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Leaf of Life

Leaf of life is native to Africa but is now grown widely in tropical and sub-tropical areas. It is a succulent plant that grows up to 1.5m high, with reddish tinge to the stems. The leaves have indented edges, from which other small plants can grow. When mature, leaf of life bears clusters of bell shaped flowers.

Traditional Uses

Leaf of Life

Scientific Name:
(Bryophyllum pinnatum – Crassulaceae)
Other Names:
Tree of Life, Life Leaf, Air Plant, Miracle Leaf, Aporo, Kalanchoe
Parts Used:
Leaves, Stems, Juice

In Jamaica the juice of the leaf of life is used to treat colds and coughs. The juice is sometimes mixed with salt or honey, for headaches, colds and bronchial problems and hypertension.

The heated leaves can be applied externally for abscesses and swellings. Similar use is made of leaf of life in Africa, where it is also used for earaches, eye problems and as a diuretic.

In the Eastern Caribbean leaf of life is used as a tea for colds and the juice used externally for sores or to apply to a headache. In Brazil, leaf of life is used for respiratory problems from asthma to bronchitis. It is also used to treat kidney stones and gastric ulcers and externally for boils, burns, ulcers, insect bites and eye infections.

Modern Research

Several studies have documented that leaf of life is antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. The plant is also said to have effective antihistamine and anaphylactic properties that might explain its traditional use for asthma, insect bites and stings.

In recent research in Hawaii, leaf of life demonstrated noticeable effects on cancer tissue and confirmed powerful antimicrobial activity. Leaf of life also exhibited pain relieving and anti-diabetic properties in a study on mice in Africa. The reported immuno-suppressant properties of leaf of life might therefore be useful in treating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Plant Chemicals

Among the many active plant chemicals in leaf of life are: arachidic acid; astragalin; behenic acid; beta amyrin; benzenoids; bersaldegenin; beta-sitosterol; bryophollenone; bryophollone; bryophyllin; bufadienolide orthoacetate; caffeic acid; ferulic acid; quercetin; steroids and taraxerol.

Other Uses

Some types of leaf of life are available as ornamental plants. These plants are hybrids and do not have the same medicinal properties, therefore they should not be used internally.

Due to the immuno-supressant properties in leaf of life it is not advisable to use it internally for extended periods.


  • Akinpelu, DA – Antimicrobial Activity of Bryophyllum Pinnatum Leaves - Fitoterapia – (2000) Vol 71: 2, April. Pp 193-4
  • Asprey, GF & Thornton, P - Medicinal Plants of Jamaica Parts 1-4 - West Indian Journal of Medicine vol. 2-4 (1953-1955)
  • Ayensu, ES – Medicinal Plants of the West Indies – (1981) – Reference Publications Inc.
  • Honeychurch, PN Caribbean wild plants & their uses - (1986) - Macmillan Caribbean
  • Mitchell & Ahmad - A Review of Medicinal Plant Research at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica 1948-2001 - WI Med J (2006);55(4):243
  • Ojewole, JA – Antinociceptive, Anti-inflammatory and Anti-diabetic Effects of Bryophyllum Pinnatum (Crassulaceae) Leaf Aqueous Extract – Journal of Ethnopharmacology – (2005) May, 99(1): pp 9-13
  • Robertson, D - Jamaican Herbs: Nutritional & Medicinal Values - (1982) - Jamaican Herbs Ltd
  • Taylor, L - The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs - (2005) - Square One Publishers
  • Xiuzhen, Y et al – Isolation and Identification of Cytotoxic Compounds from Bryophyllum Pinnatum –Chinese Journal of Cancer Research (1992) Vol 4(4) December