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African Medicines



A fine example of another African plant that has gained popularity and respect worldwide for its medicinal properties. In fact it was only after it was used to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima that its healing properties received attention from the West. Extracts from the leaves have been widely investigated since then and shown significant wound healing, anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, hypoglycaemic and also alopoeic activity. The leaves have also been found to have purgative properties and relieve x-ray burns.

Although the Aloe Vera is the better-known aloe, Aloe Arborescens is the most widespread. Native to South Africa and widespread in nearly all the temperate zones of the world, it has never been exploited industrially, a characteristic that makes it genetically very strong and resistant. Aloe arborescens is one of approximately 130 Aloe species native to southern Africa. It is possibly the most widely cultivated aloe in the world and can be seen grown in gardens in many cities around the world.

Aloe arborescens is in fact a large, much-branched shrub. It is distributed mainly over the eastern, summer rainfall areas of South Africa, occurring from the Cape Peninsula through KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo province and further north into Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. It can be found growing at sea level right up to the tops of mountains.

Recorded Medicinal history:

Aloe has been used as a folk medicine for centuries all over the world. The name aloe is from the Greek alsos and refers to the bitter juice from the leaves of these plants. It is probably derived from the earlier Arabic word alloeh or the Hebrew word allal, both meaning bitter. The Latin word arborescens means tree forming or tree-like.

Ancient Egyptian papyrus and Mesopotamian clay tablets describe Aloe as useful in curing infections, treating skin problems and as a laxative. Cleopatra was said to include Aloe cream in her beauty regimen and Hippocrates and Arab physicians used Aloe. It was carried to the Western Hemisphere by Spanish explorers. Legend has it that Alexander the Great captured the island of Socotra to secure its Aloe supplies to treat his wounded soldiers.

Aloe is popular in both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. African traditional healers chose the Aloe Arborescens as the aloe best representing African traditional medicinal plants as seen in the Pretoria Botanical gardens.


Aloe Arborescens is regularly used to treat livestock such as calves and chickens, domestic animals as well as humans. It is a convenient first-aid treatment for burns, wounds, abrasions, cancer sores and digestive tonic. There is growing experimental evidence for its use as an antiviral and an adjuvant cancer treatment due to its immune modulating effects.

PUBMED Releases:


1. Cancer Lett. 2002 Apr 25; 178(2): 117-22.

Chemopreventive effects of Aloe arborescens on N-nitrosobis (2-oxopropyl) amine-induced pancreatic carcinogenesis in hamsters.

Division of Pathology, Biological Safety Research Centre, National Institute of Health Sciences, 1-18-1 Kamiyoga, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-8501, Japan.

Our results thus indicate that aloe prevents BOP-induced pancreatic neoplasia in hamsters in relation to decreased DNA adduct formation in the target tissue.

2. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Nov;89(1):37-45.

Radical-scavenging effects of Aloe arborescens Miller var. natalensis Berger on prevention of pancreatic islet B-cell destruction in rats.

Fujita Memorial Institute of Pharmacognosy, Fujita Health University, 1865 Isshiki-cho,

Hisai, Mie 514-1296, Japan.

These results suggest that the action mechanism of aloe boiled leaf skin components, which prevent destruction of the pancreatic islets by specific pancreatic islet toxins such as Sz, Ax, and HX-XO, involves inhibition of free radical-scavenging effects, and may be associated with a thermostable low molecular component. The co-existence of aloe-derived 2'-O-p-coumaroylaloesin, 2'-O-feruloylaloesin, and aloin may result in the potentiation of radical-scavenging activity.

3. Phytother Res. 2002 Aug;16(5):491-3.

Aloe arborescens extract inhibits TPA-induced ear oedema, putrescine increase and tumour promotion in mouse skin.

Fujita Memorial Institute of Pharmacognosy, Fujita Health University, Hisai, Mie 514-1296,Japan.

The ethyl acetate extract of the acetone-soluble Aloe arborescens fraction was found to inhibit 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced ear oedema, putrescine increase and tumour promotion in mouse skin. Chromatographic analyses of this extract revealed that phenolic compounds such as aloenin, barbaloin and isobarbaloin could be useful as cancer chemopreventive agents against tumour promotion. Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

4. Phytother Res. 2001 Dec; 15(8):705-11.

Inhibition of azoxymethane-induced aberrant crypt foci formation in rat colorectum by whole leaf Aloe arborescens Miller var. natalensis Berger.

Fujita Memorial Institute of Pharmacognosy, Fujita Health University, Hisai, Mie 514-1296, Japan.
These results indicated that ALOE inhibited the development of AOM-induced ACF in the rat colorectum, with increased QR activity in the liver, and therefore suggested that ALOE might have a chemopreventive effect against colon carcinogenesis at least in the initiation stage. Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

5. Jpn J Cancer Res. 1989 Jun;80(6):513-20.

Epidemiologic survey on lung cancer with respect to cigarette smoking and plant diet.

Department of Epidemiology, School of Health Sciences, Ryukyu University, Okinawa.

Suggesting that the aloe may prevent human carcinogenesis at various sites.


