Description: This species of aloe is the one from which the better qualities of the drug aloes are obtained. It is a native of Southern Africa. Stem round, three or four feet high; leaves about two feet long, wedge-shaped, spreading at the top of the stem; flowers large, white, spiked, bell-shaped.
Aloe Socotrina also yields a good article of the drug; and probably all the species contain it. The portion used in medicine is the inspissated juice of the leaves. It is obtained by either breaking or cutting the leaves, and allowing the juice to fall upon the fleshy side of a sheep-skin spread in a suitable hole in the ground. When a sufficient quantity of juice has thus been gathered, it is put into an iron vessel and condensed at a low heat. The Cape aloes comes to us as a dark, blackish-green mass, brittle, of a shining fracture, and almost wholly resinous in character. It yields its properties to water, may be nearly dissolved by boiling water, and is quite soluble in even dilute alcohol. The color of the Socotrine aloes varies from a light yellow to a dull reddish- brown, and the fracture is not so glassy as the Cape variety. The Hepatic and Barbadoes varieties are reddish-brown, and have not a smooth or shining fracture. They are all intensely bitter, though the Socotrine has a little aroma with it.
Properties and Uses: All varieties of aloes are stimulating to the large intestine, acting slowly but very positively, yet not procuring very liquid stools. In semi-paralysis of the lower bowel, and for ascarides, they are generally efficient; but must not be used when there are piles, tenesmus, or the least irritation of the colon. Their continued use is very likely to bring on piles; and a too free resort to pills containing aloes, is probably a source of much mischief of this nature. This drug also stimulates the gall-ducts, and has been given in depressed jaundiced conditions. Its action upon the uterus is associated with that upon the colon; and it has been noticed to promote menstruation powerfully in debilitated states of the uterus, but is not often an advisable article for such purposes, even though very fashionable. If mixed with an alkaline carbonate, as soap, it proves less irritating to the bowel. It has been asserted that its peculiar influence on the bowel and uterus will follow the application of a decoction upon a denuded surface. Dose, as a laxative, two to four grains; as a full cathartic, ten grains. It is generally combined with other and less irritating cathartics; or if its action upon the uterus is desired, it is chiefly combined with the emmenagogue tonics, and given in doses of one to two grains two or three times a day. It is common to use this drug in excess, and thus to weary the bowel; and probably few non-poisonous agents have been so largely misapplied. From an Allopathic practice of combining it with abortives, it has fallen into a disrepute that it does not deserve; for it is an effective article.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Pills. Aloes are given in the pillular form oftenest, as this presents the best opportunity for disguising their extreme and lasting bitterness. Nearly all the patent pills, for generations past, have contained some portion of this drug.
1. Brandreth's pills contain the following: Aloes, two pounds; gamboge, one pound; bitter cucumber, four ounces; soap, half a pound; peppermint oil, two drachms.
2. Aloes, two ounces; myrrh, two ounces; ginger, half an ounce; sirup, sufficient. This is emmenagogue and cathartic. I prepared it to meet cases of uterine atony accompanied by flatulence and costiveness, and think well of it. Dose, one to two, morning and evening, for a few days about the menstrual period.
3. Aloes, one ounce; gentian, one ounce; extract boneset, sufficient. I have used this as a laxative tonic profitably. Oil of peppermint may be added to correct flatulence.
II. Tincture. Two ounces of aloes to a pint and a half of alcohol, is the officinal tincture; of which the dose is a fluid drachm.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com