The inspissated juice of the leaves of Aloe spicata.—Socotra.
Dose.—From the fraction of a grain to grs. v. or grs. x. Of a tincture, gtt. j. to gtt. xx.
Therapeutic Action.—Aloes is cathartic, stimulant, tonic, stomachic, emmenagogue, and anthelmintic.
As a cathartic, it is slow to operate, owing to its action being principally upon the lower portions of the intestines. It does not act upon the intestinal mucous membrane, producing depletion, but mostly upon the muscular coat, stimulating it to increased activity, thus quickening the peristaltic action of the bowels, causing alvine evacuations. The discharges caused by taking aloes are not thin and watery. It seems also to augment the biliary secretion. In small doses it acts as a tonic, excitant and aperient; it promotes digestion, and gives tone to the stomach, and is therefore found useful in dyspepsia. As a tonic and stomachic, it is used with much advantage in general debility, attended with loss of appetite and a torpid state of the bowels. It quickens the circulation, and causes an increased warmth of body, clearly demonstrating its excitant powers.
From what has been said, it will readily be seen that aloes is not a suitable cathartic in habits that are of a sthenic character. If there should be any irritation of the bowels, its harshness would render it inadmissible; and should there exist a febrile or inflammatory habit, it would be too excitant and tonic, and not sufficiently depletive. But in torpid or debilitated states of the system, it is not only proper, but in many cases a highly important medicine. Accordingly it is recommended in chlorotic states of the system, scrofula, hypochondriasis, indigestion, habitual constipation, etc., combined with alkaline agents, as castile soap and aromatics, to counteract any irritating effects which it might produce.
Aloes is said to be possessed of emmenagogue properties, and as such is extensively employed in amenorrhoea. Whether it exerts any influence over the uterine secretion, by a direct action upon that visons, is not determined; the probability is that it acts indirectly or sympathetically by producing a determination to the lower bowels and pelvis, thus producing or accelerating the menstrual flux. The strong influence of aloes manifested upon the rectum has caused it to be used for the removal of ascarides, or small worms, that have their habitat in this portion of the intestines.
A singular fact in relation to the modus operandi of this agent is, that small and large doses produce very nearly the same amount of purgation. It may be used in cerebral congestions as a derivative, but is not admissible in hemorrhoids, owing to its strong action upon the rectum, aggravating them when they exist, and often producing them; for the same reason it is not admissible in advanced pregnancy, or in menorrhagia.