Cancer Research

Tizard I; Kemp M Texas A&M

Research by the immunologist Ian Tizard, Ph.D. and virologist Maurice Kemp, Ph.D. from Texas A&M led to the discovery that Aloe mucopolysaccharide is taken into a special leukocyte, the macrophage, and this cell is stimulated to release messenger molecules called cytokines (interferons, interleukines, prostaglandins, tumour necrosis factor and stem-cell growth factors.) Tumours release a chemical that attracts blood circulation so that malignant cells have a supply to the tumour and it therefore dies. All of the immune modulating effects from Aloe contribute greatly to the prevention and healing of malignant cells.

Aloemannan, Significant Antitumor Efficacy

Health Science Centre, University Of Texas

In 1977 while conducting a series of animal experiments using aloemannan a mucopolysaccharide of Aloe arborescens, detected aloemannan a significant anti tumour efficacy. Unlike usual anticancer drugs killing cancer cells directly, it acts as a stimulus for the body’s defence mechanism, or immunity to suppress tumour. Prof. Winters and his group of the Health Science Centre at the University of Texas verified their test-tube experiments using human cervical cancer cells that Aloe Arborescens extract prohibits the growth of cancer cells.

Plant Lectin, ATF1011, On The Tumor Cell Surface Augments Tumor-Specific Immunity Through Activation Of T Cells Specific For The Lectin

Yoshimoto R; Kondoh N; Isawa M; Hamuro J

Cancer Immunol Immunother 25(1):25-30 1987

The possibility that a plant lectin as a carrier protein would specifically activate T cells; resulting in the augmentation of anti-tumour immunity was investigated. ATF1011, a nonmitogenic lectin for T cells purified from Aloe arborescens Mill, bound equally to normal and tumour cells … results suggest that intralesionally administered ATF1011 binds to the tumor cell membrane and activates T cells specific for this carrier lectin in situ, which results in the augmented induction of systemic anti-tumour immunity.

AIDS Research:

Various AIDS studies were completed by researchers such as Dr. Terry Pulse, M.D., Dr. Reg McDaniel, M.D., Dr. Terry Watson, D.O., Dr. Clumeck, M.D. (of Belgium) and others throughout the 1980’s using oral mucopolysaccharides. The results were impressive, demonstrating in many of the studies an average of 70% improvement in symptoms and laboratory criteria within 3 to 4 months. Many patients stated that opportunistic infections had stopped and they were able to return to normal activity. In one dramatic case, a man with advanced AIDS had 17 liver tumours and after one and a half years on oral Aloe mucopolysaccharides, his T-Cell count was normal and all the tumours had dissolved (confirmed by x-ray films).

Lab studies showed that helper lymphocytes (CD4) rose to three times the pre-treatment levels. HIV-1 virus could no longer be cultured. P-24 antigen levels for the virus dropped or became negative.

Researchers at Vanderbilt Medical Centre in Nashville, Tennessee discovered that Aloe mucopolysaccharides alters synthesis and thus the structure of the AIDS virus envelope necessary for infecting lymphocytes. Further studies at The Southern Research Institute found that there is suppression of the viral messenger RNA in HIV-1 infected leukocytes. Therefore, the reproduction of HIV-1 is inhibited with a natural and non-toxic substance.

In studies completed at the Fort Worth Medical Centre Complex it was demonstrated that a person’s leukocytes were rendered resistant to HIV-1 virus in culture tests outside the body.

Purification Of Active Substances Of Aloe Arborescens Miller & Their Biological & Pharmacological Activity

Saito, Hiroko

Dep. Pharm., Aichi Cancer Center

Phytother Res. (1993) 7 (Spec. Issue, Proceedings of the International Congress of Phytotherapy, 1991), S14-S19

The authors purified Aloctin A from Aloe arborescens Miller and defined its chem., biol. and pharmacol. activities. Aloctin A consists of two discrete bands, a and b with a combined S-S bond. Its mol. wt. for a is 7500 and the mol. wt. for b is 10,500. Aloctin A has many biol. and pharmacol. activities as follows:

1. hemagglutinating activity;

2. cytoagglutinating activity;

3. mitogenic activity of lymphocytes;

4. ppt. - forming reactivity with a2-macroglobulin;

5. complement C3 activating activity;

6. inhibition of heat-induced hemolysis of rat erythrocytes;

7. anti-tumour effect;

8. anti-inflammatory effect;

9. inhibition of gastric secretion and gastric lesions.

Aloe Arborescens Can Enhance Leukocytes’ Phagocytic Capacity In Adult Bronchial Asthma

Shida, Takao

Dept. Of Clinical Study Of Rheumatic Allergy, National Sagamihara Hospital

Shida testified that several kinds of amino acid compounds, mucopolysaccharides, glycoprotein in Aloe arborescens can enhance leukocytes’ phagocytic capacity in the case of adult bronchial asthma caused from upper respiratory tract infections. Shida group also administered Aloe extract to the patients who all were above fifty-one years old with no experience of steroid therapy. Results: as high as 63% of cure.

Cirrhosis Patients With Aloe Arborescens

Yukawa, Susumu

Wakayama Medical College

Aloe arborescens extract was administered orally to eight cirrhosis patients. Clinical results: alleviations are recognized in general tiredness, anorexia, abdominal inflation, etc.


Common names: krantz aloe (English), kransaalwyn (Afrikaans), ikalene (Xhosa), inkalane or umhlabana (Zulu), Kidaki Aloe (Japanese).

Not to be confused with Aloe ferox names: bitteraalwyn, Kaapse aalwyn (Afrikaans), bitter aloe (English), umhlaba (Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho).

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