Science notes


ALOE - Aloe sp. Aaloe, Aloé, Aloë, Aloès, Aloje, Erva Babosa, Kenjei, Pui, Sabur. Bulgarian: Aloye. Russian: Aloe. Mshubiri Mwitu: possibly A. barbadensis. Ornamental.

Many of these plants are cultivated locally. The inspissated juice is a hot and irritating purgative. The Socotorine Aloe is gentler. Do not use Aloe remedies internally during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Aperient. The leaves are used for poultices. Because the resinous part is not soluble in water, it is used to coat ships to protect the wood from the water. An ounce will cover two board feet, and twelve pounds will do a fifty ton ship. It can be applied with six pounds of pitch, a pound of Spanish brown, or whiting, and a quart of oil, or with the same proportions of turpentine, Spanish brown, and tallow. It will protect the ship for eight months. It can also be used to preserve rafters from the wood ant. Pita, a horsehair thread, is pulled from a species of Aloe.

I have a large number of Aloe plants in my yard which are probably A. abyssinica. Although the juice from these aloes appears to be weaker than that of the more commonly used species, I have used them successfully externally.

The flowers are attractive to hummingbirds. They are often grown as potted plants, with well drained mix, in particular because most of them require winter protection and protection from the sun. They tend to dry out if they get too hot. Many species have some medicinal activity, but only a few are very powerful.

A. africana, A. spicata, exotic, A. barbadensis (A. ferox). Has pharmacological properties. Acibar, Aloe Purificado, Aloe Purificata, Aloés, Aloés Depuré, Purified Aloe. Use the juice of the leaves. The activity of aloe is due to the presence of emodin (trioxi-metilantraquinona) and the principle called Aloin, but also contains resins, a small quantity of volatile oil, and from 1 to 4% mineral salts. The proportion of aloin varies between 7.5 and 10% in Socotorine Aloe and between 18 and 25% in that of Barbados. It is probable that there are at least three distinct aloins and one distinguishes the varieties with a prefix which indicates their origin: C15H16O7, barbaloin C17H20O7 or C16H16O7 3H2O and nataloin C16H18O7 or C25H88O11. The last is not very active. Emodin is formed in Aloe barbadense, but not in Socotrine; it is formed from aloin when it is exposed to air, or when heated with a 1% solution of caustic potash. The resins contain a distinct composition according to the origin of the aloe; all are esters of different acids with aloeresinotannol. The resin of barbadense, for example, is the cinnamic ester of aloeresinotannol. The porportion of resins varies between 12 and 50%. Dissolve 50 grams of aloe in 300 cc of hot water acidulated with three drops of hydrochloric acid; after chilling, separate the aqueous solution of the resins, by pouring it off, collecting 50 cc of ammonia of 20% and 15 grams of calcium chloride dissolved in 30 cc of water; agitate the liquid ten minutes, and separate the aloino-calcic compound by means of a centrifuge, or by pressing through a filter. The mixture, almost liberated of water, you treat with a slight excess of hydrochloric acid, triturate the mixture of aloin and calcium chloride obtained in a mortar, dissolve in hot water, filter, and you have crystallized the aloin, which is cooled with ice. Prepare 1000 grams of commercial aloe melted in a porcelain container, agitate with 200 cc of alcohol in Baño de Maria until you obtain a homogeneous liquid, which, after collecting in a No. 60 sieve, previously heated in boiling water, evaporate in Baño de Maria in a porcelain container, then chill a portion of this brittle material. The mass can be saved in glass bottles, well covered, in a dry, cool place. In doses of _.05 to 10 grams, it stimulates the appetite and digestion, in larger doses, it causes colonic contortions and is purgative in 12 to 24 hours. It causes congestion of the pelvic organs and of the place of origin of uterine colic during menstruation and increases menstruation; it is contraindicated in pregnancy and suffering of the bladder, prostate, rectum, uterus, and vagina; it decreases the secretion of milk, and is prescribed with the aim of causing decongestion of the head. When the organism is not accustomed to its action, and if you prescribe it for many consecutive days, you can reduce the dose, you use it for combating habitual constipation. Some people use it as a diuretic, cholagogue and vermifuge. And it is employed topically for curing ulcers and fistulas. Dose: up to half a gram, which can be repeated three times a day. See A. barbadensis, below.

A. barbadensis (A. barbados miller, africana, arborescens, brevifolia, depressa, ferox, glauca, humilis, mitraeformis, obscura, perfoliata, purpurascens, saponaria, serrulata, socotrina, suberecta, vera, vulgaris): Acibar del Pais, Aloe Barbadensis, Aloe de México, Aloes des Jardins, Aloe Socotrina, Barbadoes Aloe, Barbados Aloe, Broad Leaved Sword Aloe, Candelabra Aloe, Common Soap Aloe, Dwarf Hedgehog Aloe, Great Hedgehog Aloe, Great Mitre Aloe, Great Soap Aloe, Hollow Leaved Perfoliate Aloe, Jugo de Zábila, Laloi, L'alois, Narrow Leaved Sword Aloe, Perfoliate Aloe, Red Spined Glaucous Aloe, Sabila, Short Leaved Perfoliate Aloe, Small Mitre Aloe, Socotorine Aloe, Socotrine Aloes, Upright Perfoliate Aloe, White Spined Glaucous Aloe, Zabila. This ornamental has pharmacological properties.

