Aloe Vera – Break in case of emergency!
If you’re like me, you’ve had an aloe vera (a. vera) plant sitting on your windowsill at some point, ready to offer up one of its spiky leaves in the event of minor cuts and burns. This super-soother (which has more than 360 species) can be found in many parts of the world but is believed to be originally native to the Arabian Peninsula, including North Africa.
Used for centuries in cosmetics and alternative medicine, aloe vera history is full of fascinating lore. Legend has it that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to conquer Socotra, an island off the coast of Africa, to secure supplies of the plant to treat wounded soldiers. In ancient Egypt, aloe vera was regarded as a sacred plant containing the secrets to beauty, health and immortality; Queen Nefertiti is said to have used its juice in her daily skin care regime, and Egyptians embalmed their dead with aloe vera because of its anti-bacterial properties.
The first mention of aloe vera in English was a 1655 translation Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica, and in the 1830s aloe vera was in use in the U.S. as a laxative. But aloe vera’s reputation as a natural healing phenomenon was cemented in the 1930s when it was discovered to be an effective treatment for radiation skin damage.
Despite its appearance, aloe vera is not a succulent, but a member of the lily family. The leather-like exterior of its leaves protects the watery mesophyll gel inside. The soothing gel can be extracted manually by slicing off the tough exterior skin fillet-style. Commercial extraction methods aren’t much more complicated, mostly involving a series of roller presses.
What makes aloe vera one of the most recognized natural medicinal botanicals? Its combination of 75 vitamins, salicylic and amino acids, enzymes, sugars, minerals and lignin, which enhances the absorption of the other ingredients into the skin. In addition to its antiseptic and healing properties, aloe vera helps bind moisture to the skin and stimulates the production of collagen, increasing skin elasticity and reducing wrinkles.