aloe (ălˈō) [key] [Gr.], any species of the genus Aloe, succulent perennials of the family Lilaceae (lily family), native chiefly to the warm dry areas of S Africa and also to tropical Africa, but cultivated elsewhere. The juice of aloe leaves contains the purgative aloin. Today the various drug-yielding species, e.g., A. vera and A. chinensis, are still used for their traditional medicinal properties as well as for X-ray-burn treatment, insect repellent, and a transparent pigment used in miniature painting; cords and nets are made from the leaf fiber. In ancient times the juice was used in embalming. A Muslim, on return from the pilgrimage to Mecca, hangs an aloe above the door. The American and false aloes are agaves, amaryllis family group that is the American counterpart in habit and general appearance to the true aloes. There is evolutionary evidence that the aloes and the agaves should be considered a single separate family, the Agavaceae. The Scriptural aloes is unrelated. Aloe is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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