Aloe Vera: History and Medicinal Uses

Herbalism and Herbs

Ian C. Langtree - Content Writer/Editor for Disabled World
Published: 2018/05/03 - Updated: 2023/04/21
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: The Aloe Vera plant is a member of the lily and onion family and has many uses in medicines and traditional home remedies. Established Aloe Vera plants are available at almost any garden supplies shop or nursery. Aloe Vera has been especially helpful for patients with severe and various skin diseases.

Introduction

IMPORTANT NOTE

Use of topical aloe vera is not associated with significant side effects. However, oral ingestion of aloe vera is potentially toxic. Under guidelines of California Proposition 65, orally ingested non-decolorized aloe vera leaf extract has been listed by the OEHHA, along with goldenseal, among chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. In addition, IARC studies have found that ingested non-decolorized liquid aloe vera is a possible carcinogen when eaten or ingested by humans.

Main Digest

What is Aloe Vera?

Aloe Vera is a species of Aloe native to northern Africa. It is a stemless or short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 80-100 cm tall, spreading by offsets and root sprouts. The leaves are lanceolate, thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with a serrated margin. The flowers are produced on a spike up to 90 cm tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2 to 3 cm long.

Aloe Vera has long been a popular houseplant.

Often called the 'miracle plant' or the 'natural healer,' Aloe Vera is a plant of many surprises. It flourishes in warm and dry climates; to many people, it looks like a cactus with fleshy thorny leaves. It is a member of the Lily family, staying moist where other plants wither and die by closing its pores to prevent moisture loss.

There are around 400 species of Aloe, but it is the Aloe Barbadensis Miller (Aloe Vera or "true aloe") plant that has been of most use to humanity because of the medicinal properties it displays.

Continued below image.
Illustration of an Aloe vera plant, an evergreen perennial that originated from the Arabian Peninsula but grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses.
Illustration of an Aloe vera plant, an evergreen perennial that originated from the Arabian Peninsula but grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses.
Continued...

The Aloe Vera Plant

Although there are many Aloe, the term Aloe Vera ("true Aloe") refers to the Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Fully grown, the plant stands 60 to 90 cm high, and a mature leaf is 7 to 10 cm across at the base, weighing 1.5 to 2 kg.

The lower leaf of the plant is used for medicinal purposes. If the lower leaf is sliced open, the gel obtained can be applied to the affected area of the skin. Leaves and seeds are the two edible parts of Aloe Vera.

The Aloe leaf structure is made up of four layers:

Aloe Vera has a bitter taste which can be unpleasant in the raw state. It is possible to get used to the taste of plain Aloe Vera gel, but if you can't, adding some fruit juice helps make it more palatable.

There is much confusion between Aloe Vera Gel and Aloe Vera Juice, with the two often thought synonymous. The term Gel only refers to the inner leaf, whereas Juice refers to "Aloe Latex," a bitter substance found just under the leaf's skin.

Leading authorities on Aloe Vera maintain that only Aloe Vera gel, as fresh as preservation allows from the inner leaf, has remarkable properties.

Aloe Vera Use Throughout History

Aloe Vera has been described in writings in many different cultures and as far back as the Greek, Egyptian, and Roman eras. References have also been found in writings from the Indian and Chinese early cultures. Ancient records show that the benefits of Aloe Vera have been known for centuries, with its therapeutic advantages and healing properties surviving for over 4000 years. The earliest record of Aloe Vera is on a Sumerian tablet dating from 2100 BC.

Its antiquity was first discovered in 1862 in an Egyptian papyrus dated 1550 BC. Egyptian Queens associated its use with their physical beauty.

It was used greatly by Greek and Roman physicians. Researchers have found that both the ancient Chinese and Indians used Aloe Vera.

In the Philippines, it is used with milk for kidney infections.

Aloes are referred to in the Bible, and legend suggests that Alexander the Great conquered the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean to secure supplies of Aloes to treat the battle wounds of his soldiers.

Today in Japan, Aloe Vera is commonly used as an ingredient in commercially available yogurt. Many companies produce Aloe Vera beverages.

People in Tamil Nadu, a state of India, often prepare a curry using Aloe Vera, which is taken along with Indian bread (nan bread) or rice.

Continued below image.
Cross section photo of an Aloe vera plant leaf showing the gel.
Cross section photo of an Aloe vera plant leaf showing the gel.
Continued...

Aloe Vera Uses and Home Remedies

Aloe gel has been used for topical treatment for minor wounds, burns, and skin irritations for centuries. Aloe Vera used to be known as the "burn plant'. It is no longer necessary to keep an Aloe Vera plant handy when you catch your hand on the oven door; these days, Aloe Vera Gel comes in handy tubes.

A two-year trial is underway at the Neath, Morriston, and Singleton hospitals in Swansea to use Aloe Vera to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A clinical trial involving 44 patients who have Ulcerative Colitis has been completed at the Royal London Hospital and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The trial was completed in January 2004, and an improvement was found in 38% of Patients given Aloe Vera gel as opposed to 8% given a placebo.

One of the home remedies for asthma was to boil some Aloe Vera leaves in a pan of water and breathe in the vapor.

Others have reported the benefits of Aloe Vera in treating Eczema and Psoriasis, and many have favored a product called Aloe Propolis Creme for these conditions.

For pharmaceutical use as a laxative, the aloe juice is taken from the tubules just beneath the outer skin of the leaves. It's a bitter yellow and dried to become aloe granules that are dark brown.

It has been determined that it can also help treat minor vaginal irritations.

Aloe Vera is best used when fresh from the plant. It doesn't store well but can be bought as a preserved product. It has been used for mouth sores, what we call stomach sores or cold sores.

Aloe Vera has been accommodating for patients with severe and various skin diseases. It acts as a rejuvenating action. It acts as a moisturizer and hydrates the skin. After being absorbed into the skin, it stimulates the fibroblast cells and causes them to regenerate themselves faster. The cells produce collagen and elastin so the skin will get smoother and look younger.

How to Grow Aloe Vera Plants at Home

Established Aloe vera plants are available at almost any garden supplies shop or nursery.

Aloe plants are not very frost tolerant. They should be planted in full sunlight or shade if grown outdoors in warmer climates.

Apply a balanced liquid feed during the growing season.

For growing Aloe Vera indoors, it's best to place it near a window with a lot of sun. During summer, you can move the pot(s) outside.

Watering should be kept to a minimum during the winter, but the plant will require a lot of water during summer.

If planting from scratch or re-potting your Aloe plant, the potting soil should be moderately fertile and fast draining with a couple of inches of gravel in the bottom of the pot.

Topical aloe vera is not associated with significant side effects. However, oral ingestion of aloe vera is potentially toxic. Under guidelines of California Proposition 65, orally ingested non-decolorized aloe vera leaf extract has been listed by the OEHHA, along with goldenseal, among chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. In addition, IARC studies have found ingested non-decolorized liquid aloe vera is a possible carcinogen when eaten or ingested by humans.

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Cite This Page (APA): Langtree, I. C. (2018, May 3 - Last revised: 2023, April 21). Aloe Vera: History and Medicinal Uses. Disabled World. Retrieved July 14, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/medical/alternative/herbal/aloe-vera.php

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