|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.