Common Name: Aloe | Scientific Name: Aloe Vera

Family: Liliaceae


Resources

Introduction
Fact Sheet

Chapter from “Healing Plants of the Bible”

Eclectic Physician’s Notes



Introduction

Aloe is a member of the lily family, and one that hails from dry parts of the world. The plant stores the limited rain water it gets in its succulent leaves, in the form of a gel. Long ago humans figured out that the jelly like contents of the aloe leaf could be used to heal the skin, and heal it really fast. Whether from abrasion or sun, aloe gel applied regularly acted as a healing balm. This was true in the biblical day and its true today.

SCAM ALERT

One word of warning. A lot of manufacturers of skin care products prominently display “ALOE” on their products but fail to make it a prominent ingrediant. Before buying a product alleging to contain aloe, check the ingrediants and see how far down the list aloe is found. If its not in the first three ingrediants, skip the product. Its an aloe product in name only. There isnt enough aloe in the product to make a difference.

Dosage and Duration

Herbalists recommend applying aloe gel three times a day to the affected part. The gel needs to be allowed to dry on the skin and be left to on the skin to continue its healing magic. Don’t wipe it off!




Fact Sheet
Aloe
Aloe barbadensis/vera
Part Used:
gel from leaves

Remember This: Skin Healer

Reasonable Uses: sunburn, kitchen burns, minor wounds, slow healing wounds, eczema, psoriasis, acne, acne rosacea, lupus, poor complexion.

History and Traditional Uses
The spiky, spiny aloe plant was used by ancient Egyptian medics to keep the skin of the living healthy and by Egyptian morticians to make the skin of the dead last forever! You can see mummies in museums around the world so you know the Egyptians knew what they were doing. Throughout its native Africa, aloe was the treatment of choice for all sorts of wounds including those from poisoned arrows. Today, aloe is one of the most widely used herbs for skin problems found in a dizzying array of cosmetics and hair-care and first-aid products.

Scientific Back Up
Aloe gel reduces skin inflammation and speeds skin healing. The transparent gel that oozes out of a broken aloe leaf is an effective first-aid treatment for skin irritations, cuts, and minor burns. Studies show that it enhances wound healing and promotes cell growth and wound closer. Other studies point to aloe’s potential as a treatment for psoriasis, eczema, and skin ulcers. Some researchers feel that it can actually undo the damage the sun does to the skin. Researchers in the know say, when the skin needs healing, apply for aloe.

Herbalists use it to…..

conquer chronic skin disease
Chronic skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, acne, and acne rosacea all involve inflammation. Aloe, with its well established anti-inflammatory activity, can take the red out of an outbreak. When used regularly, herbalists say it can keep outbreaks from occurring.
soothe kitchen burns
Herbalists top recommendation for burns? Plain, raw Aloe vera gel or something as close to that as possible. Its powerful anti-inflammatory activity takes the pain causing inflammation out of a burn and speeds the healing process along nicely. Herbalists say scaring is reduced when aloe is used throughout the entire healing process.

wind up wound healing
As long as the skin is broken, the body is open to bacterial invasion. In an age when antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are causing nasty infections, speedy wound closure is important! Herbalists feel that aloe speeds the bodies sealing up process!

heal skin ulcers
Skin ulcers, especially on the lower limbs, can be hard to heal. Aloe has been shown to increase the production of the cells responsible for bridging the gap in an ulcer. Herbalists recommend the application of aloe gel in hard to heal ulcers.

undo sun damage
There is an undeclared epidemic of skin cancer raging at the moment. The sun, formerly a source of health, is now a source of misery. Herbalists feel there is strong evidence that aloe can undo the damage the sun does to the skin. Whenever possible avoid the sun. But, when exposed to the sun, use Aloe to repair sun damage.

Dosage and Duration
Herbalists recommend applying aloe gel three times a day to the affected part. The gel needs to be allowed to dry on the skin and be left to on the skin to continue its healing magic. Don’t wipe it off!

Shopping Tips
If you have a plant growing on the window sill, you can skip the shopping! Cut off a lower leaf and remove any spines, then split the leaf in half and scrape the gel that oozes out directly onto the affected part. If you do not have a plant to hand, the next best thing is pure aloe gel available from the health food shop

Only buy pure aloe gel. Most commercial “aloe” products(creams, moisturizers, shampoos, etc.) do not contain enough aloe to make them medicinally active. Stick to a jar of pure aloe gel. Avoid products that contain other herbs. Avoid products that are bright green; aloe gel is not green!

Warnings
If the skin being treated becomes red, tender, swollen, and hot, see your health care practitioner.

