Bitter Aloe, Umhlaba
Aloe Ferox is a robust plant that can grow to 3 meters high and it is indigenous to South Africa. It is one of several Aloe species used to make a purgative medication, and also yields a gel that can be used in cosmetics. The leaves are tick and fleshy with reddish-brown spines and red or orange flowers. Aloe ferox is listed on the plant list of endangered plants.
Aloe ferox prefers dry-tropical climates, open areas, sandy-loamy soils and full sun. Give each Aloe plant at least 1 meter spacing.
How to Plant
You can grow Aloe Ferox from seeds, sow just under the surface in a sandy soil. Water regularly and make sure the soil drains well. Transplant into small pots or bags once they are about 4cm high (approximately 6 months). From seed it takes about 4 to 5 years for the plants to reach the first harvest.
How to Water
Once the plant is established or from about 20 centimetres in size you can water moderately, once a week. If you are growing your Aloe in a container take care not to over water.
Aloe Ferox can grow with other plants that prefer full sun, open areas and well draining sandy soil, such as other Aloes or succulent plants.
How to Propagate
Aloe ferox plants are propagated mainly from seed and cuttings. The side branches or basal sprout are removed and the wound is allowed to dry off for some time before planting.
How to Harvest
Harvesting is done in winter by manual leaf cutting. Only the 10 to 15 lower leaves of an adult Aloe Ferox plant are harvested. The leaves are cut as close to the stem as possible and stacked in a round tower so that the yellow exudate drips into a hollow in the centre which is lined with a plastic sheet.
Information & Research
The main purgative principle is the anthrone C-glucoside aloin (=barbaloin). The aloin content in exudate varies between 8,5 and 32%. The gel polysaccharides are binogalactan and rhamnogalacturonan types. Aloe gel is a watery mixture of pectic substances, amino acids, minerals, trace elements and organic acids amongst others. (21)
The wound-healing properties of aloe gel come from glycoproteins and is responsible for the hydrating, insulating and protective effects. The anthraquinone derivatives act as a laxative. (21)
Aloe vera has been the subject of numerous studies with results ranging from skin and wound-healing properties, laxative, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-cancer, antimalarial and anthelmintic activities. Aloe Ferox research is something that has started more recently, for example the Aloe Council of South Africa was founded in 2006.
Preparations & Uses
Leaves and roots. The bitter yellow juice is found just under the surface of the leaf and is tapped to form a dark brown resin which is a solid lump. Aloe gel comes from the inner fleshy part of the leaf and is often use in cosmetics.
A small crystal about 5mm in size is taken orally as a laxative. Half the dose is taken for arthiritis. The fresh bitter sap is also instilled directly for conjunctivitis and sinusitis. (21)
The leaves and roots can be boiled and used as a laxative, for arthritis, eczema, conjunctivitis, hypertension and stress.