Aloe belongs to the Lily family (Liliaceae), therefore called the ‘Lily of the Desert’, and is native to North Africa and the Mediterranean region of southern Europe. There are around 550 Aloe species and Aloe vera, meaning ‘the true aloe’, was spread by man, so it is difficult to discern where it originated. Aloe vera is a perennial, succulent plant, and consists of 99% water. The plant can grow up to 4 feet tall, and its tough, fleshy, spearlike leaves can grow up to 36 inches or 90 cm. long. The clear, thick gel found in the inner part of the leaf contains substances known as Acemannan, a substance that also the human body produces up to puberty. This substance can quickly heal injuries in infants and children, stimulates skin growth and can easily overcome various childhood diseases. After puberty Acemannan production is discontinued, although this substance could of course continue to be needed.

Aloe has been around for a while. In 4000 BCE a figure of the aloe plant was carved in an Intaglio relief sculpture in ancient Egypt. Sumerian texts on Cuneiform clay boards from around 2200 BCE, in Nippur (Iraq), revealed that Aloe was used for its cleansing and digestive healing properties. But the first detailed description of Aloe’s medicinal value is probably in the Ebers Papyrus written around 1600 BCE in Egypt. It’s the most voluminous record of ancient Egyptian medicine known. Even the dead were embalmed with Aloe vera because of its anti-bacterial and anti-fungi qualities. And we shouldn’t forget to mention Nefertiti and Cleopatra, the two Egyptian queens, who used Aloe vera as part of their skin and beauty treatments. Aloe travelled further to Greece, Rome and was introduced to China via the Silk Road in 300-400 BCE in the course of the Persian Conquest by Alexander the Great. In the 15th century, Spanish Jesuit priests brought Aloe vera to the New World.

The name ‘aloe’ probably comes from the Arabic ‘alloeh’ or from the Hebrew word ‘allal’, both meaning ‘bitter’, which is the bitter juice from the leaves of the plant.

The aloe vera leaf consists of three parts: the solid green-grey bark or outer layer protects the plant from external influences. The second swelled layer of a tough fibre network, called veins, transports liquid from the tips to the roots and back. The main component (and the most valuable of the leaf), the innermost layer, consists of Parenchymal* cells and is referred to as aloe gel. Aloe protects the skin from bacteria and free radicals, prevents loss of moisture and is used against wrinkling or slowing the ageing of the skin. It also strengthens the acid protection coat (skin immune system) and provides the skin with vitamins, moisture, minerals and amino acids. A unique feature of this plant is the protection against moisture evaporation.

The Aloe Vera gel is a fixed component of most RINGANA cosmetic products.

*The specific cells of an organ, contained in and supported by the connective tissue framework.

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