[dropcap color=”#dd9933″ boxed=”no” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]here’s a bed of mulch running along the front of my house, decorated with two shrubs and some invading Bermuda grass. In the corner, closest to the door and crowded with stray water lines, is a clump of aloe vera. I hardly ever notice it and never care for it. Does the drip system reach this corner? Is the dirt rich or pilfered of all nutrients? I don’t know. This plant has silently and firmly persisted in my yard during the two years I’ve lived here, and surely before that. It’s an homage to our desert home in a yard of grass and leafy trees.
I was a child of the desert. Growing up in Phoenix in the early 1990s, I had a favorite cactus: the ocotillo. I loved its graceful, stretching, spiny arms. I’m sure the plant is very sturdy, its roots firmly planted, but when the wind moves through those arms, they sway. I imagined the ocotillo dwelling under an ocean, moving slowly with the tides. In fact, all of the cacti I was drawn to look like they could exist under the water as much as in the parched desert. Like the ocotillo, the aloe vera was an ocean-dweller in my mind. These plants were sea anemones, urchins, trailing clumps of seaweed. For a land-locked girl, it brought a certain exoticism to the desert vegetation I lived with.
Aloe vera is not a cactus though. It belongs to the Lily family, a relative of onion and garlic. The plant’s Latin name is aloe vera or aloe barbadensis, but its common names include burn plant, lily of the desert, and elephant’s gall (“Herbs”). Its thick, spiny leaves grow in a rosette pattern, usually numbering 12 to 16. They are a greyish-green color often with small flecks of white running along the leaves, as are the leaves on my little aloe plant. Three to four of these leaves can be harvested every six to eight weeks without damaging a mature plant, and in these leaves lives the allure of the aloe plant: the gel. Aloe has been described as shrubby, but specimens can look quite grand when they flower. The flowers are yellow and tubular and grow in cylindrical racemes on a stalk that can reach 90 centimeters into the air (“Aloe”). The plant becomes a tower of striking yellow.
But why did my child’s brain have to relocate these plants under the ocean? Why couldn’t I find enchantment simply in these beautiful, bizarre native plants? Well, perhaps for the very reason that I was a child with a child’s imagination. I played with the world. And even though I sometimes used that ocean frame, I looked at the spiny and swaying plants with wonder. Regardless of my method, I was engaging with the plant life around me, watching it, touching it sometimes, carefully. But as I grew out of my child’s brain, when I passed by an ocotillo or a barrel cactus or an aloe vera, I didn’t think of a cluttered and colorful tide pool. I didn’t think of anything at all.
[fullwidth menu_anchor=”” backgroundcolor=”” backgroundimage=”https://hfe-observatories.org/eng378fa14/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2014/09/8269301406_92e9763b7a_h.jpg” backgroundrepeat=”repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”fixed” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”solid” paddingtop=”50px” paddingbottom=”50px” class=”” id=””] MY MAGIC MEDICINE[/fullwidth]
During the restless summers of elementary school, when the days were hot and blurry but I still spent them outside, I swam in my best friend, Lisa’s, pool. My sister and I would walk or pedal our bikes the two winding blocks to her house, wearing swimsuits under our cotton dresses. We’d lose our dresses and jump into the clear, chlorinated water, making up strokes and stories to entertain each other. Our strong, thin arms sliced through the water and our feet pushed off against the pool’s slick, tiled walls. We yearned for the ocean but were trapped in a puddle of suburbia.
In that pretend world, we favored the dramatic and morose. We dove through dark caverns, swam through treacherous waters, and scraped our thin skin against jutting, jagged reefs.
“She’s bleeding!” the other two would sing as they hovered over their injured friend, our faded, pilling swimsuits dripping on the pool deck. “Hurry – get the medicine, the magic medicine.”
Our imagined wounds needed healing, but we had become creatures of the sea and wind. We couldn’t retreat into the house for Neosporin and a bandage. In fact, that house had receded and disappeared from our minds. We could flop up onto the rough, stucco-ed pool deck though and over to the cluster of blooming desert plants. We needed the Earth’s medicine, and it was there. An aloe vera plant stood on the edge of the collection, its leaves smooth and slightly prickled along the edge. We fingered the plant and broke off a thick tip of aloe. A clear, sticky gel seeped out of the plant’s wound. We carried the tip back to our comically suffering friend and applied the gel to her unbroken skin. During those slipping afternoons, we were little girls who pretended to be mermaids and become healers.
