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  • Aloe Vera
  • Aloeaceae
  • Aloe family

Common Names

herbsBarbados aloe
herbsCuracao aloe
herbsKumari (Sanskrit name)
herbsLu hui (Chinese name)

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

The aloe is a perennial plant; the strong, fibrous root produces a rosette of fleshy basal leaves as in the agave but considerably smaller. The narrow-lanceolate leaves are 1-2 feet long and whitish-green on both sides, and they bear spiny teeth on the margins. The yellow to purplish, drooping flowers, which are evident most of the year, grow in a long raceme at the top of a flower stalk up to 4 1/2 feet high. The fruit is a triangular capsule containing numerous seeds.

Other varieties: Bombay aloes (Aloe socotrina), not to be taken during pregnancy, used similarly to aloe vera. Aloe perryi (or Bombay aloe, Turkey aloe, Zanzibar aloe); found on the island of Socotra near the entrance of the Gulf of Aden. This is used like aloe vera, although considered by some to be less powerful. Aloe saponaria; found in South Africa; natives use the leaf pulp and yellow juice for ringworm. Aloe tenuior; found in South Africa; natives use a decoction of the root for tapeworm. Aloe latifolia, found in South Africa; some natives use the leaf pulp to treat inflamed boils (SEE BOILS) and sores; others use the leaf pulp and the plant's yellow juice to cure ringworm.

Where Found

Found wild in East and South Africa and also cultivated in the West Indies and other tropical areas. It has been reported in the Zapata area of Texas.

Medicinal Properties

Emollient, purgative, vulnerary, tonic, demulcent, vermifuge, antifungal, alterative, emmenagogue

Biochemical Information

Anthraquinone glycosides, resins, polysaccharides, sterols, gelonins, chromones

Legends, Myths and Stories

"I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon" (Proverbs 7:17). For more than 3,500 years, healers and physicians have touted the benefits of this fragrant desert lily. There are about 200 species of aloe, but aloe vera, meaning (true aloe) in Latin, is considered the most effective healer. The leaf of the aloe contains a special gel or emollient that is used extensively in cosmetics and skin creams. Aloe gel is regarded as one of nature's best natural moisturizers. The juice is bitter and extracted for medicinal use.

Queen Cleopatra regarded the gel as a fountain off youth and used it to preserve her skin against the ravages of the Egyptian sun. The Egyptians were also believed to have used the aloe plant in their embalming process.

The Aloe originates from tropical Africa, where related species are used as an antidote to poison arrow wounds. It was known to Greeks and Romans, who also used the gel for wounds; one of Pliny's many recommendations was to rub leaves on "ulcerated male genitals." Aloe was a favorite purgative during the Middle Ages. In China, similar uses developed to those in the West, although only the gel is used; in India, the gel is a highly regarded cooling tonic. Aloe reached the West Indies in the 16th century and is widely cultivated there.

In the East Indies, aloes are used as a varnish, to preserve wood from worms and other insects; and skins from insect bites, and even living animals are anointed with it for the same reason. The havoc committed by the white ants in India first suggested the trial of aloe juice, to protect wood from them; for which purpose the juice is either used as an extract, or in solution, by some solvent.

Aloes have been found effectual in preserving ships from the ravages of the worm and the adhesion of barnacles. The resinous part of this juice is not soluble in water so the ship's bottom, for this purpose, is smeared with a composition of hepatic aloes, turpentine, tallow, and white lead, (equal parts). In proof of the efficacy off this method, 2 planks of equal thickness, and cut off the same tree, were placed under water, one in its natural state, and the other smeared with the composition. On taking them up, after being immersed 8 months, the latter was found to be perfect as at first, while the former was entirely penetrated with insects, and in a state of absolute rottenness.

One blade of aloe can be used for weeks. The severed end of the blade is self healing. The thin film can easily be broken with each use.

The juice of aloes was formerly used in Eastern countries in embalming and to preserve dead bodies from putrefaction.

Aloe has been used at least 2,000 years by the Chinese, who call aloe vera "Lu Hui". Today, used against radiation burns, thermal burns, chapped and dry skin, leg ulcers, skin disorders, a laxative, burns in general, and to help heal disorders of the stomach, liver, and spleen and to expel worms.


Aloe is one of the great healing agents among the herbs. Cleans out the colon. Helps any kind of sores externally, excellent for kitchen or minor burns and for piles.

Because of its nauseating taste, it is generally used in powder or pill form when taken for a purgative. It also tends to gripe and cause a constipative reaction, so that it should be combined with a carminative for best results. The fresh leaves of the aloe can be split to expose the gelatinous juice and then rubbed on the skin for sunburn, wrinkles, headache, insect bites, skin irritations, and minor cuts, ulcers, sores, herpes, jaundice, bursitis, canker sores, sore gums, and scratches. The fresh juice is also said to help heal wounds by preventing or drawing out infection, and for poison ivy. Rub the scalp with aloe and it keeps the hair from falling out. A tea made from the dried juice makes a good wash for wounds and for the eyes.

Aloes are used widely for their moisturizing and softening properties.

Formulas or Dosages

Powder: a dose is from 1-5 grains.

Juice or gel: taken internally, take 1 tbsp., up to 3 times daily.

Fluid extract: a dose is from 5-30 drops.

Wash: dissolve 1/2 tsp. aloes in 1 cup water. If desired, add 1 tsp. boric acid as a preservative and to help in healing.

How Sold

Capsules: take 1 capsule, up to 3 times daily.

Gel: externally, used liberally as needed.


Many so-called aloe vera preparations on the market contain very little of the plant. Some state "aloe extract" or "reconstituted aloe vera", which are watered down versions not too beneficial. A true aloe product will list aloe vera as a primary ingredient and usually state that it is 97% to 99% pure aloe vera.


The powder in any substantial amount is contraindicated (do not use) during pregnancy because the anthraquinone glycosides are strongly purgative. High doses of the leaves can cause vomiting. Aloe should not be used internally by pregnant women, or children or the elderly. Take internally only under medical supervision.

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