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ALOM PERFOLIATA. COMMON ALOE.
Class VI. Hexandria. Order I. Monogynia.
Gen. Char. Corolla erect, with an expanded mouth, and a nectarious base. Filaments inserted into the receptacle.
Spe. Char. Flowers spiked, horizontal, bell-shaped. Stem-leaves toothed, embracing, sheathing.
This beautiful and valuable plant is a native of Africa, where it grows in great abundance, and flowers most part of the year. Several varieties of the Aloe, are described by Linnaeus as belonging to the Aloe Perfoliata, of which the Spiked Aloe is the best.
The stem is round, smooth, about four inches in diameter, and rises from three to four feet in height, and is of a glossy green color, the top beset with ovate bracteal scales; the leaves are numerous, spreading, thick, fleshy, succulent, and beset with acute teeth; the flowers spread horizontally, in close spikes; the calyx is wanting; under each flower is an ovate, broad, acute bracte, shorter than the corolla, which is six-petalled, and contains a small portion of honeyjuice; the filaments are tapering, yellow, inserted into the receptacle, and terminate in oblong anthers ;•the gcrmen is oblong, supporting a slender style, upon which is an obtuse stigma; the capsule is threecelled, and contains numerous seeds.
From good authority we are informed, that about fifty miles from the Cape of Good Hope the Aloe grows in great abundance, large tracts of land being almost entirely covered with it, which renders the planting of them unnecessary, and on account of its dense thickness is said to prove a very strong defence against the invasion of foreign powers. It is cultivated also in the island of Barbadoes and Jamaica, from whence we are mostly supplied, although it frequently happens that the American Aloe is substituted for it, which is but little if any inferior.
The United States Dispensatory gives four varieties of aloes as the principal kinds known in commerce, viz., that of the Cape of Good Hope, the Socotrine, the Hepatic, and the Barbadoes; the two first being by far the most abundant, are mostly used in this country, and from their extraordinary cheapness and excellent qualities, bid fair to supersede the other varieties which have been imported principally from Great Britain.
The juice of this plant does not arrive at perfection until the plant is two or three years old, at which time the most succulent leaves are cut off near the root, and placed perpendicularly by the side of each other in tubs, to afford an opportunity for the juice to exude, which is afterwards collected into a large shallow vessel, and exposed to the rays of the sun, till it becomes of a proper consistence. Sometimes the leaves are cut in small pieces, and then set aside for the juice to exude; by either of these modes the best kind of Aloes is procured; an inferior sort is obtained by boiling the sliced leaves in water for a short time, then removing them and adding more, and continuing to repeat this until the liquor becomes of a dark color, when it is evaporated by the rays of the sun to a proper consistence. .
Medical Properties and Uses. Aloes is a stimulating cathartic, acting chiefly upon the lower part of the large intestines; it does not much increase the secretion from the bowels, but promotes their peristaltic action, and by that means causes the expulsion of any accumulation in them, from its operation being almost exclusively confined to the lower portion of the intestinal canal; it is said to possess considerable emmenagogue properties, which are generally attributed to a sympathetic extension of irritation through the rectum.