Aloes

 

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The Aloes were found in Egypt from a long time ago. It is still present in Egypt where some religious groups consider it a symbolic plant. Its Botanical name is Aloe Perryi or Aloe vera. Its common names are spiked aloes or cape aloes, also called Curacao or Socrotine aloes, first-aid herb, healing herb, medicine plant. Its Arabic name is Sabar.   

 

 

 

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Aloes are found from Arabia in the North to Madagascar in the East and Southern Africa in the South. Aloes occur naturally only in Africa. In Mexico, where Aloe vera escaped from cultivation, it has been naturalised. They have been introduced into the West Indies (where they are extensively cultivated) and into tropical countries, and will even flourish in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.

Aloes was known by the Greeks as early as 4th century B.C. It was produced in the island of Socotra and the drug was used by Dioscorides, Celsus and Pliny, as well as by the later Greek and Arabian physicians.

 In the tenth century the drug was imported into Europe by way of the Red Sea and Alexandria. In the early part of the seventeenth century, there was a direct trade in Aloes between England and Socotra.

 

 

They are succulent plants belonging to the Lily family, with perennial, strong and fibrous roots and numerous, persistent, fleshy leaves, proceeding from the upper part of the root, narrow, tapering, thick and fleshy, with prickly edges and spiny teeth. Many of the species are woody and branching. Leaves contain a bitter juice. Aloe produces a single leafless flower stalk 2-3 feet tall. The flower is of yellow, orange, or red tubular in color.

Aloes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the small grass aloes to the huge ones. Aloes are well adapted for harsh climates and they can survive in mountains, grasslands, deserts and on beaches. Both the spiky leaves and the bitter tasting juice prevents animals and insects from eating it. The waxy leaves have sunken pores which prevents water loss. This is a blessing as the plant has a poorly developed root system. Aloes propagate by seeds that are designed for wind dispersal and some species have a high degree of vegetative propagation.

 

 

The part used are the leaves. The drug Aloes consists of the liquid exuded from the transversely-cut bases of the leaves of various species of Aloes, evaporated to dryness.

The fleshy leaves of the true Aloe contain near the epidermis or outer skin, a row of fibrovascular bundles, the cells of which are much enlarged and filled with a yellow juice which exudes when the leaf is cut. When it is desired to collect the juice, the leaves are cut off close to the stem and so placed that the juice is drained off into tubs. This juice thus collected is concentrated either by spontaneous evaporation, or more generally by boiling until it becomes of the consistency of thick honey. On cooling, it is then poured into gourds, boxes, or other convenient receptacles, and solidifies.

Aloes require two or three years' standing before they yield their juice. In the West Indian Aloe plantations they are set out in rows like cabbages and cutting takes place in March or April, but in Africa the drug is collected from the wild plants.

The juice of aloe leaves contains the purgative aloin. Today the various drug-yielding species, e.g., A. vera and A. chinensis, are still used for their traditional medicinal properties as well as for X-ray-burn treatment, insect repellent, and a transparent pigment used in miniature painting; cords and nets are made from the leaf fiber. In ancient times the juice was used in embalming.

 

 

The constituents of aloe are mainly two aloin compounds, barbaloin and isobarbalion, as well as amorphous aloin, resin and aloe-emodin in differing proportions. Aloin, is present in varying amounts according to source, a neutral principle, chiefly from Curacao and Socrotine aloes, barbaloin (in Barbados aloes), resin (30-50 percent), emodin (the purgative principle of aloes)(8 percent), a volatile oil (very slight), and ash (1 to 4 percent).  The resin is composed of esters of various acids, cinnamic acid (obtained also from cinnamon), and cumaric acid (found in the tonka bean as the odoriferous principle).  The ash consists of potassium and magnesium. 

Uses

Mostly the uses of Aloe are medicinal uses.

The drug Aloes is one of the best and well known purgatives used. It is quite safe and exerts its action upon the large intestine in 15 to 18 hours. Also it is useful as a vermifuge.

It is a bitter tonic, laxative, or purgative according to dose, emmenagogue, antihelminthic, stomachic, hepatic and vermifuge (ascarides), used in constipation, dyspepsia, menstrual suppressions and piles.

It is generally given in pill form, combined with anodynes and carminatives, also in liquid form.  If given to nursing mothers, it causes purging in the suckling infant.  It acts particularly, on the lower bowel, the same as cascara.
It enters into thousands of patent medicines, pills and tablets.
Aloes is also used to increase the body’s immune system. This helps the body to decrease bleeding, damage and leakage on the intestinal wall. It is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. It helps to rebuild the intestinal mucosa lining.

Aloes helps to heal and accelerates the tissue healing process thus it is used to treat minor burns, abrasions and skin irritations.

Aloe is also used by the Arabs to decrease diabetes, thus it has an anti-diabetic effect.

Externally, apply the fresh transparent gel from the leaves to scalds and sunburn, blisters, scrapes, and acne to promote healing and prevent infection.

Aloes is the purgative in general uses for horses, it is also used in veterinary practice as a bitter tonic in small doses, and externally as a stimulant and desiccant.

Aloes are well known succulents, not just for their beauty but for their medicinal properties as well. You could find aloe vera in skin-care products, hair shampoo, vitamins and supplements.

 


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