For 2017’s A to Z challenge, I’ll write about herbs and plants in literature. I hope to include information about their uses and our ancestors’ beliefs regarding them.


A is for Aloe

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

In antiquity, physicians and herbalists used aloe vera as a purgative and to treat skin disorders and wounds. Its juice would have been dried to a yellow powder and sometimes reconstituted, and its bitter taste is mentioned by Chaucer, Tennyson, and Browning.

William Shakespeare references aloes in “A Lover’s Complaint.” “…love’s arms are peace, ‘gainst rule, ‘gainst sense, ‘gainst shame, and sweetens, in the suffering pangs it bears, the aloes of all forces, shocks, and fears…”

In Proverbs 7:17-18 in the Bible, aloe is referenced along with myrrh and cinnamon used to perfume a bed and entice love. Poet Adela Florence Cory Nicolson included its benefits in one of her poems. In “Stranger in a Strange Land,” aloe is used to treat thinning hair.

Aloe, a spiny succulent, most likely originates in Africa and parts of the southern Arabian Peninsula.  To this day, many treat burns with aloe, and shampoos, makeups, and moisturizers tout its inclusion. The holistic community claims medicinal benefits.