aloes (ălˈōz) [key], drug obtained from the aloe; also a biblical name for an aromatic substance of various uses, mentioned in connection with myrrh and spices and thought to be the fragrant wood of the modern aloeswood (also called eaglewood, agalloch, or agilawood), an Aquilaria native to Asia. In the East the aloeswood has been valued for medicinal purposes, as an incense, and for the beautiful grain of its wood, which takes a high polish and was used for setting precious stones. The tree lignaloes mentioned in the Book of Numbers, sometimes thought to be the aloeswood, may have been a different plant. The aloe and the American aloe, or agave (see amaryllis), are not to be confused with the aloes of the Scriptures.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.