Aloe Vera / Aloès

imagesby Anne Driscoll, R.H., Traditional Herbalist

Aloe Vera (Liliaceae) is also known as aloes, aalwee, aalwyn, aloi, Barbados Aloe, burn aloe, Chinese aloe, first aid plant, kumari, medicine plant and true aloe.

Parts Used: Either the whole leaf juice or the inner leaf gel can be used.

Habitat: The plant is a perennial succulent that is native to Africa. It has spread around the world because of its usefulness and can be found growing almost anywhere it can find a hospitable climate. It is a common houseplant and is one of our most readily identifiable plants. Aloes have long lance shaped leaves that are thick and fleshy. They are of varying shades of green and the edges of the leaves are toothed. When broken the leaves release a watery gel. The leaves are basal. Flowers are on a spike and have either a yellow or orange tubular corolla. As a plant native to Africa the aloe prefers full sun, moderate water and well drained soil. They will often grow babies that can be gently pulled away from the mother plant and potted up separately.

Properties: Anthelmintic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-galactagogue, anti-inflammatory anti-neoplastic, anti-ulcerogenic, anti-viral, appetite stimulant, astringent, bulk laxative, cathartic, demulcent/emollient, emmenagogue, hypoglycemic, immune stimulant and vulnerary.

Uses: There are records of the medicinal use of aloe dating back as far as the 16th century BCE. Cleopatra was said to have used aloe as a part of her beauty routine. Aloe is very well known for epithelial conditions – it makes an instant poultice for burns, rashes, scalds, psoriasis, varicose veins, ulcerations of the skin, cuts, scrapes, bites and stings. It is very effective because not only does it prevent infection (being simultaneously anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral), but it also stimulates new cell growth at the site of the wound. This help to prevent scarring. Newer research has also shown that aloe gel can reduce and soothe the damage caused to skin by radiation treatments. For external use the gel from the inner part of the leaf is most commonly used. Internally the plant is useful for chronic constipation, poor appetite and amenorrhea. The juice from the whole plant is used internally as the resinous compounds that are responsible for its medicinal action are found in the peripheral leaf cells of the aloe. Aloe contains anthraquinones – these compounds stimulate peristalsis of the large intestine and are responsible for the usefulness of aloe as a laxative. These constituents often cause cramping and so should always be combined with carminatives to reduce the risk of this occurring. It was Paracelsus who first opined that “the dose makes the poison” and this is very true when it comes to aloe vera. Smaller doses have a stimulating action upon the digestive system whereas large doses can be purgative and have you running for the restroom. Internal usage of the whole leaf should be limited to short periods of time. The gel can be taken internally as well and is useful for ulcers, IBS, colitis and the like. It is very soothing to the tissues of the digestive tract.

Prepartion / Dosage: While the tincture has been used it is most common to use the fresh plant material.

Safety Considerations: Not for internal use during pregnancy or lactation, or if suffering from hemorrhoids. High doses can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.


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