The Harvesting Process
Aloesin : the newer… and upcoming… multifunctional skin care ingredient
Aloesin is a natural chemical extracted from the bitter sap of the Aloe Ferox plant. The Aloe Ferox plant is an abundant species growing wild in its natural habitat in the South Cape region in South Africa. Therefore the bitter sap does not contain any additives. It is derive from plants that have not been artificially fertilized or sprayed with insecticides or fungicides.
The traditional manner of collecting the bitter sap from the leaves of this species, continues on a sustainable basis and does not present any threat to the environment. The leaves have been harvested by traditional aloe tapers for the production of crystalline aloe Bitters, which has been exported to Europe and East since 1763.
Major components in Aloe Bitter sap.
There are three components of interest in the Aloe Bitter sap, namely Aloesin, Aloe resin and Aloin.
Harvesting of leaves and isolation of the Aloe Bitters
- The first harvest can take place once the aloe has reached a height of five hundred millimeters and there are sufficient leaves on the plant. The top few leaves are never harvested. There should be sufficient leaves left on the aloe for it to survive the dry period. Approximately 18 to 20 leaves should be left on the plant. Aloe should be harvested soon after rains, this makes the leaves swell and gives a better flow of bitter sap from the leaf.
- The harvester would arm themselves with a sickle, strong gloves, a rubber or leather sheet, a spade and several pieces of plastic. Traditionally the Aloes are harvested by Aloe Tappers, who harvest the lower, leaves.
- Aloe Tappers lead a nomadic type of existence, living in the veld for several weeks collecting Aloe Sap
- At a central point among a group of approximately 50 plants a shallow drainage basin is scraped and lined with the plastic sheet. (Heavy-duty fertilizer bags work well for this. The same basins are used from the one season to the next thereby limiting environmental degradation.
- The leaves of the plant are scored with a sickle three to four centimeters from the base deep enough to make them easy to break off.
- Several leaves are stacked onto the harvesters arm on the arm protector. The leaves are transported rapidly to the plastic lined drainage basin and stacked, with the cut end facing inwards so that the bitter sap can drain into the depression, in circle around the edge of the plastic sheet.
- The pile of leaves looks like an inverted cone and can eventually almost close in at the top when it would contain approximately 500—600 leaves. The height of the cone depends on the amount of plants in the vicinity
- The pile of leaves is left to drain for about six to eight hours. After allowing sufficient time for drainage, the accumulated sap is emptied out of the plastic bags lining the depression into plastic containers.
- The sap is now poured into a 200-litre drum.
The leaves of the Aloe Ferox are harvested so as to conserve the biodiversity of the surrounding environment.
South Africa is a signatory to the Multilateral Environmental Agreement. We therefore uphold the following objectives:
- The conservation of biological diversity
- The sustainable use of South Africa’s biodiversity
- The fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of our natural genetic resources. http://www.sanbi.org/information/infobases/collection-permits