In Mesopotamia, clay tablets dated 1750 B.C.E. showed that aloe vera was being used in a pharmaceutical manner. Egyptian books from 550 B.C.E. mentioned that infections of the skin could be cured by the application of aloe. In 74 B.C.E., a Greek physician wrote a book in which he stated that aloe could treat wounds, heal infections of the skin, cure chapping, decrease hair loss, and eliminate hemorrhoids. Around 1200 B.C.E. aloe vera was used as a cathartic medicine. The aloe plant has yellow flowers. The leaves are arranged in a rosette configuration; they are triangular and spear-like and have thorny ridges. The most mature leaves are on the outer part of the rosette. Aloe vera was first cultivated for pharmaceutical distribution in 1920.
Both fresh and commercial aloe preparations were found to contain high levels of lecithin-like substances. Lecithin is a hemaglutinating protein that binds glycoproteins and decreases anti-inflammatory properties.
In 1935, Collins and Collins published the first credible report of a medicinal use of aloe vera. In 1943, aloe was shown to be successful in the treatment of thermal second-degree burns and radium burns.
The manner in which aloe could expedite the healing of skin ulcers may be related to its occlusive properties. J. Blitz et al suggest that aloe may function as a protective barrier. T. J. Raine et al noted that tissue survival was increased when wounds were treated with aloe vera crème.
Excerpts taken from INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DERMATOLOGY, Oct. 1991