Aloe, a genus of perennial plants of the lily family. There are about 200 speccies, almost all native to Africa. Aloes are called succulents because they have thickened, juicy leaves that can store water. Most species of aloe are stemless.
The long, swordlike leaves have sharp points at their tips and generally have spines along the edges. The leaves grow in dense clusters, usually close to the ground. A flower stalk extends from the center of the cluster. Red or yellow flowers grow in compact, finger-shaped tufts at the end of the stalk. The individual flower is tubular and usually slightly curved.
Aloes grow easily in well-drained soil, and are often cultivated as decorative plants. Propagation is by seeds and leaf or root cuttings. Aloes grow from 4 inches (10 cm) to 60 feet (18 m) in height, depending on the species.
Aloes were used as medicinal herbs by the Egyptians as early as 1600 B.C. The use of aloes in medicine has continued into modern times. The drug aloes, used as a mild laxative, is derived from various species of aloe plants. Aloin, also used as a mild laxative, is prepared from a mixture of juices found in several species of aloe plants. These drugs are obtained from the dried juices of the leaves. A gel extracted from the leaves is used to treat burns, soothe dry, chapped skin, and relieve peptic ulcers.
The American aloe is not an aloe but an agave (century plant). .
Aloe plants used in medicine include Zanzibar aloe, Aloe perryi; Cape aloe, A.ferox; and Barbados aloe, A. vera or A. barbadensis. Aloes make up the aloe genus of the asphodel family, Asphodelaceae.