What is wild-harvesting?
Answers from the Cape Aloe Movement


In order to understand this topic in more detail, we partnered with The Cape Aloe Movement to learn more about wild-harvesting.

In general "Wild-Harvesting" refers to collecting superfoods by hand from a native ecosystem. This is usually done by the indigenous people from the area using traditional harvesting methods. The Cape Aloe Movement has defined traditional harvesting of Cape Aloe as "the manual sustainable removal of leaves of the Aloe ferox plant (Cape Aloe) by the indigenous Hessequa people for commercial trading". The hessequa people follow from generations of indigenous KhoiSan people in Southern Africa, specifically along the western and eastern coast of South Africa, where Cape Aloe's bloom in abundance in the wild.

The wild-harvesting of Cape Aloe is also colloquially known as "aloe tapping". It is a beautiful, culturally rich and historic practice that has been practiced for over 300 years and is passed down from generation to generation of the Hessequa people as the family and the tribe's business. The aloe tappers sell their harvest to nearby farmers and manufacturers for a profit, and conduct business according to sound demand and supply principles. The Cape Aloe Movement, which exists to underscore the values and regulations of the Nagoya protocol, ensures that the aloe tappers can continue to unlock their share of the value in the entire value chain of aloe products manufacturing and distribution.

The Cape Aloe Movement refers to this popular aloe of the region as "indigenous aloe" which is "naturally propagated Aloe ferox (Cape Aloe) growing in, and harvested from, its indigenous environment where it is exposed to the natural climatic, soil and environmental conditions of the Cape region. Indigenous Aloe, as well as the soil and environment from where it is harvested, is free from herbicides, pesticides or any artificial additive or treatment." Research shows that the wild-harvested, indigenous aloe, produces higher levels of nutritional compound compared to their cultivated cousins (for example 25% more amino acids) and can produce up to 20 times more aloe sap compared to aloe vera. We talk more about this in our blog post on "Why is it called cape aloe?".


Read it here > "Why is it called Cape Aloe?"

What is the value of wild-harvesting?

As wild-harvesting has been described above, this method of gathering superfood benefits all the parties in the value chain, which include the harvesting community, the manufacturer (sourcing sustainably adds to their CSR score) and the end consumer (who purchases produce with higher nutritional benefits). Wild-harvesting is in essence a fair trade practice, which helps to build up local communities and economies, especially in developing countries.

 This process is also in favor of the end consumer. Wild-harvested superfoods contain more natural compounds and less artificial additives usually found in cultivated crops. This means that the the superfood as an ingredient in a product or as a product itself is more potent, effective and potentially safer to use than its cultivated cousins. Wild-harvest superfoods are known to have richer anti-oxidant properties and denser vitamin and mineral compounds. As the Cape Aloe Movement states "Because Aloe ferox (Cape Aloe) has been perfectly adapted by nature to this specific region of the Cape, and because the natural ecosystem is preserved, these plants flourish with minimal human intervention and produce naturally balanced levels of organic compounds, which distinguishes it from alien, genetically selected aloe sources".

 As consumers favor more and more organic products and as manufacturers are required to source fairly, ethically and sustainably, the value chain continues to support the local harvesters in their business and everyone in the value chain is able to enjoy the value of these unique superfoods such as the Cape Aloe. It's a win-win-win.




Consider the track record of herbal supplements

Have you ever thought about what people used as medicine before the development of pharmaceutical drugs? Oh, we are very thankful that science has developed to bring us much needed pharmaceuticals that have saved hundreds and thousands of lives. But is there still something to be said about traditional herbal medicine for the modern person? Have pharmaceutical drugs completely replaced the use of herbal remedies?

At the Cape Aloe Collection we believe that herbs are still very much relevant today, and in some instances may prove to be irreplaceable. There is just something about supplementing what the body was naturally designed to do, with what is naturally found on the earth, you know? But like all the earth's natural elements - fire, water, wind etc. - these forces can bring much upbuilding but also much destruction when interacted with irreverently. Therefore we need to consider what is the best way to go about natural living and using what the earth provides us with in an effective, healthy and sustainable way.

