Author: P.G. Glynn
Aloe Vera history did not begin with Gandhi, but here is an extract from a 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.'
Gandhi's belief in Aloe's benefits was well-rooted in the history of this truly remarkable plant. A papyrus dating from Pharoah Amen-Hotep's reign in 1552 BC (and found between the knees of a mummy excavated in 1858!) gave no less than twelve different formulae for Aloe Vera preparations used during the preceding two thousand years.
The Ancient Greek and Roman cultures also embraced Aloe Vera, as did those of Babylon, India and China. Great thinkers such as Celsius, from Jesus Christ's time, Roman physician Pliny the Elder and the Greek Dioscorides all saw Aloe Vera's importance.
Alexander the Great is said to have captured the isle of Socotra, where Aloe grew abundantly, so that he had plentiful supplies of the plant to help heal his men's battle-wounds.
Legend has it as well that Cleopatra and Nefertiti bathed in Aloe as part of their beauty routine. And the father of modern medicine - Galen - used it too in his treatments.
Aloe was first brought to London by traders in 1693 and over 4000 plants were being imported annually by 1843.
T & H Smith in Edinburgh 'discovered' Aloin in 1851 and concluded that small doses of this acted as a tonic assisting digestion and having a beneficial influence on the liver, while larger doses became a strong laxative.
Aloe was a popular prescribed and over-the-counter medicine during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Over the course of aloe vera history this plant has been endowed with some marvellous names, including these: First Aid Plant, Silent Healer, Potted Physician, Plant of Life, Wonder Plant, Dietary Plant, Burn Plant, Single Bible and Heaven's Blessing.
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