ALOE VERA HISTORY Part I of II:
Early History of Aloe Vera
The aloe vera plant has been used to treat wounds and skin infections for thousands of years. The University of Maryland Medical Center’s website confirms that aloe vera is one of the most prescribed medicines in the 18th and 19th centuries. Though widely used today, the value of aloe vera was recognized long before modern history.
The earliest record of aloe vera is found on a Sumerian clay tablet from the city of Nippur. The record dates back to 2100 BC, during the reign of the famous King Sargon of Akkad. The plant was depicted in stone carvings and Egyptian vases. Aloe vera also appeared in the famous “Ebers Papyrus”, an ancient Egyptian book of remedies and one of the oldest preserved medical documents dating to about 1550 BC. “Ebers Papyrus” provides many uses for aloe vera claiming both internal and external benefits.
In ancient Egypt, aloe vera, known as the ‘plant of immortality’, was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported it was a customary gift, as the Egyptians believed it would usher the departed into a new life. According to legend, aloe vera surrounded the pyramids and was planted along the route to the Valley of Kings. When they came to flower, it symbolized that the pharaoh reached the other side.
Besides it’s healing potential, aloe vera, which over the centuries, has also been called the ‘lily of the desert’, ‘elephant’s gall’ and the ‘burn plant’, was reportedly used by Egyptian queens like Cleopatra to give them younger, more radiant skin.
Aloe vera is referenced multiple times in the Bible for its’ healing properties. The Aloe Barbadensis Miller Stockton species of aloe vera is known as the “Virgin Trinity” plant because it is claimed to be a descendant of the variety that Nicodemus used to anoint Jesus’ body after the crucifixion, as found in John 19:39.
Documents dating back to 40 AD prove the ancient Greeks and Romans also used the aloe vera plant. The Greek physician Dioscorides and the famed Hippocrates, referred to as the father of modern medicine, both touted the curative effect of aloe vera when applied to stomach ailments and open wounds. Dioscorides, a doctor who served in the Roman army, wrote in his “De Materia Medica” that aloe vera juice treats issues of the gums and mouth and “loosens the belly, cleansing the stomach”.
Aloe vera was used in many cultures across the ancient world. There is evidence that the Phoenicians dried the aloe vera pulp and exported it throughout the Greco-Roman empire, exposing more people to it’s uses and benefits. There is further documentation that Alexander the Great, who conquered and created one of the largest empires in ancient history, used the plant’s gel to doctor his soldier’s wounds on a campaign in the Indian Ocean.
Other cultures, like China, the Philippines and India, have records of aloe vera use. According to “Copra’s Indigenous Drugs of India”, “the uses of aloe…for external application to inflamed painful parts of the body and for causing purgation [internal cleansing] are too well known in India to need any special mention.”
After being used throughout the ages, aloe vera was brought to the new world by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries when they colonized South America and the Caribbean in 1600 AD. In 1720, Carl Von Linne, a Swedish physician known as the father of modern taxonomy, gave the healing plant the scientific title—Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the plant was grown in warm climates, with the first commercial United States farm established in Florida in 1912. Up until the present day, international research is still being conducted on the uses and healing properties of the curative aloe vera plant.
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