AskDefine | Define aloes

Dictionary Definition

aloes n : a purgative made from the leaves of aloe [syn: bitter aloes]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of aloe
  2. The resin of the trees Aquilaria agallocha or Aquilaria malaccensis, known for their fragrant odour.

Extensive Definition

Aloe, also written Aloë, is a genus containing about four hundred species of flowering succulent plants.
The genus is native to Africa and is common in South Africa's Cape Province and the mountains of tropical Africa, and neighbouring areas such as Madagascar, the Arabian peninsula and the islands off Africa.
The APG II system (2003) placed the genus in the family Asphodelaceae. In the past it has also been assigned to families Aloaceae and Liliaceae. Members of the closely allied genera Gasteria, Haworthia and Kniphofia which have a similar mode of growth, are also popularly known as aloes. Note that the plant sometimes called "American aloe" (Agave americana), belongs to Agavaceae, a different family.
Most Aloes have a rosette of large, thick, fleshy leaves. The leaves are often lance-shaped with a sharp apex and a spiny margin. Aloe flowers are tubular, frequently yellow, pink or red and are borne on densely clustered, simple or branched leafless stems.
Many species of Aloe are seemingly stemless, with the rosette growing directly at ground level; other varieties may have a branched or unbranched stem from which the fleshy leaves spring. They vary in colour from grey to bright green and are sometimes striped or mottled.


Aloe species are frequently cultivated as ornamental plants both in gardens and in pots. Many Aloe species are highly decorative and are valued by collectors of succulents. It is claimed to have some medicinal effects which have been supported by scientific and medical research - see references on article on Aloe Vera.

Historical uses

Since the era of Ancient Egypt, humans have been using aloe. Cleopatra was said to have used aloe as a beauty tool. The Egyptians discovered the healing powers of aloe. They used it as one of the ingredients of embalming fluid. In the 10th Century, the Europeans were introduced, where it became an important ingredient in many herbal medicines. By the 16th Century, aloe arrived in the West Indies, where still today it is grown and harvested.
There are over 300 different types of aloe, but only a mere few were used traditionally as an herbal medicine. This includes aloe perryi (found in northeastern Africa) and aloe ferox (found in South Africa). But the one that tops the list of popularity is aloe vera. It was and still is the most commonly used type of aloe. The Greeks and Romans used aloe to treat wounds. In the Middle Ages, the yellowish liquid found inside the leaves was a favoured as purgative.
Some species, in particular Aloe vera are used in alternative medicines and in home first aid. Both the translucent inner pulp and the resinous yellow exudate from wounding the Aloe plant are used externally to relieve skin discomforts. Systematic reviews of randomised and controlled clinical trials have provided no evidence that Aloe vera has a strong medicinal effect. Other research however suggests Aloe vera can significantly slow wound healing compared to normal protocols of treatment.
Today, the gel found in the leaves is used for soothing minor burns, wounds, and various skin conditions like eczema and ringworm. The use of this herbal medicine was popularized in the 1950's in many Western Countries. The gel's effect is nearly immediate, plus it also applies a layer over wounds that is said to reduce the chance of any infection. There have been some studies in animal models which indicate that extracts of Aloe have a significant anti-hyperglycemic effect, and may be useful in treating Type II diabetes. These studies have not been confirmed in humans.
On May 9, 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule banning the use of aloe and cascara sagrada as laxative ingredients in over-the-counter drug products.

Chemical properties of aloe


There are around 400 species in the genus Aloe. For a full list, see List of species of genus Aloe. Species include:


External links


aloes in Arabic: نبات الصبر
aloes in Bosnian: Aloe
aloes in Bulgarian: Алое
aloes in Catalan: Àloe
aloes in Danish: Aloe
aloes in German: Aloen
aloes in Estonian: Aaloe
aloes in Spanish: Aloe
aloes in Esperanto: Aloo
aloes in French: Aloès
aloes in Upper Sorbian: Wohnjowy alowej
aloes in Croatian: Aloe
aloes in Italian: Aloe (botanica)
aloes in Kannada: ಲೋಳೆ ಸರ
aloes in Georgian: ალოე
aloes in Lithuanian: Alavijas
aloes in Dutch: Aloë
aloes in Japanese: アロエ
aloes in Norwegian: Aloe
aloes in Polish: Aloes
aloes in Portuguese: Aloe
aloes in Russian: Алоэ
aloes in Serbian: Алоје
aloes in Finnish: Aaloet
aloes in Swedish: Aloe
aloes in Ukrainian: Алое
aloes in Urdu: صَبِر
aloes in Chinese: 芦荟
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