We called it magic medicine. Egyptians called it “the plant of immortality,” according to Alasdair Barcroft and his historical account of the plant in Aloe Vera: Nature’s Silent Healer. For the people of Mesopotamia, aloe vera was used to ward off evil spirits, an ancient vampire vs. garlic tale. Hindus believed aloe was among the holy plants in the Garden of Eden and dubbed it the “silent healer” (Barcroft 18-19). In that small suburban backyard, in our world of little-girl imagination, we applied the gel to our skin, and though we didn’t know its name then, we understood its power, part of the magic that has existed in minds for millennia.
[fullwidth menu_anchor=”” backgroundcolor=”” backgroundimage=”https://hfe-observatories.org/eng378fa14/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2014/09/8269301406_92e9763b7a_h.jpg” backgroundrepeat=”repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”fixed” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”solid” paddingtop=”50px” paddingbottom=”50px” class=”” id=””] FROM BIOLOGICAL MIRACLE TO BOOMING INDUSTRY[/fullwidth]
Aloe vera is known across cultural and linguistic borders as a “miracle” or “magic” plant. Inside the leaves is a colorless jelly-like substance comprising the parenchyma tissue of the plant – the source of all this magic (“Aloe”). I snap off a tip of one of the leaves on my aloe vera and touch the oozing jelly inside. It smells foul, but the gel is thick and wet. It looks soothing and restorative. This gel has been known to heal burns and skin abrasions; it’s a folk and alternative remedy for conditions including asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis (“Herbs”). Chemical analysis has clarified some of the mystery surrounding this “miracle” plant, discovering that the gel contains amino acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, proteins, polysaccharides and biological stimulators (“Complete”). Today, it’s found in everything from skin products to yogurt.
I remember being 9-years-old, lying on a pebbly beach in San Diego where the sun was beating down heavily on me and the other beach-bathers. My father had been teaching me how to body surf an hour ago, and he was still standing waist deep in the water with my sister. Her face bobbed with the gentle rise of the ocean waves, and Dad steadied her in anticipation of the next ride-able wave. I had climbed out of that great mother-ocean and collapsed next to Mom on our sandy towels, feeling less adventurous than the others. My knees were still raw from skidding along the ocean floor. The heat from the sun made the rest of my skin tingle, almost going numb, but my knees still burned.
I had applied sunscreen that morning, but the tumbling waves, air, and my own touch had worn it away. The sunscreen was surely nearby, maybe left in the car or a beach bag. Or maybe there was a t-shirt or spare towel that I could have used to cover my shoulders. But when you have a book and the mindset of a vacationer, you don’t worry about those things.
It wasn’t until hours later that I felt the once-pleasant heat from the sun work its way further into my body. I was deeply sunburned, the kind that raises blisters. For a week, the front of my body was a hot red while the back was still pale. I ran my fingertips over the hot skin and was fascinated by how alive my nerves were. For one of the first times, I realized how vulnerable my body was, how ill equipped my sheltered, shaded skin was to deal with the open world.
“We’ll get you some aloe,” my mother said that evening, combing the sand out of her cropped, curly hair, rubbing Cetaphil along the bridge of her nose.
The following morning, we stopped in some nameless convenience store and combed the shelves for a clear bottle filled with a bright-green, bubbled gel. (The gel must have been dyed green as the inner tissue of aloe vera is naturally clear. But in a strangely twisted way, green looks more soothing, natural even.)
In the car, Mom rubbed it gently on my skin. Her fingers moved lightly over my aching skin, tracing the hidden path of my pain. The gel felt cold and soothing, coating the heat of my skin. Those mysterious enzymes and amino acids and the equally mysterious power of mother’s touch performed their magic. For days, I continued to apply the aloe.
I think of those girls who played with nature and tried to heal pretend wounds with tips of a blooming aloe vera plant. They were creative. They were open to nature’s wonder. As an adult, if I were to get another deep sunburn, I wouldn’t break off a tip or two of my own aloe vera plant. I wouldn’t even think of it. I’d drive to the Walgreen’s down the street and buy a bottle of the same product, distilled and distant from the magical biology that created it. That’s why aloe vera is grown everywhere from Bangladesh to Kenya. It’s cultivated on sprawling plantations and then bottled and sold as sunburn gel, yogurt, health drinks, cosmetics.