Diccionario Botanico de Nombres Vulgares de la Española says that A. barbadensis and A. vera are the same species; however, according to Kerry Brasswel, only one of the six varieties of A. barbadensis, namely A. barbados miller, is particularly rich in pharmacologically active substances. This subspecies has a much less pronounced tapering to the leaves, and will if given enough water, become convex on both surfaces. In contrast, the leaves of the subspecies known as A. vera always maintain a crescent moon cross-section. A. barbados miller is pinkish in the early morning and attracts birds. My personal experience is that birds do not always peck it, even when the juice is powerful. This variety has been identified by George Warren and is under cultivation. The prepared juice, which tastes like spring water and does not require refrigeration, is available from Warren Laboratories in Stafford, Texas. To make matters more complicated, I am told that what we commonly call A. vera is not the same species that other parts of the world call A. vera. If you are in the wild, and need a remedy, try any of the varieties of either A. barbadensis or A. vera. Most of them contain SOME of the active substances. I have used several species to good effect, externally, including some supposedly not rich in the active substance.

The gelatinous interior of the leaf of A. vera is used as a drink. It is taken internally as a laxative and bowel tonic, for urinary problems, as an antibiotic for internal wounds, ulcers, and as a vermifuge. A. vera is rich in the mineral germanium, which it is said will alleviate the pain of terminal cancer. The Socotrine variety is given in doses of a half drachm as a purge, or apurient. It removes phlegm. Alterant in smaller doses. It cleanses the intestines. Licorice juice is added to improve the flavor, equal parts of each. It purifies the blood and helps digestion and the nervous system. It helps putrifaction and kills worms in the stomach and intestines, cures jaundice and green sickness, provokes menstruation and piles, and helps ague. Mix the quantity of powder that you can put on the tip of a knife with an equal volume of honey, and use it to clean the stomach. Aloin has the characteristics and composition of barbaloin. Taken internally, half a gram of the juice is laxative, while up to a gram is purgative. The gel should not be used internally in bilious conditions, in pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those who spit blood. It could be fatal.

The inspissated juice of the leaves is used.

Use the leaf gel applied as a poultice for wounds, rashes, burns, and skin problems; it promotes cell growth. Use it on infections and fungus problems, and as an eyewash for scleroderma and dry eyes. I personally used this Aloe to treat a second degree burn which was approximately 1 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inches wide. It healed without a scar or even a discoloration. The fresh Aloe leaf was coated with BF_&C ointment and used as a poultice. Healing took several weeks. BF_&C ointment is a John Christopher formula that contains olive oil, wheat germ oil, beeswax, honey, white oak bark, comfrey root and leaves, marshmallow root, mullein, black walnut leaves, gravel root, wormwood, lobelia, and skullcap. It is commercially available.

In Mexico, Aloe powder is sold to make compresses for bandaging infected wounds and ulcers. They are changed daily. This results in the formation of new skin.

In A. barbadensis, the juice of the leaves is often orange, and will temporarily stain the skin. To obtain the juice, cut the leaves at the base and suspend them vertically over a container. After obtaining the juice, evaporate it in Baño de Maria, until it acquires the consistency of dry extract. In order to unstick it, you heat it slightly, lifting and turning the mass with a spatula, chilling it in order to harden it. Finish by tearing the mass apart, and store in bottles made of dark glass.

In Barbados, these plants are cut in March at the age of a year, and put in a tub, and the juice drained off, and they are then used as manure. The juice will keep for weeks. It is boiled and thickened, or sun dried. Bladders filled with raw juice are placed open at the top in the sun every day until a resin is formed. This species grows in rocky ground unsuitable for raising sugar cane. A. barbados miller will grow well in direct sunlight in the Sonoran desert, unlike other species. It is used as an ornamental on the streets of Tucson. It has light yellow flowers.

The fresh leaves can be made into cords. See A. africana, above, for more pharmaceutical information on this species.

A. capitata, exotic. The leaf sap is cathartic. It is used for urinary problems.

A. dichotoma: Smooth Stemmed Tree Aloe. Exotic. The trunk is hollowed to make a quiver for arrows.

A. erinacea, exotic. Ornamental. These are very thorny appearing plants that do well in pots. They do not tolerate frost, and like some shade.

A. macroclada, exotic. This is a digestive purgative. Use it for urinary problems, or the whole plant for hydropsy.

A. ramosissima, exotic. Ornamental. This is a tree aloe that has a definite trunk. The flowers are yellow. It is sensitive to frost and full sun, but it needs either low water or higher light in the winter. If kept inside with low water, it should be watered and fed in spring and fall.

A. spicata (A. capensis): Cape Aloes, Spiked Aloe. Exotic. Has pharmacological properties. The flower is full of a purple honey juice. This the best hepatic species; its juice is less bitter and nauseating than that from Socotorine. Use the inspissated juice of the leaves for medicinal purposes.

A. umbellata, exotic. Ornamental. The gel is used for burns, hair washes and cosmetics. The latex under the epidermis is poisonous and causes vomiting. It is not fatal. See Agave.

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