Aloe, Aloes, or Lign-aloe

Aloe, Aloes, or Lign-Aloe

an Oriental tree, having a fragrant wood, but entirely different from the plant from which the bitter resin aloes is obtained, used in medicine. The Hebrew words ahalim' and ahaloth' (אֲהָלוֹת אֲהָלִים) occur in Ps 45:8, "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes (Sept. στακτή), and cassia;" Pr 7:17, "I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, with cinnamon and aloes" (Sept. omits); Song 4:14, "Spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes (Sept. άλώθ), with all the chief spices." From the articles which are associated with them (both names indicating the same thing), it is evident that it was some odoriferous substance probably well known in ancient times. SEE AROMATICS.

This tree or wood was called by the Greeks ἀγάλλοχον, and later ξυλαλόη (Dioscor. 1:21), and has been known to moderns by the names of aloe-wood, paradise-wood, eagle-wood, etc. Modern botanists distinguish two kinds; the one genuine and most precious, the other more common and inferior (Ainslie, Materia Indica, 1, 479 sq.). The former (Cynometra agallocha, or the Aquilaria ovata of Linn.) grows in Cochin- China, Siam, and China, is never exported, and is of so great rarity in India itself as to be worth its weight in gold (Martins, Lehrbuch der Pharmakognosie, p. 83 sq.). Pieces of this wood that are resinous, of a dark color, heavy, and perforated as if by worms, are called calambac; the tree itself is called by the Chinese suk-hiang. It is represented as large, with an erect trunk and lofty branches. The other or more common species is called garo in the East Indies, and is the wood of a tree growing in the Moluccas, the Excoecaria agallocha of Linnaeus (Oken, Lehrb. d. Naturgesch. II, 2:609 sq.; Lindley, Flora Med. p. 190 sq.). The leaves are like those of a pear-tree; and it has a milky juice, which, as the tree grows old, hardens into a fragrant resin. The trunk is knotty, crooked, and usually hollow (see Gildemeister, De Rebus Indicis, fasc. 1:65). The domestic name in India is aghil (Sanscrit, agaru); whence the Europeans who first visited India gave it the name of lignum aquiloe, or eagle-wood. From this the Hebrew name seems also to be derived (Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 33), which the Vulgate, in Nu 24:6, has translated, "As tents which the Lord hath spread;" instead of "As aloe-trees which the Lord hath planted" — in our version, "lign-aloes." Aloe-wood is said by Herodotus to have been used by the Egyptians for embalming dead bodies; and Nicodemus brought it, mingled with myrrh, to embalm the body of our Lord (Joh 19:39). By others, however, the aloes (ἀλόη) with which Christ's body was embalmed is thought to have been an extract from a different plant, the prickly shrub known among us by that name (Penny Cyclopoedia, s.v. Agave). Some, again, consider the lign-aloe of the Old Testament to be a different East-Indian tree from the above, namely, the Aquilaria agallochum, but whether it be the same with the more precious variety above spoken of is uncertain (Celsius, Hierobot. 1, 135). An inferior kind of aloes is also said to be obtained from the Aquilaria Malaccensis (Rumphius, Herbar. Amboin. 2, 29 sq.). The aloes of the ancients were procured from Arabia and India (Salmasius, Exerc. ad Pliny 2, 1054 sq.). It is still highly prized as an article of luxury in the East (Harmar, Observ. 2, 149; Kampfer, Amoen. p. 904; Burckhardt, Arabia, 1, 216; Hartmann, Hebr. 1, 315 sq.; Lamarck, Enc. Meth. 1, 422-429; Roxburgh, Flora Ind. 2, 423).

The plant which has the reputation of producing the best aloes of modern shops is the Aloe Socotrina, a native of the Cape of Good Hope and the island of Socotra, but now commonly cultivated in the West Indies. The resin is obtained by inspissation from the juice of the leaves (Penny Cyclopoedia, s.v. Aloe). SEE BOTANY, and SEE LIGN-ALOE.

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