At the 2012 International Aloe Summit, the global aloe vera market was estimated to have reached $13 billion. “It’s a measurement of how important and, on some levels, how mysterious the ingredient is,” ISAC executive director Devon Powell said (Schultz). Perhaps there is mystery and wonder in that big number and the shelves of aloe products, but it’s a weak substitute for the wonder of breaking off a fresh aloe tip and applying the gel directly to your skin. Somehow, we’re turning what was once considered a biological miracle into a booming industry, while ignoring the aloe vera budding in our own yards and neighborhoods.
In her 2013 nonfiction book, The Urban Bestiary, nature writer and urban birder Lyanda Lynn Haupt reflects on the nature in her own neighborhood, writing, “how I live and how I focus my attention, even (especially) in my urban home, can be of benefit to wild places that I will never see but for which I have a deep passion and with which I am constantly, intimately connected” (Haupt 14). Perhaps if we followed Haupt’s example and attended a bit more to the miraculous nature growing at our doorstep and focused less on its commercial value, we’d be able to preserve those wild places where aloe grows freely and richly.
[fullwidth menu_anchor=”” backgroundcolor=”” backgroundimage=”https://hfe-observatories.org/eng378fa14/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2014/09/8269301406_92e9763b7a_h.jpg” backgroundrepeat=”repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”fixed” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”solid” paddingtop=”50px” paddingbottom=”50px” class=”” id=””] A HISTORY OF HEALING[/fullwidth]
Aloe vera’s story, the one we tell ourselves, began 4,000 years ago. Aloe vera is native to northern Africa and made its recorded debut on an ancient Sumerian clay tablet detailing its medicinal powers that dates back to around 2100 BCE (Barcroft 18). It appears again in a more detailed account in the 1550 BCE Egyptian Papyrus Ebers. In Egypt, aloe vera was known as “the plant of immortality,” and it’s rumored that queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra, those matriarchs of beauty, included aloe vera in their skin-care regimens. “Whatever the reality about its first recorded use, there is absolutely no doubt – it is too well chronicled – that aloe vera played a significant role in the pharmacopoeia in many early civilizations,” Barcroft writes. “There is well documented and irrefutable evidence of its use as a broad-spectrum healing agent in areas of the world as far apart as Southern Europe, Asia, North Africa, the Americas and the Far East” (18).
In the first century CE, famed physicians corroborated aloe’s healing potential, providing the first written documentation of the plant’s power and transforming it from legend into history. Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder both lauded aloe vera in their texts, listing uses consistent with our modern sunburn gels and lotions (Barcroft 20).
For centuries, aloe vera persisted in folklore and oral traditions – it was a local, indigenous healer. But the Renaissance ushered in an era of exploration and expansion, and allowed aloe vera to traverse the Atlantic Ocean and take root in the New World. Spanish Jesuit priests most likely delivered aloe vera to the Americas in the 15th century, where it spread through Central America and what is now the southern United States (Barcroft 22). Eminent explorers like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus wrote about aloe’s ability to heal and supposedly brought the plant with them on their sea-crossing voyages. Columbus himself claimed, “Four vegetables are indispensible for the well being of man; Wheat, the grape, the olive and aloe. The first nourishes him, the second raises his spirits, the third brings him harmony, the fourth cures him” (“Quotes”). (Nevermind that aloe isn’t a vegetable; apparently Columbus was wrong about more than the location of Asia.)
In the next few centuries, as the plant made its way to non-native lands via human hands and ships, aloe vera got a new name among its northern users: bitter aloe. In northern Europe, where the plant wasn’t as intimately understood or easily grown, whole leaves that had been cut and shipped or simply scrawny leaves were used with disappointing results (Barcroft 23). Fresh, hearty leaves are necessary to achieve aloe’s full potential as a healer, and contact with oxygen contaminates the gel. The rind and outer sap are, in fact, a laxative when taken in large quantities. Medical professionals in Europe and the U.S. began to reject the “myths” surrounding aloe vera, and the availability of pharmaceutical drugs following World War II forced aloe vera from the stores of natural remedies and into the realm of legend and folklore (Barcroft 24).
Aloe vera received a second look beginning in the 1950s when scientists initiated experiments with the gel and discovered the adverse effects of oxidation. The bottled aloe vera of today, the kind my parents purchased for my blistering sunburn, was born in the 1970s, when scientists solved the oxidation problem and found a way to preserve and package the gel.
