe consistently provides aloe that exceeds the standards established by the International Aloe Science Councils (IASC). This practice provides the opportunity to retain an incredibly high percentage of polysaccharides to provide our customers superior products with added benefits consistently.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
**This article is presented for educational purposes regarding the history of alternative medical uses of the aloe plant and does not purport to nor recommend any product for diagnosing, treating, preventing, or curing any disease. Any use of aloe in a manner not indicated on a product label is not advised nor recommended without consulting a medical professional prior to such usage.