From Balms to Embalming: The Incredible History of Aloe

The history of Aloe Vera did not begin with Gandhi, but, in a letter, he expressed his gratitude for the plant:

“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 remarkable plant. More than 6,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians took advantage of its healing properties. Both Cleopatra and Nefertiti valued Aloe vera juice and incorporated it into their daily skin and beauty routine.

The plant also proved to be beneficial during the embalming process. Aloe vera was used to preserve the bodies of high-ranking Egyptian members of society due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities. The ancient Egyptians believed that if the body was kept from decomposing, it would enter into eternal life spiritually and physically. In fact, Aloe was so valued in Egyptian society that when a Pharaoh died, guests were required to bring an Aloe vera plant in order to attend funeral services.

Similarly, the plant was valued by the ancient Israelites. Aloe vera is mentioned in a number of scriptures found in the Bible:

  • Numbers 24:6 -"Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters."
  • Psalms 45:8 - "All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad."
  • Proverbs 7:17 - "I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon,"
  • Song of Solomon 4:14 - "Spikenard and saffron, calamus, and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices."
  • John 19:39-40 to 39 - "He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs."

Even across the pond in Greece, Aristotle persuaded Alexander the Great to invade the Island of Socotra to secure its abundant Aloe groves. The juices of the Aloe vera plants were used to heal the wounds of Alexander’s large army. Members of his army even carted around Aloe plants to be used to heal wounds during battles.

Today, we have a much better understanding of why the ingredients of the Aloe vera plant are so beneficial. The plant contains several nutrients that support healthy metabolism, lowers blood sugar levels, accelerates the healing of burns, and promotes healthy digestion.

You can take advantage of these numerous health benefits by drinking Aloe vera juice or incorporating an aloe vera supplement into your diet.