In Fuerteventura Since a few years ago it became fashionable to publish, on social networks, images in which their protagonists are surrounded by the violet color of lavenders, or the intense reds of poppy fields, instagramers have not stopped looking for similar environments to impress your followers.
If you are one of those who like to take selfies in front of colorful flowers, in Fuerteventura, you also have the opportunity to do it next to the powerful yellow of aloe vera flowers.
Fuerteventura has several aloe vera fields, especially in the center and south of the island. They are private farms. So, you have to be respectful, ask and ask permission before taking out the camera. The main mission of the aloe fields is not, at least for the moment, to get thousands of likes, but it is a crop that is the way of life for many families on the island.
Today we get closer to the history and properties of this plant.
Aloe vera, history and properties.
There is no doubt that with the rise of natural treatments a few decades ago, the aloe vera plant has become very popular. However, its medicinal properties have been known since ancient times.
Aloe was used in ancient Egypt, more than 5000 years ago. They called it “plant of immortality” and “miracle plant”. The Egyptians used aloe as a powerful purgative, to heal wounds and as a cosmetic. It was claimed that the extraordinary sparkle in Queen Cleopatra’s eyes was due to an eye drop made with aloe.
Representations of aloe vera have been found on the walls of the temples. It was a symbol of fertility and was given to the bride and groom before the wedding, it also symbolized good luck in new businesses.
The Egyptians hung aloe leaves in their homes as a sign of protection. Thanks to the fungicidal and bactericidal effect of aloe, Egyptian priests were able to prepare embalming products, which they used in the burial rituals of the pharaohs.
The properties of aloe vera were also known in distant China, 2700 years before our era. Sumerians, Babylonians and Hindus used aloe vera in different therapeutic applications.
Alexander the Great and his warriors treated their wounds with aloe vera, and the King of Macedonia’s battle tanks had fresh supplies of this plant during their campaigns.
From the Middle East it was introduced in the Mediterranean countries, mainly Greece and Rome. But, it was the Muslims, back in the 8th century, who spread the cultivation of aloe vera throughout North Africa and Al-Andalus. In fact, the name by which this plant was known until recently: “aloe” or “aloe”, is an Arabic word (Sabīla) that means path. Well, the word aloe probably also comes from the Arabic word, alloeh (bitter).
Aloe vera in the Canary Islands
Aloe produces a yellowish substance called acíbar, a resunish, very bitter substance with laxative, dermal and oxytocic purgative effects. Aloe is used topically (ointment, poultice or ointment) for the treatment of wounds and burns, due to its healing, disinfectant and anti-inflammatory properties. This fact was known to the first settlers of the Canary Islands, and they were looking for similar plants to make their acíbar. Espinoza in the 16th century and Núñez de la Peña, in the 17th century, refer to the use of acíbar and “ligno aloe” by pre-Hispanic cultures in the Canary Islands. However, it is not clear if they were aloe vera plants or another similar succulent plant that grew wild on the islands.
Since the 18th century there is already news of the existence of aloe vera plants in Fuerteventura. British sailor George Glass speaks of “aloes in bushes” that grow spontaneously and without cultivation.
The first clear references to the presence of aloe vera in the Canary Islands date back to the 19th century, made by the versatile José de Viera y Clavijo:
“Permanent plant, a species of aloe or acíbar, typical of these African regions, which grows naturally in some uncultivated lands of our islands, …”
Also the naturalists Philip B. Webb, Sabino Berthelot, and the traveler Olivia Stone, in the same century, confirm the presence of aloe vera in our archipelago.
Many authors consider that aloe vera was introduced in the Canary Islands, for its medicinal value, and that it came from Africa and the Mediterranean. Other authors consider that it is a plant native to the entire Macaronesian archipelago.
Aloe vera is capable of living in temperate climates with little water availability, such as that of Fuerteventura. This perennial plant has grayish-green leaves, serrated at the edges. They measure between 35-60 cm in length, and 6-10 cm in width at the base.
The aloe vera plant reaches maturity at 3 years of life. Its flowering indicates that the plant has already acquired all its properties and that it is ideal to be used. The reddish or yellowish flowers are born around a stem, an inflorescence, which emerges from the center of the plant and can reach 70 cm in height.
When cutting an aloe leaf, it is observed that it secretes a kind of yellowish-green gel called aloin, which has a bitter taste. This yellowish discharge is where the plant gets its name.
Aloe vera leaves are usually collected in the early hours of the morning, because that is when the accumulation of malic acid in the cells of its leaves is greatest.
But, if you really want to know, in depth, the care that the plant requires, how the raw material is extracted and how the products derived from aloe are made, then, do not miss the opportunity and visit one of the aloe vera plantations what’s on the island.