Swimming, a glass of red wine, quinoa, yoga, coconut oil... there are many 21st-century panaceas, but one in particular has been around forever: aloe vera. This plant, one of the most versatile on the planet, is known as "nature’s miracle." Ancient civilizations began to use it more than 6,000 years ago due to its myriad properties. The Egyptians and Greeks were pioneers in discovering its benefits, and Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have whole chapters dedicated to this plant alone. Now it’s the star ingredient of treatments, menus and healthy drinks at the five-star hotel in Tenerife Iberostar Selection Sábila.
From antiquity to today
Throughout history, "aloe blood" has been considered a source of beauty, health and immortality. Nefertiti used aloe gel in her beauty rituals—as did Cleopatra, who added a few drops to her donkey-milk baths. It was also used in embalming because of its antiseptic and fungicidal properties, which earned it the status of "the plant of immortality.” Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) told his soldiers to heal their wounds with aloe juice, which in those days was the favorite ointment of the samurai. Even the Kamasutra heralds its aphrodisiac effects.
The panacea formula
But what makes this perennial plant so powerful? Although many associate it with the cactus family, it’s actually a succulent with a gelatinous interior. It contains more than 99% water, and the rest of it is made up of 160 components including vitamins, minerals and active ingredients that are truly beneficial to the body. When it comes to health, aloe juice has purifying properties. It helps alkalize and detoxify the body from all the processed products and excess sugars and fats we eat on a daily basis. It’s the colon’s best friend.
If you drink it or apply it to your skin, it has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect. It reduces swelling and relieves pain, even in bones. Patients with osteoporosis, rheumatism and arthritis rely on aloe vera concoctions to regenerate bone mass. The high amount of acemannan in its leaves stimulates the immune system. Its latex works as a laxative. It can be applied topically to cuts and wounds, and it helps scars heal and fade. It also soothes burns, combats psoriasis and gets rid of dandruff and acne. Its antibacterial properties treat rashes, styes, herpes, athlete's foot and more.
Its cosmetic use has also gained renown around the world. It’s an effective anti-aging element. Its combination of minerals, vitamins and enzymes makes it a powerful antioxidant, combating the harmful effects of the free radicals responsible for skin aging and some degenerative diseases.
A culinary hit
There’s no area that can resist aloe vera. It has claimed its place in cuisine, fresh out of the flowerpot. Its ability to transform texture and its low caloric content excite chefs and home cooks alike. People have been drinking beverages with small, transparent cubes of aloe vera in them for quite some time, and it’s increasingly being put to use as a star ingredient in sauces thanks to its salty taste.
It’s said that the word “aloe” can be translated from Arabic to "shiny, bitter substance." It makes a winning combination with honey. Its most interesting attribute as an ingredient is the fact that it works as a gelling agent, stabilizer and emulsifier. This means it allows you to add substance to dishes without having to resort to flour or fat. It’s a lifesaver for celiac sufferers, people on diets or anyone who wants to eat healthy. It also prevents mayonnaise from separating, gives jam a nice consistency, softens rice and thickens soups like salmorejo. A study published by Cambridge University Press in 2014 demonstrated its properties as a natural preservative, keeping fruits and vegetables fresh longer.
Paradise in Tenerife
One of the main production regions of aloe vera can be found in Spain. The Canary Islands have the perfect climate with the right mix of heat and humidity, allowing the plant to grow in all its glory. Like tulips in Holland or lotus in India, aloe vera is a symbol of the Canary Islands. Museums, parks, deli shops and recipe books are dedicated to it; souvenirs are decorated with it and experiential hotels are even opened to celebrate it.