Today, Cleopatra and Nefertiti are joined by contemporary celebrities in their devotion to aloe. In a September 2014 article from The Health Site, Jessica Alba reportedly learned her beauty regimen from her Latin grandmother, who would “break her aloe vera plant and rub it all over” if anything was wrong (“Jessica”). Another recent article in Prevention magazine demonstrates the kinds of modern, do-it-yourself cosmetic uses for aloe vera. Its subhead? “How beauty experts use the gooey stuff to get gorgeous” (Elias). The article is a slideshow featuring photos of glowing-skinned women next to recipes for homemade face wash and shaving cream. It seems aloe vera’s applications are equally celebrated in Egyptian legend and lifestyle magazines or red-carpet buzz. As the Prevention article poses, “Is there anything it can’t do?”
Maybe not. According to an October 2014 article from the Del Rio News Herald, a local woman who recently celebrated her 101 birthday credits her health to God and regular consumption of aloe vera (Adams). As reporter Chris Adams writes, “It appears life has been good to this peaceful woman of faith.” But her faith goes beyond faith in God and extends to faith in the earth and its sustaining plants. The 101-year-old Atilana-Cruz isn’t alone in her devotion to aloe vera. The Knights Templar supposedly drank a concoction of palm wine, aloe vera and hemp to maintain their strength and longevity (Barcroft 21). Mahatma Gandhi corroborates. In a letter to his biographer, Gandhi wrote, “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” (“Quotes”). Cleopatra, Gandhi, and Jessica Alba’s grandmother all seem to agree that aloe vera is an herbal fountain of youth and strength.
Lily of the Desert, a leading manufacturer of natural aloe vera products, bottles this health. Their website publishes recipes and home uses of the aloe vera plant along with a catalogue of products. Its health benefits are made highly consumable and accessible on the website. Complemented with photos of carefully arranged beverages and smoothies, the page touts aloe vera as an ingredient for healthy (and tasty) living. Their motto: “retaining the quality nature created” (Lily). Now 32 ounces of nature’s miracle can be purchased for $9.69.
“As we move further into the new millennium, myth and folklore have now been replaced by the growing realization that plants like aloe vera (and other natural products) can play an integral part in prevention as well as improved health and nutrition” (Barcroft 26). The fact that physicians and the public are accepting natural remedies back into their medicine cabinets is lovely. But I’d like to argue that those ancient myths and stories shouldn’t simply be replaced. They could also play an important role in our own understanding of this plant and its mysteries. Can we still remember the wonder those ancient peoples experienced when they broke off the tip of an aloe vera leaf?
In his article “Aloe Vera Myth or Medicine,” Dr. Peter Atherton reflects on his own doubts of “alternative medicine” and his experiences testing aloe vera products at home. According to Atherton, aloe vera rests on the edge of myth and medicine. But when he tests the aloe, he encounters his own, ancient sense of wonder. He describes healing his wife’s hands after she burned them on the stove and shares the story of an elderly patient who was delighted by the relief the gel gave her from a weeks-old ulcer.
“Should anyone have told me that within three years of my meeting with a mother,
whose son’s eczema had totally cleared with an Aloe vera and Bee Propolis cream,
that I would be researching its medicinal uses full time, I would have laughed. But it
happened. That meeting was to totally change my medical perspective and in fact to
change my life” (Atherton).
As Dr. Atherton’s experience demonstrates, aloe vera still has the power to realign our preference for pharmaceuticals over nature’s medicine, to restore that lost sense of wonder. But let’s not simply welcome aloe vera back into our medicine drawers and skin-care routines without considering its rich and powerful history. Let’s try attending to the ancient myths and these modern, personal stories surrounding aloe. Let’s recognize the ancient wisdom in the land and resist turning a plant into a simple, sell-able product.
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I board the steps of the Orbit Jupiter bus, hot and breathing hard because it’s September in Tempe, Arizona. In the back, sit a woman and her daughter, the mother sitting still because of the pressing heat, the daughter wriggling around because long bus rides are dull. The daughter is wearing a soft pink t-shirt with an image of a Disney princess screen-printed on the front. Her hair is a tangle of wild branches. Today, I’m wearing an unwrinkled black dress and my hair is neatly combed, but I remember feeling the tangles in my own hair when I was her age, purposefully neglecting my hairbrush because I took secret pride in those criticisms: “You have a bird’s nest in your hair.” I imagined that maybe a bird would make the same mistake, take me for a little tree, and land in that tangled knot at the back of my head. Maybe it would burrow down close to my skull and make a home there, chirping quiet messages into my ear. In this hidden, cross-species friendship, the world and I would share a secret.
