Aloe - Aloe Barbadensis (in the Aloaceae family, previously in the Liliaceae family. Various species of Aloe can be used.)
Part used: See the information below.
Taste/smell: The whole leaf is bitter but the mucilage by itself is pleasant tasting.
Tendencies: Cooling, drying, stimulating.
Dosage: Whole aloe: small pieces about the size of your pinky finger-nail, of fresh aloe or a smidgen of the powder, have a stimulating action on the digestive tract to enhance digestion; a large dose produces a laxative effect.
Use: (a) Laxative, (b) Emmenagogue, (c) Cholagogue, (d) Choleretic, (e) Stomachic.
The aloe gel is different than the whole aloe. The gel that you generally find sold on the market has the bitter yellow latex removed from it. This removes the laxative inducing anthraquinones.
The bitter yellow latex beneath the Aloe's outer skin contains an anthraquinone, barbaloin, which is used for chronic constipation with bowel atony. The whole plant or at least the area with the bitter yellow latex is used for these actions. The constituents responsible for its laxative action are activated by intestinal flora.
The inner mucilaginous part of the plant or gel, contains a polysaccharide called glucomannan, is anti-inflammatory, antipruritic and a vulnerary. The gel is used to heal burns, wounds and gastric ulcers. It has been used successfully in the treatment of diabetes and diabetic wounds and to lower cholesterol.
Aloctin A, a constituent of aloe, has immune stimulating properties and antitumor activity. Aloe has also shown activity as an antiviral, antidiabetic and immunomodulator. One of aloe's constituents, emodin, has been shown to possess anticancer, antibacterial, diuretic, immunosuppressive, and vasorelaxant activities in research with animals.
Contraindications: Chronic use of "whole aloe leaf" will deplete electrolytes, especially potassium, bringing about muscle weakness and increased constipation. Potassium loss can disturb cardiac rhythm and potentiate cardiac glycoside toxicity, as found in digitalis usage. Individuals who consume formulas with anthraquinones while taking cardiac glycosides should have their medication monitored by their physicians to assure the dosage of cardiac glycosides is not toxic. Herbs with cardiac glycosides include pheasant's eye (Adonis) lily of the valley (Convallaria), fox glove (Digitalis), false hellebore (Helleborus), Strophanthus and Urginea. Potassium depletion can lead to paralysis of intestinal musculature, making the laxative less effective. Additionally there may be damage to the mesenteric plexus. Therefore this herb should not be used for more than 8 - 10 consecutive days. An overdose or overusage of anthraquinones may cause vomiting, intestinal spasms and bloody diarrhea. Anthraquinone-containing herbs should not be consumed by pregnant women or nursing mothers, due to the possibility of the herb being passed to the baby through breast milk. An overdose can cause kidney inflammation. This herb, as with all laxatives, should not be used in cases of intestinal obstruction when there is danger of an intestinal rupture. Additionally it is contraindicated in ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and inflamed hemorrhoids. It is contraindicated for children under age twelve due to loss of water and electrolytes and in abdominal pain of unknown origin. Emodin has also been reported to be a mutagen in a few experiments.