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Family: Asphodelaceae

Scientific name: Aloe maculata

Authority: All.

Synonyms: Aloe latifolia Haw., Aloe saponaria (Ait.) Haw.

Zulu names: icena, ichenyane, inhlaba, amahlaba, inkalane

Other names: African aloe, blotched aloe, broad leaf aloe, common soap aloe, desert spots, spotted aloe, zebra aloe, common soap Aloe (English), bontaalwyn (Afrikaans)

Plant description:

A. maculata is a succulent with fleshy green rosette leaves, serrated margins, and reddish tips and distinctive H-shaped spots, orange to red flowers in a terminal raceme inflorescence, and with fruits containing poisonous seeds. The plant is distributed in Southern African and considered a weed in some parts of the world, including Australia.

The sap found in the fleshy leaves of A. maculata makes foam in water, hence the plant is known as soap aloe.


  • The leaf sap is added to water to make an infusion that is administered as a tonic to lower high blood pressure.
  • The leaves and stem are used to treat the effects of narcotic substances.
  • The roots and stem are used to treat the discomfort from consuming too much food and alcohol.
  • The leaves are steeped in water and the liquid is taken as a laxative and purgative.
  • The leaves are used as an antidote for snake bites.
  • The leaf juice is used to treat ringworms.
  • The leaf sap is used to treat inflammation. The leaves are boiled in water and the decoction used as isithobo, a substance for soaking the feet.
  • The leaves are used for wound healing and treating boils, sores and inflamed injuries.
  • The leaves and flowers are used to treat respiratory ailments such as colds and fever in children and tuberculosis.
  • The plant is used to make an infusion that is used to promote hair growth.
  • The leaves are boiled in water and the decoction used on hides in preparation for tanning.
  • The leaves are used to treat bone fractures in animals, gall sickness, blood scours in the calf, and of enteritis and indigestion in poultry.
  • The plant is cultivated as a garden ornamental.
  • The plant is used as a charm against lightning.

Safety precaution:

Using traditional medicine responsibly can enhance your overall health and well-being. Misuse and abuse can lead to complications. You can inquire about the correct use of traditional medicine from a knowledgeable herbalist and practitioner. You can also visit or email: to learn more about traditional medicine

References and further reading: 

  • Hargreaves, A.L., Harder, L.D. and Johnson, S.D., 2010. Native pollen thieves reduce the reproductive success of a hermaphroditic plant, Aloe maculata. Ecology, 91(6), pp.1693-1703.
  • Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. and Cunningham, A., 1996. Zulu medicinal plants. Natal University Press, Pietermaritzburg.
  • Klopper, R.R., Crouch, N.R., Smith, G.F. and van Wyk, A.E., 2020. A synoptic review of the aloes (Asphodelaceae, Alooideae) of KwaZulu-Natal, an ecologically diverse province in eastern South Africa. PhytoKeys, 142, p.1.
  • Pooley, E., 2005. A field to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern regions. Flora and Fauna Publication, Durban.
  • Pujol, J., 1990. Natur Africa: The Herbalist handbook. Lean Pujol Natural Healers Foundation, Durban.
  • Walker, J., 1996. Wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal. W.R. Walker Family Trust, Pinetown. 
  • Watt, J.M. and Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. Medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa, second edition. Livingstone, London.

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