The woman on the bus rests her hand on her daughter’s head, absently twirling her fingers through that knotty hair. The girl pays no attention, but instead points out the window to the glittering, green lawn splayed out before Gammage Theater. There are tiny, sloping hills of carefully maintained grass and palms surrounding the rosy theater.
“Hey wait a minute, that’s a jungle,” the girl says, gasping, pointing to the verdant world outside her window.
“No, that’s not a jungle, silly,” her mother corrects.
“Yes,” she insists. “Look, there’s a tiger.”
“No, we’re in a desert, not a jungle. See, there’s a cactus. There’s a saguaro. There’s an aloe vera.” Her mother tries to show her the truth of that outside, natural, native world.
I imagine the magical and mysterious jungle the girl saw out there, with draping vines, a towering topiary, and prowling tigers. Perhaps her jungle grass was like my ocean cactuses. I think she’ll be disappointed by the reality her mother is pointing out. But instead, the girl looks just as hungrily out the window at the little desert-scape passing by.
“Hey wait a minute, that’s a desert.” (She was obviously in her wait-a-minute stage. But as she looked intently outside and encouraged us all to pause, slow, and do the same, I thought, maybe she is attuned to something we’re not. Maybe I should wait a minute and look.)
“Hey wait a minute, that’s a park. Hey wait a minute, that’s a train track. Hey wait a minute, we’re on a bus. Hey wait a minute, that’s a man.”
To this inquisitive brain, the plants, landscapes, and people around her were all equally fascinating. They all deserved attention and even celebration.
In Alva Noë’s essay, “Do Plants have Minds,” he suggests, “if we want to understand plants, and their minds, we need to start not with computation, but with the fact that they are alive.” This little bus-rider saw the vibrant alive-ness of the world around her. She celebrated the bus, the aloe plant, and the imagined tiger equally.
I think of a mural I often pass on my way to class in downtown Phoenix. It spans the Valley Youth Theater – a vivid illustration of a native woman, her belly swollen with two illuminated fetuses. She sits on the red-dirt desert floor. The landscape behind her is dotted with natural and manmade constructions: mountains, billowing smokestacks, a row of windmills and solar panels, a gushing garden hose. At the woman’s feet lies a collection of desert plants: prickly pear, corn, palo verde, pumpkin, and, in the corner, aloe vera. I wonder, what if we saw the world as this mural presents it, with all its messy connections and beautiful complications? What if we saw through the eyes of that inquisitive bus-rider?
[fullwidth menu_anchor=”” backgroundcolor=”” backgroundimage=”https://hfe-observatories.org/eng378fa14/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2014/09/8269301406_92e9763b7a_h.jpg” backgroundrepeat=”repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”fixed” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”solid” paddingtop=”50px” paddingbottom=”50px” class=”” id=””] HEALING LANDSCAPES[/fullwidth]
Around Puttalam lagoon on Sri Lanka’s northern coast, fishing is life. Every morning, men board boats and drift into the harbor, hauling fishing nets. They hope for fish, spending all day in the rocking boat. Some days, nothing comes from the water. For a community that relies on fishing for its livelihood, a trend of nothing can be devastating. Fishing is not only an unpredictable source of income but it also degrades the coastal ecosystem, stripping it of critical species. The organization Mangroves for the Future, an initiative that promotes sustainable development on coastal ecosystems, introduced a small aloe vera plantation to this community as a solution to their failing economy and ecosystem (Mangroves4theFuture).
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Dilini Warnakulasuriya bends down to cut the base of a thick aloe vera leaf. A paring knife in one hand, she gently twists the loose leaf until it pulls away from the stalk. She hands it to her daughter to add to a pail of water – the leaves will be transported to a processing facility, and the family will be paid. As I watch Dilini’s strong arms break a heavy aloe leaf from the plant’s base and hand it to her daughter, I think of my mother’s arms reaching for a bottle of aloe on a drug-store shelf, of her hands rubbing the gel into my hot skin. I picture the woman on the bus running her fingers through her daughter’s hair. I think of the deep, strange knowledge of mothers’ touch and the powerful instinct to heal.
