Aloe vera most likely originated on the Arabian Peninsula where temperatures are exceptionally high, and where there is little water. Aloe vera’s earliest mention is around 2200 BCE on clay tablets from Sumer. The tablets revealed that Sumerians knew how to use aloe for its laxative benefits and to aid in digestion. According to the tablets, the Sumerians may have been the first to use the species of aloe (Aloe barbadensis) that we use today.
Ancient Egyptians referred to aloe as the plant of immortality, and the Ebers Papyrus from 1552 BCE lists multiple formulas for medicines made with aloe vera. The medicines were for treating everything from venereal disease to arthritis and hair loss.
The Egyptians held aloe vera in especially high regard when it came to their embalming procedures. The aloe was dissolved in water and combined with myrrh. At the funeral of pharaohs, guests were expected to bring aloe and the quantity they brought reflected their wealth and status. Aloe plants were also planted around the pyramids to accompany the pharaoh into the after-life.
The Ancient Greeks learned about aloe vera from the Egyptians. Greek physician Dioscorides was the first Westerner to write about the plant’s benefits. Dioscorides learned about aloe while traveling with the Roman armies and wrote that aloe vera acted as a laxative and that it encouraged sleep.
By 600 BCE, Arab traders had found a way to easily separate the gel part of the aloe plant from the rind. They did this by crushing the leaves and placing the pulp into goatskin bags to dry in the sun. The dried aloe was then powdered, which made it easy to transport to different parts of the East, including India and Persia.
Persians considered aloe an effective treatment for kidney disease and believed that it could help individuals to live longer. Ancient Hindus used aloe vera as a remedy for liver disease and reproductive issues. In China, physicians believed that aloe could cure for all skin rashes.
The Spanish brought aloe vera to their colonies in the New World. Christopher Columbus praised the plant, calling it doctor in a pot.
In the mid-18th century, a taxonomist named Philip Miller named Aloe Barbadensis, which he found on the island of Barbados.
Today, aloe vera is still used for treating burns and various diseases including HIV.
Aloe vera flavor profile
On its own, aloe vera has a mildly bitter flavor with a slight acidity and a sweetish aftertaste.
Health benefits of aloe vera
Aloe vera owes its healthful reputation to its rich store of nutrients that includes:
- Minerals: Iron, magnesium, and chromium are just a few of the minerals that aloe vera provides.
- Vitamins: The plant provides numerous vitamins including A and C as well as several B vitamins.
You can use aloe vera to treat or prevent:
- Poor digestion: Enzymes in aloe vera help treat health problems like acid reflux.
- Diabetes: The chromium in aloe vera helps to decrease blood sugar levels, which means that it can help with insulin resistance and reduce your chance of developing diabetes.
Warning: The layer of yellow liquid between the outer rind and the gel is called the latex, and it can be toxic. Aloe vera latex can cause kidney failure and death.
Beyond its medicinal uses, aloe vera skin is safe to eat, and you can use it to add a crunch to salads or a vegetable stir-fry.