Aloe Spicata. Aloes.
Nat. Ord. — Liliaceae. Sex. Syst. — Hexandria Monogynia.
Inspissated Juice of the Leaves.
Description. — The Aloe Spicata, or Spiked Aloe, is a native of South Africa, growing near the Cape of Good Hope, in sandy soil. The stem is woody, round, from three to four feet high, about five inches in diameter, and leafy at the summit ; the leaves are thick, fleshy, spreading, subverticillate, about two feet long, broad at the base, gradually narrowing to the point, channeled or grooved on their upper surface, remotely teethed upon their edges ; their 'parenchyma almost colorless. Spike a foot long, very compact, with horizontal and campanulate flowers, of a scarlet color, which contain a large quantity of purplish honey juice. Beneath each flower is a broad, ovate, acute bracte, of a white color, with three green streaks, and nearly as long as the corolla. The three inner petals are ovate, obtuse, white, with a triple green line, and broader than the three outer, which otherwise resemble them. The stamens are much longer than the perianth.
Aloe Socotrina, is said to be a native of the island of Socotra; its stem is erect, woody, a foot and a half high, or more, naked below, where it is strongly marked with the scars of former leaves ; the leaves are at the summit of the stem, amplexicaul, green, ascending, ensiform, rather concave on their upper surface, convex beneath, and curved inward at the point, and marked with numerous small, white marginal serratures ; the parenchyma abounding in a bright brownish-yellow juice. Raceme cylindrical, unbranched ; the flowers are scarlet at the base, pale in the center, and greenish at the point. The stamens are unequal, three of them being longer than the corolla.
Aloe Vulgaris, is a native of south-eastern Europe, and north Africa, and is cultivated in Italy, Sicily, Malta, and the West Indies. It has a short, simple, cylindrical and woody stem ; the leaves being fleshy, amplexicaul, first spreading, then ascending, lanceolate, glaucous-green, a little mottled with darker spots, flat on the upper surface, convex beneath, and armed with hard reddish spines, distant from each other, and perpendicular to the margin ; the parenchyma is slightly colored brown, and very distinct from the tough leathery cuticle. The scape is axillary, glaucous-reddish, branched; spike cylindrical-ovate. The flowers at first erect, then spreading, afterward pendulous, yellow and not longer than the stamens.
The juice obtained by expression from the parenchyma is mucilaginous, and possesses but little medicinal virtue ; the proper aloetic juice is obtained from the inter- cellular passages found between the longitudinal vessels which are situated beneath the epidermis of the leaves, and which juice may be readily obtained by cutting these in a transverse direction.
History. — There are several species of Aloe, from which the officinal drug is obtained — the A. Spicata, A. Socotrina, A. Vulgaris, etc., which grow in various parts of the world, the first at the Cape of Good Hope, furnishing the Cape Aloes ; the second in the island of Socotra, from whence is taken the Socotrine Aloes ; and the third, in the East and West Indies, Italy, Spain, Barbary coast, etc., which furnish the Barbadoes Aloes.
Cape Aloes, when freshly broken, has a very dark olive or greenish color, approaching to black, with a smooth, bright surface, and translucent edges. The powder is of a fine greenish-yellow color. It has a strong, disagreeable, but not nauseous odor, and a peculiar bitter taste. It is sometimes confounded with the Socotrine Aloes, especially the finer sorts. Socotrine Aloes, is in pieces of a yellowish, or reddish-brown color ; its interior surface lighter than its exterior, but rendered darker by exposure to the air. Its surface is somewhat glossy, and its fracture smooth and conchoidal, with sharp, semi-transparent edges. Its powder is bright-yellow. The odor is peculiar, not unpleasant, with a bitter, disagreeable, but aromatic taste. It is the best article for medicinal purposes. Barbadoes Aloes, is very little used, except in veterinary practice. Beside these, we have several other varieties, useless to name here.