Do not apply aloe gel to surgical wounds until they are entirely healed, it could delay healing.

Skins ulcers can be cancerous. Any wound that stays open for more than a month should be checked by a dermatologist.

Alternatives
Calendula, Chamomile, Marshmallow



Chapter from “Healing Plants of the Bible”.

Aloe vera or Aloe soccotrina
Liliaceae

Psalms 45:8 All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes,and cassia.

Proverbs 7:17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.

Song 4:14 Myrrh and aloes,with all the chief spices.

John 19:39 and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes.

Aloe vera is one of the few medicinal plants that most people, even those living in the world of pressed firewood logs and artificial christmas trees, can identify as a plant. This is an accomplishment. Not only do people know the name, but many know that it can be used as a medicine. Most think of it as an ingredient in sun screens, shaving cremes, and shampoos, but at least they know it!

Have you ever noticed that aloe containing products have a distinctive smell? The answer to that question should be no, as Aloe vera has no smell. Please note, the first three quotes from the Bible indicate that “aloe” was used as a perfume in the biblical days. The inquiring biblical scholar will sense that we have a problem here and one that needs sorting out before we can move forward. Why were aloes used in perfume making if they have no smell?

In fact they were not used in perfume making and what you are looking at in the first three lines is the mistranslation of a Hebrew word. Here’s the story. The “aloe” of the first three quotes should really read sandalwood. The plant mentioned in those quotes was one of two fragrant plants, either Aquillaria agallocha(eaglewood) or Santalum alba(sandalwood). Both trees were brought from the far east to the Holy Land to be used as an ingredient in perfumery and medicine. Both trees contain volatile oils that please the human nose. Biblical scholars agree that the most likely candidate was sandalwood, but there is the possibility that the Bible is referring to eaglewood. So in fact, the only Bible reference to Aloe is found in the new testament.

The aloe that Nicodemus brought to embalm the body of Jesus, was on the other hand, Aloe vera. Aloe vera has been used in cosmetics for a long time, formerly, it played a role in beautification in this life and in the next. The Egyptians were rather fond of preserving the bodies of their dead, and in that we can find their dead in museums all over the world today, still looking pretty good, they did a good job. The Hebrew people, living as slaves in Egypt, picked up more than a few tricks from their Egyptian overlords. Though they didn’t mummify their dead, they did use aloes to treat bodies before burial. It was from this Egyptian turned Hebrew custom that we see aloes referred to in the book of John.

Aloe was at the time of Jesus’s death quite a pricey item. The Bible states that Nicodemus brought a hundred pounds of aloe to the death room of Jesus. That would have cost a pretty penny and from this we can deduce that Nicodemus was a rich man. The reason that aloe was so costly is quite interesting. Simply put, it was an import item, and import items always cost a bit more.

Aloe is native to Africa and the original aloe product was well distributed well in advance of the biblical period. Records indicate that aloe resin was known in India from the earliest date. Aloe was a commodity early on and ancient people like Nicodemus, who had the money to buy it, kept the item in demand. Though it grew in a lot of places, there were centres of aloe production from the earliest days, locations were noted for their superior aloe products.

One scientific name for this plant, Aloe socotrina, indicates that the original aloe product came from Socotra, an island in the Red Sea. Socotra was one of the first locations where aloes were produced commercially. The King of Socotra controlled the supply of aloe for many centuries. From pre-biblical days to until the age of colonialism, much of the world bought their aloe from the King of Socotra. The King had the world commodity on it and you can be certain he didn’t produce and distribute it out of a sense of generosity. More over, once traders paid a high price for aloe at the market on the shores of Socotra, they had to transport it back to the Holy Land, which came with a charge. Once it landed, the product was sold to merchants who marked it up even more, and then, it was purchased by the likes of the Egyptians and Nicodemus. Every time it passed hands, its price went higher.

Not only do most modern people have a passing acquaintance with aloe, many have some growing on a window sill somewhere around the house. It is a succulent plant belonging to the lily family with long tapering leaves studded with spines. The leaves themselves are nothing more than water balloons, filled with water and mucilage, and they are to say the least, squishy. Bearing all this in mind, you may be wondering how such mushy leaves could make it from Socotra to Egypt or Israel for that matter. Then answer is that the leaves didn’t make the journey, a resin made from the leaves was the item of commerce. The Hebrew word, aholot and the Arabic alloeh refer to a black glassy blob of resin made from the leaves of the aloe plant.

