Family: Liliaceae (lily)
Synonyms and Common names:
aloe resin/aloe latex, Curacao aloes, Barbados aloes, first-aid plant, medicine plant
Description and Habitat:
Aloe vera is a succulent plant belonging to the Lily family. It is a perennial with strong and fibrous roots, and numerous persistent fleshy leaves beset at the edges with spiny teeth. The yellow to purplish drooping flowers grow at the top of the herb, with its flowers borne on short stalks of about equal length at equal distances along the stalk, they open in succession toward the top. The fruit is a triangular capsule containing numerous seeds. It is native to East and South Africa, The Arabian Peninsula and is cultivated in the West Indies and other tropical areas. Facts. The Arabian Peninsula includes the nine countries of Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Aloe is an evergreen perennial growing to around 1 metre in height at a very slow rate although the herb can grow to spread wide and talk. Its flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs). The plant prefers light sandy soil, and needs sun; it cannot grow in shade and tolerates drought well, shutting down its pores in drought to retain its liquid. It isn’t frost hardy and must be kept frost free.
It is relatively easy to grow in Britain, either on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse, or even outside in a good summer, its small plant-lets growing from the base making for easy propagation.
Aloe is the solid residue obtained by evaporating the bitter yellow latex that drains from the cells beneath the skin of the leaf of the aloe vera plant. The latex material contains barbaloin and other anthraquinone glycosides which are used for their laxative properties.
Another substance, aloe gel, is a clear gelatinous material obtained from the mucilaginous cells found in the inner portion of the leaf. This gel has no laxative properties and is the ingredient found in aloe drinks and cosmetics.
Collection and preparation:
The liquid that drains from the freshly cut leaves is dried to a thick consistency, and is best used fresh as the constituents deteriorate in storageConstituents:
Aloins (Barbaloin and Isobarbaloin), anthraquinones, resin
Cathartic, vulnerary, emmenagogue, vermifuge, hepatic, external demulcent
Treatment of first and second degree burns, acne, dandruff, allergic lesions, “Poisons Three” (Sumac, Oak and Ivy), bites and stings, minor cuts, herpes, constipation, cosmetic and pollution.
Aloe gel is excellent for the treatment of burns: the gel cut fresh from a leaf and applied to a burn instantly cools the skin, leading to less actual tissue damage. It is also useful for all kinds of skin complaints, from spots and blemishes to cuts, insect bites and stings. Herpes is of the same virus as the cold sore; aloe gel gives relief and helps healing in both these viruses. It is also an excellent treatment for sunburn, giving relief and helping to remove heat from the skin.
Aloe latex is taken internally as a purgative, acting on the lower bowel. It may be used in constipation although over dosage can result in diarrhoea, gastritis and nephritis. To avoid griping, it should be taken in conjunction with carminative and antispasmodic herbs (carminative include lavender, lemon balm and camomile, and antispasmodic herbs include (cramp bark, ginger, passion flower peppermint and hops). Aloe latex taken internally expels worms and other parasites of the digestive system.
In the past, Aloe latex was used as an emmenagogue, small doses increasing menstrual flow. Aloe-emodin is reported to have anti-cancer activity in vitro. Aloes turns the urine red. It is also used for colonic irrigation.
Contraindications. No known toxicity
Preparation and dosage:
For internal use it’s best to take the whole leaf dried and ground to a powder. Dosage is 100mg.
Tincture: 2 to 8 ml taken twice daily. It is important to take a carminative herb such as ginger or cinnamon at the same time to avoid griping; a few drops of ginger tincture will suffice.
Compress: a piece of cut leaf rubbed or placed upon the affected skin
Additional Comments and Folklore:When mixed with turpentine, tallow and white lead, it was traditionally smeared on the undersides of ships to protect the timbers from woodworm and barnacles. In the Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine, the leaf pulp of the exotic lily was used to shrink haemorrhoids, act as a powerful laxative and purge intestinal worms. The ancient Greeks used aloe vera on just about every part of the body and Pliny recommended that the crushed leaves be rubbed on "ulcerated male genitalia"
Legend has it that Aristotle persuaded Alexander the Great to conquer the Isle of Socroto, to secure enough Aloe vera to heal his soldiers’ wounds. Cleopatra relied on it for her unlined, youthful complexion, whilst the Chinese hailed Aloe as an elixir of youth. Aloe is also listed in St. John’s gospel as an anointing ingredient for the body of Christ.
Doctors rediscovered Aloe vera in the 1930s, when it was found to heal radiation burns due to X-rays, where other methods had met with little success. It did the same for atomic fallout victims a decade later, following the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings.
The Aloe originates from tropical Africa, where related species are used as an antidote to wounds inflicted by ‘poisoned arrows’. The Greeks and Romans used the gel for wounds. Aloes was a favoured purgative during the Middle Ages and aloe vera gel is an ingredient of many cosmetic preparations and sun creams. It is used as a paint to discourage nail biting due to its intensely bitter taste.
Plants grown indoors in pots help remove toxins from the atmosphere. It is also unusual in that it continues to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide in the dark, making it very suitable for growing in bedrooms.
The Mahometans (a follower of Mohamed), especially those in Egypt, regard the Aloe as a religious symbol, and the Mussulman (an old word for Muslim) who has made a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet is entitled to hang the Aloe over his doorway. The Mahometans also believe that this holy symbol protects a householder from any malign influence. In Cairo, the Jews also adopt the practice of hanging up Aloe. In the neighbourhood of Mecca, at the extremity of every grave, on a spot facing the epitaph is to be found planted a low shrubby species of Aloe whose Arabic name, saber, and signifies patience. Its name refers to the waiting-time between burial and resurrection, which is said to take place in the morning.