Not all aloe is the same. The many specie are so varied put together it looks like the imaginative bar scene in Star Wars.
Aloe is a genus with over 200 species, or 400, depending on who you talk to. The most popular of these is barbadensis Miller aloe, popularly called aloe vera. Actually, only 4 of the types are most popular and the rest are apparently best known by aficionado gardeners.
Some are very different from the thick blade-like leaves most easily recognized. There are varieties that rise on a stem, or have long stems that rise to beautiful blossoms, some that spiral like a lens or fluff like a tumble weed. Go figure: it's aloe.
It is a succulent, which means "having thick fleshy tissues for storing water, as a cactus". It isn't a cactus, though. Actually the aloe genus forms the largest body of succulents while cacti on are the other team. The cactus factor of aloe vera, that it doesn't shrivel crisp in the heat, and neither do you when you put it on before sun exposure, comes from being a succulent.
Aloes are evergreen perennials living on for years. They tolerate frost and bloom in the winter, a difference from most other perennials which bloom in the spring and summer and die back in the fall and winter. They grow in arid climates and make good garden plants, low maintenance, bug free for the most part, and green all year around. Don't knock yourself out getting good soil as they don't do so well in clay. Sandy and rocky is best.
These are tough plants. They can be transported for some months without soil or water. This is probably how the plant got around the world, as it doesn't just naturally appear everywhere. Barbadensis aloe is traced back to northern Africa, at least six thousand years ago per the surviving hard copy records. Probably it was a lot more but speculation has it a big Trojan virus crashed their computers and they lost their files.
One can imagine using aloe to treat the bleeding pyramid workers. Or growing it for the Pharaoh's family so they can watch the workers bleed, one forgets which. How it arrived in Africa is a matter of speculation and a question for the Gods. Maybe one day the archaeologists will find a lost backup disk that explains all.
Still, that was the scene, aloe farmers toiling in the proverbial shadow of the great pyramids.
A Hard Worker
Aloe vera is now dubbed as the "true aloe", "the plant of life", and the "medicinal aloe". Whatever it does, used eternally, it does it in all layers of the skin, a fact which is itself unique. Other creams and even water will only penetrate two layers, that being a function of the skin: keep the environment out.
Its dedication is really intense. It isn't just antiseptic, it has six antiseptic agents to handle fungus, viruses and bacteria.
Its healing function has a lot to do with its stimulation of rapid growth of new cells. This is huge, as much as eight times a usual rate. The list of skin conditions it is effective against is so long you have to open a physicians handbook to find out what is left.
Fortunately we don't have to relive the numerous thousands of years of discovery of its many uses to rediscover aloe.
We can safely say aloe is truly one of God's gifts to mankind, even without a Hollywood imagination.
Robert L. Gisel is a Professor, writes at the blog sites Who Would Write, and Once An Alaskan and works for Ultimate Creations, Inc, the manufacturer of Infinite Aloe.