For thousands of years the art of making aloe resin has been practised and the procedure is the same today as it was when the King of Socotra controlled the aloe market. First the leaves are cut from the plant and arranged around a pot. The cut end of the leaf faces into the pot. The leaves slowly ooze their sap into the pot, and when the pot is full, it is heated until all the water in the aloe sap evaporates. The end result is a black glassy mass, or aloe resin. This mass is broken into coal size pieces and sold as is.

Though in the ancient world aloe was used as an embalming product, it was also used as a medicine for living patients. We still use it for medicine today. Its use during the biblical period was as a laxative and gut healer, a use that kept the King of Socotra busy for a long time. The drug was used by the Israelites and by the Greek and Roman physicians in the first century AD.

Aloe was mentioned by Claudius Galen(130-200 AD) in his book Opera Omnia. Mesue, the Arabian physician and pharmacist, worked with it before his death in 1028 AD, and as late as 1598, aloe was hauled all the way from the Red Sea to London to be used as a laxative. British merchants in 1607 AD were trading with the King of Socotra for aloe resin!

The ancients all held that aloe was good for the body and specifically good for the digestive tract. Maimonides tells a tale that seems a little incredible which in fact he picked up from Galen, “people from ancient generations lived on aloe alone, because this nourishes the body, as well as many types of grains and seeds from which bread is prepared.” Bearing in mind the primary use of the plant was as a laxative, we can only imagine people forced to live on aloe alone were beyond “regular.”

Gerard, an herbalist working in London in the sixteenth century, had a few words to say about it and its medicinal action. “It purgeth the belly, and is withal a wholesome and convenient medicine for the stomach, if any at all be wholesome. For as Paulus Aegineta writeth, when all purging medicines are hurtful to the stomach, aloe only is comfortable. And it purgeth more effectually if it be not washed: and if it be it then strengtheneth the stomach the more.” Gerard was of the mind that aloe had a special power to heal the digestive tract, a thought we see echoed in the first written books of medicine.

Doctors working in American at the turn of the century were quite fond of it and made good use of its virtues. Doctor Locke, an Eclectic physician writing in 1901, had this to say of it, “Aloe is cathartic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, emmenagogue, and anthelmintic. As a cathartic it acts very slowly and exerts its influence upon the lower bowel, but produces no watery discharges. It acts on the muscles of the intestines, increasing peristalsis and the circulation in them by its stimulant influence. In small doses it is a tonic and general stimulant. It also stimulates the stomach and the sexual apparatus. If aloes are given at bedtime the action occurs the next morning, generally, it being slow in action.”

Physicians at the time believed that aloe was a stimulating drug, improving the functioning of several body systems. Specifically, it was used in cases of atonic digestion or atony of the female reproductive organs. Aloe was said to direct blood down to those parts and stimulate their action. If the symptom of the lack of activity(atony) was constipation, or lack of menstruation, aloe was used to get things moving. Logically, they said aloe was not to be used in diarrhoea or in too frequent menstruation.

As a laxative, aloe has been well researched and has been proven to be effective and safe when constipation strikes. The plant contains chemicals called aloins, two of which are barbaloin and isobarbaloin. These chemicals are anthraquinones and they make the plant laxative. To understand how aloe works as a laxative we need to know a bit about the organ involved with the passing of bowel movements, the colon.

One of the jobs performed by the colon is the reduction of the water contained in the stool. As the faeces move up the ascending, across the transverse, and down the descending colon, water is removed from the faeces. The faeces become firmer and develop the familiar shape as the moisture is removed by the colon. Chemicals contained in aloe inhibit water removal from the stools and increase water secretion from the colon. Thus the stools remain watery and are more readily passed. To finish the job off, the same chemicals increases peristalsis, or contraction of the colon. This gets the faeces moving towards their point of exit at an accelerated rate. The end result being satisfaction for the constipated.

After taking aloe resin, nature calls and calls quite completely. For people suffering from occasional constipation aloe is an excellent remedy. For those that have had rectal surgery or perhaps have given birth and would prefer to have large, easily passed faeces, aloe is also an excellent choice. Aloe can cause laxative dependence and should only be used occasionally.

Aloe is used to stimulate the gut into action and it is interesting to note it is a member of a stimulating family. The lily family is loaded with members that stimulate various parts of the body. Garlic, allium sativum and the medicinal squill, Urginea maritima stimulate the respiratory tract to eject mucous. Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis is an age old stimulant used to increase the heart’s ejection of blood into the arteries. Unicorn root(Chamalirium luteum) and false unicorn root(Aletris farinosa) are native American plants used to stimulate the female reproductive tract into renewed activity. Sarsaparilla, (Smilax ssp.), is another native American lily family member used to stimulate the entire body. Aloe comes from a medicinal family of great use to the herbalist and is itself a helpful medicinal plant.

