Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Aloe vera

2014-04-24 13.43.411.  My mum used to squeeze aloe vera leaves and give us the juice when we were kids and showed cold or ‘flu symptoms.  A teaspoon of aloe vera juice was usually enough to halt a bad cold.  I was born in what was then British Guiana, and this would have been the 60s/early 70s.  My mum had this plant in our garden which she used to call sweet aloe – heart-shaped fairly thick leaves – when squeezed the juice, gently warmed did the trick – got rid of cold and ‘flu bugs.  It was quite a nice taste too – so much better than that of castor oil which we had to occasionally endure [West Dulwich, London, August 2016].

2.  Aloe vera is used to stop peeling after you have been badly sun-burned, or for heat burns [e-mail, September 2014].

3. I grow aloe vera plants, which I advertise in our local paper – great if you get a burn in the kitchen, you break a leaf and put the juice on. It works like magic [Marton, Blackpool, Lancashire, September 2012].

4. In Andalucia [Spain] … aloe vera grew, and small plants were sold, as a cure-all for everything [Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, August 2011].

5. A week ago I visited a one-time farming neighbour who on leaving gave my wife and I a potted aloe vera plant which, I gather, has a number of uses, one of which is as an emollient. I must confess that it is new to me, but she did tell me that the sap of a piece of the plant applied to a minor burn would help to ease the pain [Pembroke, August 2011].

6. My grandmother in Hongkong – the villages – used aloe vera for washing. They had no soap powders or things like that, so they used to rub aloe vera into their washing, when they did it in the lakes or rivers [Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey. July 2003].

Images: main, cultivated, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, September 2014; inset, Brixton Village, London Borough of Lambeth, April 2014.