In Puttalam lagoon, the cultivation and harvest of aloe vera is delegated to the women of the community, increasing their involvement in the community and family incomes. The organizer of this particular project, Mohamed Nusri, noted a difference in the gender dynamics between married couples after the introduction of aloe vera, as he watched the men come in from the depleted harbor and help their wives with the budding aloe plantation (Mangroves4theFuture). This initiative gave the local ecosystem time to recover, but it also healed and strengthened the human relationships within the community. Most impressively, the video suggests that the introduction of aloe vera partially restored the human-earth relationship, reintroducing balance and respect to Puttalam lagoon. According to the organization’s website, “MFF continues to work towards achieving the vision of a healthier, more prosperous and secure future for all coastal communities.” Perhaps aloe vera doesn’t only heal our burned or blistered skin but has the power to heal communities and landscapes, even to remedy our broken relationship with the earth.
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In a hut in Bali, David Abram watches a shaman perform his magic on an ill village member. The shaman is a local healer, but he’s also a sort of natural magician, even an innocuous witch. Like the aloe vera plant, this shaman holds the mysteries of health, the wonder of medicine. His magic is drawn from an intimate understanding of and appreciation for the earth. The shaman is an intermediary between his village and the non-human world around it; he’s in communion and harmony with the larger ecological field, and for that very reason, is able to heal his people. In Abram’s seminal The Spell of the Sensuous, he explores how humans perceive and interact with the natural world and reveals the restorative power of a healthy, respectful relationship with one’s environment. As Abram writes, the shaman’s “magic is precisely this heightened receptivity to the meaningful solicitations – song, cries, gestures – of the larger, more-than-human field” (9). And just as the shaman plays a critical role, plants, Abram suggests, are vibrant and active members of the community. Aloe vera is part of that more-than-human field, a piece of the mural that is my childhood.
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Today, I look at my aloe vera plants, a little cluster, misshapen and still neglected. But I have been noticing them more lately, purposefully looking their way when I walk up to my front door, noting any changes. It’s been raining a lot – a rarity in Phoenix – and this week’s rain was more of a downpour. It washed the leaves of the aloe vera clean; now they look brighter and greener. Meanwhile, my bermudagrass has gone wild. The rain threw it into motion, and now it’s sprouting quickly. The sprinklers are still running though, and I think about adjusting the time on the system. I make a mental note.
The stormy winds earlier this afternoon brought some urban debris into the yard: scraps of plastic, torn newspaper, an empty grocery bag. The bag is caught under a leaf of the aloe vera, tangled along with the rest of the forgotten and rejected parts of my yards, the parts I’m now beginning to rediscover. I pull the bag away from the leaves and rearrange the mulch around the plant’s base, feeling some strange, new connection to the ancient people who discovered its power; to the women of Puttalam lagoon; to the girl who imagined desert plants living underwater. And it starts to look a little more like the aloe vera I remember as a child.
Aloe vera is an ecological and cultural enigma. It’s a source of collective memory and medicinal intuition. Its history spans millennia and invades our imagination. It has the power to awaken in us a dormant sense of wonder. Perhaps if we begin to see aloe not only in our drug stores but also in our gardens, we can preserve these – and other – plants. Perhaps aloe vera is the lost link in our relationship with the natural world, the silent healer that can help us mend what we’ve broken and create a future that an open and inquisitive child could imagine. Perhaps it can remind us of the magic hidden in the deep, unknown ocean waters; in the spirit of an animal; in the imagination of a child; in the leaves of a plant.
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Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. Random House: Vintage Books, 1996. Print.
Adams, Chris. “Local woman credits God, Aloe Vera to her longevity.” Del Rio News-Herald. 12 Oct. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
“Aloe Today.” Lily of the Desert. 12 Oct. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
Atherton, Peter. “Aloe Vera Myth or Medicine?” Genesis Natural Labs. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Barcroft, Alasdair. Aloe Vera: Nature’s Silent Healer. London: BAAM Publishing, 2003. Print.
Elias, Nina. “10 Things You Can Do With Aloe Vera: How beauty experts use the gooey stuff to get gorgeous.” Prevention.com. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Haupt, Lyanda Lynn. The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Print.
“Herbs at a Glance: Aloe Vera.” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, April 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2014.
“Jessica Alba reveals to have learned beauty secrets from grandma.” The Health Site. 20 Sept. 2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Mangroves4theFuture. “The Beauty of Aloe Vera.” Video. YouTube. 4 Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
Noë, Alva. “Do Plants have Minds?” NPR: 13.7 Cosmos & Culture. 2 Dec. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
“Quotes.” Aloe Vera Gel Forever, n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.
Schultz, Hank. “Global aloe market estimated at $13 billion.” Nutra Ingredients USA. 12 Nov. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
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