Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Dyer, Hooker’s Icon. pl. 26: t. 2513 (1897).
Kisimamleo, mshubili, msubili (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Aloe nuttii occurs from DR Congo and Tanzania south to Malawi, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique.
Aloe nuttii is medicinally used in Tanzania. The leaf sap is rubbed on the skin to treat ringworm. A decoction of the roots is drunk to cure kidney problems and as an aphrodisiac. A decoction of the leaves is drunk to cure diarrhoea. In Malawi Aloe nuttii is used in veterinary medicine to prevent Newcastle disease in chickens, for deworming and to ease parturition. Mature flowers are boiled and eaten as a vegetable in Tanzania. Aloe nuttii is grown as a garden ornamental in the tropics and subtropics, and as a pot plant.
Succulent perennial herb up to 1 m tall; stem 5 cm in diameter, solitary or suckering to produce a cluster of up to 12 plants. Leaves 16–20 in a rosette, erect; stipules absent; petiole absent; blade linear, 40–50 cm × 1.5–2(–4) cm, grass-like, apex acute, margin white, hard and tough, with soft teeth, c. 1 mm long, crowded at base, almost absent towards tip, blade with scattered whitish spots towards the base on lower surface. Inflorescence a terminal cylindrical-acuminate raceme 15–25 cm × 8–9 cm, dense; peduncle erect, unbranched, 60–80 cm long; bracts ovate, 15–20 mm long, apex acute, imbricate in bud. Flowers bisexual, regular, 3-merous; pedicel 3–3.5 cm long; perianth tubular, c. 4 cm × 1 cm, lobes 6, up to 30 mm long, coral-pink to orange-red, green-tipped; stamens 6, slightly exserted; ovary superior, 3-celled, style filiform, stigma head-shaped, slightly exserted. Fruit an ovoid capsule up to 4 cm long, dehiscing loculicidally, pale brown, many-seeded.
Aloe comprises about 450 species in Africa and Arabia, of which c. 315 occur in mainland Africa, c. 100 are endemic to Madagascar or the Indian Ocean islands (including the former Lomatophyllum) and c. 50 occur in Arabia. Several other Aloe species have medicinal uses in southern Africa. A flower decoction of Aloe cooperi Baker from Mozambique and South Africa is taken by the Zulu people to ease childbirth. In Swaziland the young shoots and flowers are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Aloe cooperi is planted as an ornamental in South Africa. In Zimbabwe leaf sap of Aloe greatheadii Schönland is used as eye drops to cure chronic conjunctivitis. An infusion or decoction of the leaves is drunk to treat gonorrhoea. An infusion of the leaves is used as a malaria prophylactic and is taken as a purgative and put in drinking water of poultry to cure diseases. In South Africa the leaf sap is applied externally to bruises, burns and skin irritations. Leaf pulp is used to treat snakebites. Flower buds are considered a delicacy. Large concentrated populations of Aloe greatheadii are an indication of overgrazing. Seedlings are planted in land reclamation trials; they need partial shade for survival. Probably Aloe ortholopha Christian & Milne-Redh., which is endemic to Zimbabwe and resembles Aloe greatheadii, has similar medicinal uses. In Namibia a leaf infusion of Aloe hereroensis Engl. is taken to treat digestive problems, chest and heart pains, urinary incontinence and venereal diseases. Both leaf sap and roots are used to treat gonorrhoea. The leaf sap is used to cure eye problems. Aloe swynnertonii Rendle is used in Malawi as fish poison, and in South Africa, it is used in a mixture with other plants to kill pests in vegetable crops. In Namibia the Topnaar people drink a decoction of the roots of Aloe dichotoma Masson to treat asthma and tuberculosis. In the past, the hollow branches were used as quivers for arrows. The Nama people use the porous inner fibre of the trunk as cooling material. Sheep eat the dry leaves. Aloe dichotoma is planted as an ornamental in South Africa.
Aloe nuttii occurs in moist grassland (‘dambos’) and often on rocky slopes, at 1600–2650 m altitude.
Aloe nuttii is collected from the wild and leaves can be harvested throughout the year. Flowers can be collected at the end of the rainy season.
Genetic resources and breeding
Aloe nuttii is not uncommon and probably not in danger of genetic erosion. However, all Aloe species except Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f. are listed by CITES, and trade in plants and plant parts is restricted.
Aloe nuttii is not suitable for large scale exploitation or domestication because of the small plant size and narrow leaves; it will therefore remain of local importance only.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2006. Aloe nuttii Baker. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.