Aloes yields its active matter to cold water, and when good, is almost wholly dissolved by boiling water ; but the inert portion, or apothême of Berzelius, is deposited as the solution cools. It is also soluble in alcohol, rectified or diluted. Long boiling impairs its purgative properties, by converting the aloesin into insoluble apothême. The alkalies, their carbonates, and soap, alter, in some measure, its chemical nature, and render it of easier solution. It is inflammable, swelling up and decrepitating when it burns, and giving out a thick smoke which has the odor of the drug. Those substances only are incompatible with aloes, which alter or precipitate the aloesin, as the insoluble portion is without action upon the system. Its aqueous solution keeps a long time, even for several months, without exhibiting moldiness or putrescency ; but it becomes ropy, and acquires the character, which it did not previously possess, of affording an abundant precipitate with the infusion of galls. Analysis has detected in aloes, 85 parts in 100 of bitter extractive, called aloesin, 2 of ulmate of potassa, 2 of sulphate of lime, 0.25 of gallic acid, 8 of albumen, and traces of carbonates of potassa and lime, and phosphate of lime.
Properties and Uses. — Tonic, purgative, emmenagogue, and anthelmintic. In doses of from half a grain to a grain, two or three times a day, it exerts a decided tonic influence, but is seldom resorted to for this purpose. As a laxative and purgative, its applications are unbounded ; it acts more especially on the muscular coat of the large intestines, rather increasing their peristaltic motion, than effecting copious thin or watery discharges ; and from its tendency to irritate the rectum, especially when frequently repeated, it is apt to give rise to hemorrhoids, or aggravate them when already existing. When applied endermically to an ulcer or blistered surface, it purges as effectually and promptly as when taken into the stomach ; ten grains used thus, will purge in from six to ten hours. It is commonly supposed to have no action on the jejunum or ileum ; and some imagine it to influence the duodenum, and especially the mouths of the biliary ducts, causing an increased flow of bile ; stimulating the intestinal canal, when that secretion is suspended as in jaundice. Its emmenagogue influence is attributed by some to a sympathetic extension of this irritation from the rectum to the uterus ; but there is no doubt that it exerts a direct influence on this organ, independent of the intestinal irritability. It is said that one to three grains of extract of hyoscyamus, or hops, or two grains of ipecacuanha, mixed with the aloetic dose, will prevent its irritating effect on the lower intestines. An increase of the quantity of aloes beyond the medium dose, is not attended by a corresponding increase of effect. Aloes has been efficacious in constipation, dyspepsia, and ascarides ; in this last instance, being used in form of injection, ten grains to three ounces of water, for children. In chlorosis and amenorrhea it has often proved serviceable, and is used for this purpose, in various combinations. In cases of delicate females, with loss of appetite, torpor of the bowels, and suffering with suppression of the menses, the following has been recommended for the purpose of exciting proper ovarian or uterine action : Take of best aloes, pulverized, asafoetida, pulverized, of each, half a drachm, cantharides, pulverized, twenty grains ; mix and rub well together with a little soap, and divide into twenty pills. Of these give from one to three, three times a day. If the patient be very feeble, some of the salts of iron may also be added. Injections of aloes, composed of from ten to thirty grains dissolved in two or three fluidounces of water, and thrown up the rectum daily, and continued for a week previous to the menstrual period, have sometimes proved effectual.
Aloes should never be given in inflammatory diseases, in irritable, plethoric habits, in gastritis, enteritis, where piles are present, to females liable to sudden uterine evacuations, nor during pregnancy. In hemorrhoids it may be given when modified by combination. Soap, or an alkaline carbonate, lessens its irritant action. The union of other purgatives with aloes, often modifies its tendency to irritate the rectum. One grain of aloes with two or three grains of sulphate of iron, will also modify this action, and will produce as much effect as two or three grains of aloes. As a cathartic, aloes will be found useful in habitual constipation from intestinal torpor, jaundice, scrofula, hypochondriasis, and where there is a tendency to cerebral congestion. Dose of aloes, is from two to ten, or even twenty grains ; and the most convenient form of administration is that of pill. It enters as a constituent into a great number of useful compound remedies.
Off. Prep. — Decoctum Aloes Compositum; Enema Aloes Composita; Extractum Colocynthidis Compositum ; Pilulae Aloes Compositae ; Tinctura Aloes ; Tinctura Aloes et Myrrhae.