Getting back to Aloe’s medicinal use, aloe is recommended as a laxative with one major proviso, being constipated is not natural and one should not depend upon laxatives of any sort. If you suffer from chronic constipation you are probably eating the wrong type of foods and you need to sort out your diet out before using laxatives to solve the problem. For millions of years people have had bowel movements uneventfully and in fact wild animals to this day continue to have them carelessly. If you eat a proper diet, elimination will not be a problem.

Constipation is not natural and when chronic it is going to disturb the balance of the body and cause disease. There are libraries of books written on the subject of healthy eating, but, if you have trouble going to the toilet, you do not need to read all that much to solve the constipation problem. Look outdoors and see what the animals eat, fruits, vegetables, and seeds, and you have the solution to your problem. Animals don’t eat artificially preserved meats between two slices of white flour bread and you should not either. Unless you want to explore aloe as an embalming agent sooner than later.

Though aloe’s historic use is that of an laxative, it is most widely used today as a skin healing agent. This use is comparatively new and apart from being used to soften the skin of the dead, we do not find much in the historical record suggesting this use. Its action on the skin has to do with the fact the leaves contain substances known as mucilages. Native to dry climates, the plant has to collect water and hold onto it as long as possible. The plants solution is create mucilage, a complex sugar, to which it can bind water and keep on hand in time of draught. Mucilages are slimy by nature, you may be familiar with the mucilages produced by other plants. Okra, as an example, is loaded with mucilage which gives it that lovely consistency.

The mucilage contained in the aloe leaf, when applied to the skin, creates a protective layer over the skin. The slime found in the leaf, when oozed over your skin, acts like a liquid bandaid. This extra coating protects the skin from the elements. A handy feature when your skin is damaged and raw through sunburn, household burns, or chaffing. Beyond this, the application of the leaf gel reduces the inflammation of the skin and this make sore, tender skin feel better. Anyone that has received a tropical sun burn and applied aloe juice from the leaf of the aloe plant will be quick to testify that in the morning the red is gone!

Stuart Fitzsimmons, leading Welsh herbalist, had this to say about aloe. His comments may give the reader some suggestions as to how aloe can be used in the modern day. “The pure juice is excellent for any gut inflammation. Conditions like stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis are all improved with the use of aloe. It is considered a mild laxative and it is indeed mild. As a laxative, it is taken at bed time and as a gut healer three teaspoons of the juice is taken each day. It is ideal in arthritis. Taken internally it reduces the inflammation of the joints. This is important in inflammatory arthritic conditions because the inflammation leads to the destruction of the joints. Aloe contains chemicals that interrupt the inflammatory process which explains why it works so well in gut inflammations as well as inflammatory joint conditions. This anti-inflammatory activity may explain why it reduces the inflammation of the skin when there is skin damage. The pure gel available at most health food shops will make the skin and the hair feel great, you will feel the difference in two minutes. If you are in a sunny location, apply it at least two times a day to protect the skin from the damage of the sun.”

At the time that Bible was being written and until recently , the only way you could get aloe was in the dried resin format. Today, with the advances in shipping and bottling, we can use the juice. Most health food shops carry it. However, make certain that you are buying either pure gel or pure juice. Many products contain a drop of aloe and a lot of water. Be careful when purchasing aloe as many con artists have gotten into the business of deceiving the public with fake aloe products!



Eclectic Physician’s Commentary
LILIACEAE
ALOE

1874: J.M. Scudder

The use of Aloes in medicine should be quite limited, but still it has a place. I believe that in small quantity and in combination with other agents that act upon the upper intestinal canal, it proves a good cathartic, as in the following: R Podophyllin, grs. x.; Leptandrin, grs. xxx.; Aloes, grs. xx.; Extract of Hyoscyamus, 3ss. Make thirty pills. One of them at night will prove an excellent laxative, and those who employ cathartics freely with like the formula.

But it is not for this purpose that I would recommend Aloes, but for one that many seem very singular. In small doses it exerts a direct influence upon the waster and nutrition of the nervous system. In cases of feeble innervation, especially in persons of gross habit, it will be one of our best agents. I have usually prescribed it with Tincture of Nux Vomica or with Tincture of Belladonna. The dose of a strong tincture being from two to ten drops.

In some cases it will provide serviceable when associated with the bitter tonics, as in this: Rx: Extract of Nux Vomica, grs. vj.; Aloes, grs. xv.; Hydrastine, 3ss. Make thirty pills. One may be given three or four times a day.



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