Rediscovering Aloe Plant: The Treasure of the Ancients
For more than 3,500 years, people have recognized the healing and moisturizing properties of the aloe plant. The use of aloe has been documented throughout history most notably aloe use can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, when the glamorous Cleopatra considered the aloe plant her personal skin care and beauty secret. Aloe was held in such esteem in ancient Egypt that it was considered the "Plant of Immortality" and drawings of aloe plants have even been found inscribed in the tombs of pharaohs.
Through the centuries following the Egyptians, aloe was highly valued by the legendary King Solomon, and Alexander the Great. Mentions of aloe use on the skin are also found in the Bible and later Marco Polo recorded the use of aloe in the Orient. Spanish Conquistadores discovered the bounty of the aloe plant in South America and exported vast quantities back to Europe throughout the sixteenth century, where the aloe plant became part of the foundation of western medicine.
Since 1974, Aloe Products have been used by manufacturersto produce a wide variety of aloe based skin care and beauty products, and aloe Vera drinks. Aloe plant is one of the oldest known medicinal plants gifted by nature. Often called the Miracle plant known by many names, there are over 200 types of aloe species. Of these, however, only 4 to 5 are commonly used in medicines. The most widely used variety of aloe is Barbadensis Millar. It is perennial, succulent plant with stiff fleshy leaves. Aloe Vera is a clear thin gelatinous material that comes from inside the aloe leaves. Aloe products are available in various forms like capsules, gel, juice and those that are applied directly to the skin.
It has cooling effect and bitter in taste. It contains aloin that is responsible for its purgative action so it is known to relieve constipation. It regulates the peristaltic movements of intestines & promotes digestion; the liver & spleen function are stimulated by the use of this herb. On the other hand, aloe leave have some ingredients like Vitamin, Minerals, Amino acid, Polysaccharides, Enzymes, Plant steroids, Saponins, Lignin, AnthraquinonesSalicylic acid which are necessary for human bodies. Aloe works as Anti-septic, Antibacterial, and Anti inflammatory. It cures Eczema, Diabetes, Arthritis and Prevent infections. It also improves human immune system and digestive system.
Paradoxically, Mwingi and most parts of Kitui County have been found to be home to some of the finest species of the aloe plant, but the local communityis yet to understand and appreciate the full commercial value of the plant. However, our recent initiatives in this regard has seen some 25 CBOs and SHGs each put an average of 2 acres of land under aloe farming. (About 50 acres in total), with an additional 200,000- 300,000 still in nurseries. Under the said project, each CBO has been trained on how to process toilet soaps and shampoo for own use and for selling to the neighbours.
So strict are the CBOs that, no member of a CBO/ SHG is allowed to buy their toilet soap, detergents and pesticides from the market, when their group has stocks of the same. And the good news, there is evidence to the effect that, those constantly using the locally processed aloe products (particularly Women) are looking almost 10 years younger than their real age. Thanks to the wonders of the aloe plant!!!.
Most of the aloe farms are being established in the most ragged and eroded parts of wastelands and within just a couple of months, the areas are slowly being getting reclaimed.
Plans are now at an advanced stage to start quality standardization, branding,bar coding and packaging for mass marketing outside the project area as a Strategy for fighting poverty, environmental conservation and climate change in a cost effective and sustainable way.