Herb: Aloe Vera

Latin name: Aloe vera

Synonyms: Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vulgaris

Family: Aloeaceae (Aloe Family)

Medicinal use of Aloe Vera:

Aloe vera is a fairly well known herbal preparation with a long history of use. It is widely used in modern herbal practice and is often available in proprietary herbal preparations. It has two distinct types of medicinal use. The clear gel contained within the leaf makes an excellent treatment for wounds, burns and other skin disorders, placing a protective coat over the affected area, speeding up the rate of healing and reducing the risk of infection. This action is in part due to the presence of aloectin B, which stimulates the immune system. To obtain this gel, the leaves can be cut in half along their length and the inner pulp rubbed over the affected area of skin. This has an immediate soothing effect on all sorts of burns and other skin problems. The second use comes from the yellow sap at the base of the leaf. The leaves are cut transversally at their base and the liquid that exudes from this cut is dried. It is called bitter aloes and contains anthraquinones which are a useful digestive stimulant and a strong laxative. When plants are grown in pots the anthraquinone content is greatly reduced. The plant is emmenagogue, emollient, laxative, purgative, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity. Apart from its external use on the skin, aloe vera (usually the bitter aloes) is also taken internally in the treatment of chronic constipation, poor appetite, digestive problems etc. It should not be given to pregnant women or people with haemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome. The plant is strongly purgative so great care should be taken over the dosage. The plant is used to test if there is blood in the faeces. This plant has a folk history of treatment in cases of cancer.

Description of the plant:


80 cm
(2 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Maritime sands and rocks.

Edible parts of Aloe Vera:

Leaves - cooked. Very bitter, they are an emergency food that is only used when all else fails. A gel in the leaves is sometimes used as an ingredient of commercial jellies. Seed. An emergency food used when all else fails. It is very unlikely that the seed will be produced in Britain.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaf extracts are used in skin-care cosmetic products. Plants have been grown indoors in pots in order to help remove toxins from the atmosphere. It is also unusual in that it continues to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide in the dark, making it very suitable for growing in bedrooms.

Propagation of Aloe Vera:

Seed - sow spring in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 6 months at 16C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of very well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a sunny part of the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. If trying them outdoors then plant them out in early summer to allow them to become established before the winter, and give them some protection from the cold in winter. Division of offsets when available, usually in spring. The plants produce offsets quite freely and they can be divided at any time of the year as long as it is warm enough to encourage fresh root growth to allow re-establishment of the plants. Pot up and grow on in the greenhouse until established.

Cultivation of the herb:

Maritime sands and rocks.

Known hazards of Aloe vera:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.