Aloe (Aloe vera)

Aloe is an perennial succulent in the Liliaceae family from Southern and Eastern Africa, also found naturalized in the wild throughout the southern half of the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, Egypt), Sudan, and the Canary, Cape Verde, and Madeira Islands. This showy evergreen is cultivated worldwide for both medicinal and decorative uses. It has strong fibrous roots from which a stemless, fleshy rosette of 1-2 foot leaves grow. The leaves are typically green with white flecks and bear serrated teeth on the margin, but there is a huge genetic diversity in the size and coloration of aloe plants. The yellow, red, or purple flowers grow most of the year in a long raceme at the end of a large stalk that can reach up to 4 ft high, which mature into triangle shaped seed pods. They can be easily cultivated in full sun, well drained sandy soils, and are drought tolerant once established.

Parts Used
Inner gel of the leaves, fresh and powdered

Medicinal Uses
Aloe is a purgative, rejuventative, emollient, and vulnerary. Externally, it is used to soothe and treat minor skin conditions such as burns, sunburns, insect bites, scrapes, dry skin, wrinkles, and cuts. Its useful for preventing and drawing small infections out of the skin and to prevent scarring. It’s also used in shampoos to treat dry, itchy scalps. The inner gel can be dried and made into a wash to soothe irritated eyes and to clean wounds. Internally, aloe is a purgative and cathartic. The powdered leaves are used as a laxative useful for treating stubborn constipation, bloody stool, and liver disorders, while the milder inner gel is a useful yin tonic, considered in Aryuvedic medicine one of the most important tonics and rejuvenator for the female reproductive system, liver, and to regulate Pitta. The gel should be taken daily for women who are experiencing pms, menopause, or who have had hysterectomies. It tends to be nauseating and cause intestinal griping, so it is often combined with pleasant tasting carminatives like ginger, turmeric, rose, and mint.

Folk Uses
There are many other varieties of aloe used for different ailments in Eastern and South Africa. Aloe latifolia is used to treat boils, sores, and ringworm. Similarly, Aloe saponaria is used to treat ringworm, and the root of Aloe tenor is decocted and used internally to expel tapeworms. Aloe perryi is found on the island Socotra near the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, and used similarly to Aloe barbadensis, although it’s thought to be less powerful. It’s famous for producing a rich, violet colored dye. In Aryuvedic medicine, aloe regulates fat and sugar metabolism while tonifying the agnis, which are the digestive enzymes of the body, reducing and rejuvenating Pitta. It’s use has been recorded as far back as in the writings of the naturalist Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century AD.

Flavor Profile and Energetics
Cold, bitter, will aggravate Vatta in powder form

Externally, as needed. Internally, 1/2-1 tsp of the powder steeped in water, or 2 tsp of the gel mixed with juice or water, three times daily.

Combining with ginger counters the cold nature of this plant, preserving it’s tonic properties. Combined with Shatavari it is a nutritive tonic. It functions as an alterative and emmenagogoue when combined with Manjishta.

The powder in any amount is to be avoided internally during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, as it is excreted in the mother’s milk and can act as a purgative for the infant.

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An aloe leaf split, revealing the gooey inner gel.

An aloe leaf split, revealing the gooey inner gel.

Aloe arborescens, native to South Africa, in bloom.

Aloe arborescens, native to South Africa, in bloom.