Aloe ferox

Aloe vera, A. ferox

Description

Inside the fleshy leaf of the Aloe vera plant is a clear gel that has been used for millennia in cultures across Greece, Egypt, Mexico, India, Japan and China. Nefertiti and Cleopatra enjoyed aloe vera gel as part of their beauty regimes, and Alexander the Great and Christopher Columbus used it to treat soldiers’ wounds ranging from cuts and scrapes to burns, insect bites and psoriasis. Aloe vera juice will calm an upset digestion. Aloe ferox, or bitter aloe, is valued as a laxative and as a treatment for arthritis.

Parts used

The leaves.

Constituents

The fleshy leaves contain 75 useful substances, among them vitamins (including the antioxidants A, C and E, as well as vitamin B12, folic acid and choline; enzymes (including bradykinase, which helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied topically), minerals (calcium, selenium, magnesium – to name a few), sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids. Anthraquinones provide its laxative effect.

Medicinal uses

Many of Aloe vera’s wide spectrum of uses have yet to undergo controlled studies. Chat to your doctor if you’re considering using aloe.

  • Aloe vera is used as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, dandruff, mouth ulcers and genital herpes.
  • May soothe skin burns and iritation caused by radiation therapy (1, 2, 3).
  • Soothes sunburnt skin (add a cup or two of the juice to tepid bathwater).
  • Aloe stimulates collagen and elastin in the skin, making the skin more elastic and less wrinkled.
  • May help in the healing of acne.
  • May relieve fungal irritations.
  • Taken orally, it eases constipation and may also help to relieve asthma, diabetes and HIV infection.
  • Studies suggest Aloe vera may reduce cancer tumour growth (4).
  • Bitter Aloe ferox is recommended for its laxative properties and to relieve a sluggish digestive system.
  • Aloe ferox’s anti-inflammatory action subdues arthritic pain.

DID YOU KNOW?

First aid
Break open the leaf of an Aloe vera or Aloe ferox plant and apply the gel externally to disinfect minor cuts and take the “ouch!” out of insect stings or bites.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Aloe vera may cause redness and a stinging sensation. Apply it to a small area first to test for possible allergic reaction, and do not apply to surgical wounds. Oral use may result in abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, red urine, hepatitis or worsening of constipation. Not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Aloe ferox may cause severe cramping and diarrhoea.

Flora Force Products containing Aloe

Domestic & culinary uses

In South Africa, aloes are used in marmalade, jams, pickles and preserves.

Cultivation

Aloe vera is a shrubby succulent plant that originated in the Arabian Peninsula, but is now cultivated almost worldwide. Over the past decades the use of Aloe ferox, indigenous to South Africa, in the traditional pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry has blossomed. Aloes make excellent low-maintenance accent plants and are easiest to grow in warm climates almost anywhere in the country. Plant in soils with good drainage, mulch regularly and the plants will thrive. Give adequate water during the growing season.

References

1. Roberts DB, Travis EL. Acemannan-containing wound dressing gel reduces radiation-induced skin reactions in C3H mice. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1995;32: 1047–52.

[PubMed].
2. Sato Y, Ohta S, Shinoda M. Studies on chemical protectors against radiation XXXI: Protective effects of . Aloe arborescens on skin injury induced by x-irradiation. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1990;110: 876–84. [PubMed].
3. Byeon S, Pelley R, Ullrich SE, Waller TA, Bucana CD, Strickland FM. Aloe barbadensis extracts reduce the production of interleukin-10 after exposure to ultraviolet radiation. J Invest Dermtol. 1988;110: 811–7.
4. Peng SY, Norman J, Curtin G, Corrier D, McDaniel HR, Busbee D. Decreased mortality of Norman murine sarcoma in mice treated with the immunomodulator, acemannon. Mol. Biother. 1991;3:79–87. [PubMed]

Photo credits

  1. By Marco Schmidt [1] (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.