Backyard Medicine: Aloe

Of the medicinal plants, it seems that none is so well-known among the general public as Aloe vera. This species is a bit of a mystery, since it does not occur in the wild, and biologists have been unable to determine its origin. What we do know is that some 500 species of Aloe occur in the wild in Southern Africa, Madagascar, and Arabia. It is likely that Aloe vera is a hybrid of more than one of these wild species.Here in San Diego, we have a species of Aloe known as the bush Aloe, or Aloe arborescens. While Aloe vera grows close to the ground and never branches, this species forms a dense shrub. The two species have similar medicinal uses.

7-Tree Aloe

Here is a hedge grown out of Aloe arborescens. In South Africa, where this plant is native, the locals build kraals, or animal pens, by growing this plant into a tight hedge to keep out predators and thieves. The leaves are incredibly thorny, and I wouldn’t want to try to get through this hedge.

While the gel-like meat of Aloe has been claimed to provide a multitude of health benefits, there is some doubt as to its effectiveness, and a few studies have found evidence of toxicity in Aloe gel. Its real value lies in its external use.

2 - Aloe arborescens leaf

An Aloe leaf, when cut open, produces a thick, latex-like sap, which can be applied to burns and cuts. On burns, it produces a protective layer to prevent skin irritation, while simultaneously cooling the burn. On cuts, it forms a type of liquid bandage, preventing infection and helping scab formation. To use it, wait a day, until the wound has begun to heal and is dry. Clean the wound well, dry it off, and apply the aloe by squeezing the juice out of a cut leaf. Research has shown that a pulp of Aloe arborescens meat prevents bacterial growth in laboratory conditions.

I have decided to attempt to propagate this plant from leaf cuttings. The internet seems to support two camps on this, one saying that it is easy and the other that it is impossible. I hope to find out soon enough.

1-Aloe arborescens pullings

I took three leaf pullings, which I will allow to scab over for a week before planting them in dry soil. I’ll keep you posted on the results!


I also collected some seeds of the orchid tree, Bauhinia. This is a tree that enjoys the heat and produces beautiful pink flowers. Be careful, though, because Bauhinia is a very toxic plant, and all parts are poisonous.

4-Bauhinia seeds uncovered

To germinate these, I soaked them in water overnight, and then placed them between damp paper towels. They should sprout between 3 days and six weeks from now.

3-Bauhinia variegata seeds

The Disclaimer:

Don’t be stupid. If you take other medications, check with a doctor before using Aloe. If you are seriously injured or ill, go to a doctor instead of relying on my untrained advice. As with any other herb, some people are allergic and should not use Aloe. If you experience unexpected side effects, discontinue the use of Aloe.

~The Homesteading Hippy

5 thoughts on “Backyard Medicine: Aloe

  1. The Belmont Rooster

    GREAT POST! I grow several different Aloes. Some freely offset and I wish they would slow down a bit. Others that I wish would offset do not. I have never tried propagating an Aloe from a leaf. As far as I know, Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) will not root that way. Some Aloe that grow upright stems (such as Aloe ciliaris) will root of you take stem cuttings. I am not familiar with Aloe arborescens. They look AWESOME!!!

    1. The Homesteading Hippy Post author

      Thank you! I’ll keep you posted on their progress. My Bauhinia seeds have already germinated. They were supposed to take up to six weeks! I’ll have to go buy a pot and some soil soon.
      ~The Homesteading Hippy


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