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Aloe veraAloe vera/A. barbadensis (Liliaceae)

ALOES

 

The juice and mucilage from the fresh leaves of aloes have been used medicinally for centuries. The mucilage is applied externally to soothe the skin. The juice, which is usually concentrated into a solid and then powdered, is given internally as a powerful purgative.

 

Recent cosmetic fashion for aloes creams and shampoos belies the herb's ancient history; Aristotle had Alexander the Great studying how the Socotra islanders extracted aloes juice as long ago as 325BC. There are over 200 varieties of aloes used, most deriving from species native to east and west Africa. The plants have whorls of thick fleshy leaves, usually with a toothed margin and often without a stem. A flower spike bearing trumpet-shaped, yellow or red flowers appears in the summer.

 

PARTS USED

Juice and mucilage from the leaves.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Anthraquinone glycosides (known as aloin), including aloe-emodin, aloin A and B, and aloinside; sterols; saponins; resin.

 

ACTIONS

Juice purges the bowels; mucilage softens and soothes the skin, and promotes wound healing.

 

MEDICINAL USE

The fresh mucilage is applied directly to burns, slow-healing wounds and inflamed skin. Aloes's purgative action is so strong that the herb is rarely used internally alone, but is usually given with antispasmodics such as Atropa belladonna to stop griping. Chinese medicine prescribes it as a laxative and to stimulate the stomach.

 

PREPARATIONS

Powder, tablets, cream, fresh juice.

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