Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f.

First published in Fl. Indica: 83 (1768)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is N. Oman (Hajar Mountains). It is a succulent perennial and grows primarily in the desert or dry shrubland biome. It is has environmental uses and social uses, as a poison and a medicine and for food.

Descriptions

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 1300 - 2600 m.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba
[CPLC]

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Ecology
Alt. 1300 - 2600 m.
Distribution
Cultivated in Colombia.
Morphology General Habit
Herb.
Conservation
Not Evaluated.
Vernacular
Rul pu, sawila.
[UPB]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Aloe vera is well known for its succulent leaves. The colourless jelly-like leaf parenchyma tissue is used in an extraordinary array of everyday products, from dishwashing liquid to yoghurt.

The species is widely cultivated and, along with other members of the genus Aloe, is also the subject of intense scientific study with regard to the many claimed therapeutic properties.

Species Profile

Geography and distribution

Aloe vera is cultivated around the world. It has escaped from cultivation and become naturalised in the Mediterranean, north Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South America and the Caribbean. 

Description

Overview: Aloe vera is a short-stemmed shrubby aloe, frequently suckering and forming dense clumps.

Leaves: The leaves are succulent, erect, forming a dense rosette. The leaves are greyish green, growing to about 50 cm long, with margins that are pinkish with many small spines. The leaf surfaces are sometimes marked with white flecks or spots.

Flowers: The flowers are yellow, tubular, and up to 3 cm long, with anthers and stigma protruding. The flowers are borne in cylindrical racemes on a branched panicle up to 90 cm tall.

Aloe vera was formerly classified as part of the Asphodelaceae family, but this is now included in Xanthorrhoeaceae.

Uses

Aloe vera has been used for centuries and it is more popular today than ever. It is cultivated around the world as a crop for its colourless jelly-like leaf parenchyma known as 'aloe gel'. It is used for a variety of purposes in food, food supplements, herbal remedies and cosmetics.

Aloe vera leaf parenchyma (aloe gel) may be effective when used on the skin against psoriasis, burns, frostbite, and sores caused by the  Herpes simplex virus. Research has shown that, taken orally, aloe gel can help to lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol, and can help to lower blood glucose levels in people with type II diabetes.

The green outer layer of the leaves of  Aloe vera yields a bitter, yellow exudate which has very different properties from those of the colourless parenchyma. The bitter leaf exudate has traditionally been used as a laxative. However, research has indicated that the active constituents may have harmful effects and can interact with other medicines and herbal remedies. It should not be given to children or to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Threats and conservation

Aloe vera is naturalised around the world and is common in cultivation. It is not considered to be threatened.

Cultivation

Aloe vera is easy to cultivate, with no special requirements. It should be grown in a well-draining gritty mix. The compost should be soaked when watering during the growing season, and allowed to dry out between waterings. It can be grown in a cool/warm glasshouse and put outside for the summer. Plants can offset profusely, so propagation is by potting up offsets.

Aloe vera at Kew

Aloe vera , and other Aloe species, can be seen growing in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Behind the scenes, scientists in the Herbarium and Jodrell Laboratory at Kew have been carrying out research on Aloe vera and its relatives in the genus Aloe for decades and have published on topics such as the chemistry of the leaves, taxonomy, hybridisation, genetics and leaf surface sculpturing.

Distribution
Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen
Ecology
Aloe vera is a cultivated plant but naturalised populations occur in dry, often rocky and exposed areas.
Conservation
Not considered to be threatened.
Hazards

The bitter yellow leaf exudate can be harmful and should not be taken by children, or by pregnant or breastfeeding women. The colourless leaf parenchyma (gel) can occasionally cause skin irritation.

[KSP]

Distribution
Elevation range: 1300–2600 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Bogotá DC, Boyacá, Caldas, Cundinamarca, Huila.
Habit
Herb.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, savanna, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.
[UPFC]

Extinction risk predictions for the world's flowering plants to support their conservation (2024). Bachman, S.P., Brown, M.J.M., Leão, T.C.C., Lughadha, E.N., Walker, B.E. https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.19592

Conservation
Predicted extinction risk: threatened. Confidence: low confidence
[AERP]

George R. Proctor (2012). Flora of the Cayman Isands (Second Edition). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Vernacular
BITTER ALOES, SEMPERVIRENS
Morphology General Habit
Stemless or with a very short upright stem, spreading by creeping stolons
Morphology Leaves
Leaves narrowly deltate-lanceolate, 30–60 cm long, acuminate, turgid and watery within, pale glaucuous-green; marginal teeth usually less than 2 cm apart
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Scape
Scape 60–120 cm tall, bearing distant, broad, acute scales; raceme dense, 10–30 cm long; bracts longer than the short pedicels
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers yellow, about 2.5 cm long; stamens about as long as the perianth, the style longer.
Distribution
Grand Cayman. Native of the Mediterranean region; widely naturalized in Florida, the West Indies and C. America.
[Cayman]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
aloe, penca de sábila, penca sábila, sábila, zábila
[UNAL]

Uses

Use Medicines Digestive System Disorders
Used in liquid medicines (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Medicines Infections & Infestations
Exudates - Used in topical medications, applied on the forehead (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Medicines Inflammation
Leaves - Used in the treatment of mastitis (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010). Leaves - Used to alleviate inflammation (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010). Exudates - Used in topical medications for the treatment of external inflammations (Cadena-González 2010).
Use Medicines Injuries
Leaves - Used in poultices and in liquid medicines for healing (Lagos-López 2007). Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016, Instituto Humboldt 2014). Leaves - Used in the treatment of injuries (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010). Exudates - Used in topical medications for the treatment of wounds (Cadena-González 2010). Leaves - Used in the treatment of burns (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Medicines Neoplasms
Exudates - Used in liquid medicines in the treatment of stomach cancer (Cadena-González 2010).
Use Medicines Pain
Exudates - Used in topical medications, applied on the forehead to alleviate headache (Cadena-González 2010).
Use Medicines Respiratory System Disorders
Exudates - The leaf flesh is blended or prepared in concoction with egg or with honey and lemon juice as a liquid medicine (Cadena-González 2010). Leaves - Used in poultices and in liquid medicines in the treatment of respiratory disorders (Lagos-López 2007). Exudates - Used in liquid medicines (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Medicines Skin or Subcutaneous Cellular Tissue Disorders
Exudates - Used as a hair treatment (Cadena-González 2010). Exudates - Used as a topical application for acne (Cadena-González 2010).
Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016, Instituto Humboldt 2014).
Use Social
Used for good luck and to attract customers (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
[UPB]

Use
Food, food supplements, herbal remedies, cosmetics.
[KSP]

Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Poisons
Poisons.
Use Social
Social uses.
[UPFC]

Use
In addition to various medicinal uses, the plant can produce a valuable natural dye and also fibre.]
[Cayman]

Common Names

English
Aloe vera
Spanish
Sábila, aloe, sabila, zabila, acíbar, aloes, gomorresina aloe, áloe, tuna, penca sabila, alcíbar, zábila común.

Sources

  • Angiosperm Extinction Risk Predictions v1

    • Angiosperm Threat Predictions
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0
  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Flora of the Cayman Islands

    • Flora of the Cayman Islands
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/