Aloe Vera has been used for several thousand years. Stories about Aloe plant can be found in many cultures from the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, as well as in the literature of the Indian and Chinese peoples.
A famous papyrus discovered in Thebes in 1858, which dates to the reign of the Pharaoh Amen-Hotep in 1552 BC, lists the use of aloe both in drugs and cosmetics, demonstrating the use of aloe vera over the preceding 2000 years.
The Egyptian queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra used Aloe Vera as part of their regular beauty regimes.
As early as the 4th century B.C., Greeks sent by Alexander the Great to the southern Yemen island of Socotra cultivated aloe. Alexander the Great used Aloe Vera to treat his wounded soldiers. Knowledge of aloe’s healing virtues spread.
In his 1st century A.D “Greek Herbal,” physician Pedanius Dioscorides gave the first detailed description of aloe. Dioscorides noted that the sap, not the gel is the healing agent, equating increased bitterness of aloe with increased effectiveness. According to Dioscorides, taken internally aloe induces sleep and cleanses the stomach, heals tonsillitis and relieves diseases of the mouth; used topically aloe relieves boils, bruises, hemorrhoids, wounds, dry itchy skin and ulcerated genitals, heals foreskin, stops hair loss, and soothes the eyes.
Other early herbalists including Galen and Pliny employed aloe.
Aloe is also mentioned in the Bible several times. Aloe was also employed as an embalming ingredient. In the Gospel Of St. John (19: 39-40), the body of Christ was wrapped in linen and a mixture of myrrh and aloe.
In the 10th century aloe’s uses were described by Arab physicians, and aloe was introduced to Europe and listed in Anglo Saxon medical texts.
In China aloe was called Lu-hui, meaning “black deposit,” and was first mentioned in the 11th century.
Records from the 17th century show that Britain’s East India Company purchased and traded aloe from Socotra and Zanzibar.
The West Indies became an important commercial region for cultivated aloe sold to the European market as early as the 1600’s. There the Dutch established plantations in Barbados, Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire.
By 18th century large amounts of Aloe were being imported to be made into medicines. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries Aloe remained one of the most popular medicines.
Popular demand for effective laxative effects and other reputed health benefits ensured aloe’s cultivation, processing and trade.
From most recent history, Mahatma Gandhi drank the inner gel from Aloe Vera, which helped him maintain a high energy level despite his often poor diet. When Mahatma Gandhi was asked what secrets he had that sustained him during his long fasts, he answered in his letter he wrote to his biographer:
“You ask me what were the secret forces which sustained me during my long fasts. Well, it was my unshakable faith in God, my simple and frugal lifestyle, and the Aloe whose benefits I discovered upon my arrival in South Africa at the end of the 19th century.”