The Cape Aloe's for example have been used by the Khoi San tribe for more than three hundred years (that we know of) as a remedy for intestinal and wound healing. Many of the folk from the region of southern Africa still prefer to use these natural remedies over and above pharmaceuticals, and many use these remedies due to a lack of access to other medicines. When our family started studying the use of these herbs 25 years ago and started using these herbs for ourselves, we also found ourselves opting to use Cape Aloe for its beneficial effects rather than using pharmaceuticals.

So, there is something to be said about the track record of the effectiveness of these herbs, then (centuries ago), but also now in the modern day.

Herbs and pharmaceuticals

The human body was designed with all the mechanisms to heal itself. Cape Aloe and many other herbs enhance the body's own mechanisms for healing by complimenting the body's natural cleansing and restorative processes. Herbs prove themselves to be close therapeutic competitors for medication and are almost always safer, gentler and less likely to cause side effects. Many herbs may enhance the effect of pharmaceutical medicine when using it simultaneously, while some may counteract the effect. Herbs may be advantageous in combating negative side-effects of pharmaceutical medication. However, it is advisable to consult your doctor when you want to use herbs along with prescribed drugs.

The basics of using herbs:

Follow the directions on the label! Each herbal product works uniquely, and just like anything else that you consume, you want to know what...and how much to put into your system. Generally, with herbal supplements it is safer to start on a low dose and gradually build up to establish the correct dose for your body. Just like all herbs are unique, every person is also different physiologically, and some people have more a more sensitive system than others. Some people will be able to take larger dosages than others, and for some people it will take longer to note a beneficial effect than for others who might notice a difference right away. Different individuals take from it what and how much they need. Therefore, you should always considering giving herbs enough time to work. It may take at least 3 months to start noticing all the beneficial properties of the herbs.   Potent herbal remedies such as the Cape Aloe Bitter Crystal may show some of its effects within a couple of hours (i.e. a natural laxative effect) but may also take a few days to show up in other individuals. Therefore, it is very important to not exceed the recommended dosages, as the effects of the product may compound and suddenly show up in full effect. Always take it slow, timely and gradual approach.   One of the main effects of herbal supplements such as the Cape Aloe supplements is the detoxifying effect - cleansing the body of toxins and natural build-up in the gut. Sometimes, symptoms of a chronic condition may temporarily worsen as part of the detoxifying process of the body. Other detoxification symptoms that may occur are diarrhea, nausea, flatulence, stomach, cramps & headaches. Symptoms are of a passing nature. Give your body time to adjust. Diarrhea, as part of the detoxification process, is only a problem if it lasts longer than a couple of days. When following the instructions carefully, these detoxifying symptoms may not be present or may only show up very mildly.

Safety for use

It is important to note that Cape Aloe collection herbs - especially products that contain aloe bitters are not advised for pregnant or breastfeeding woman or children under the age of 12. The effects of aloe bitters are extremely potent and could cause sever abdominal discomfort for these individuals.

So here is a breakdown of the DO's and DONT'S


  1. Trust that herbs really work - given their centuries old track record
  2. Consult your doctor first when considering to switch to a herbal regimen
  3. Read the product's label and instructions carefully
  4. Enjoy the journey to clean and organic living


  1. Rush the process - herbs work differently in different individuals
  2. Use more than the recommended dosage
  3. Quit the process if you don't feel an immediate difference - herbs take time to work
  4. Use Cape Aloe herbs if you are a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, or a child under the age of twelve.



So what is so different about Cape Aloe? Is it just another name for Aloe Vera?

Cape Aloe's are also famously known as Aloe Ferox, Bitter Aloe or African Aloe. They derive their name for their unique indigenous origin, namely, the South African Coast. They are also known as the Bitter Aloe, which is a distinguishing feature of this specie, and differentiates it from its close cousin, the Aloe Vera. 

Cape Aloe is often called the Bitter Aloe, because the leaves house a much higher density of valuable compound that are not found in other aloes. Compound such as "aloin" and amino acids are extremely potent materials that are packed with restorative properties. These compounds work naturally with your body's functioning to restore, heal and soothe ailments faster, more effectively and more naturally. We have dedicated a whole blog posts specifically toward busting the myths on 'aloin', incase you were just wondering about that.

Is there reaaaally a difference between aloes? I mean, isn't aloe just...aloe? It works, we all know it does. Nobody needs to make aloe famous.

I agree, and I'm really glad about that. I think there are many good articles out there about the benefits of aloe. But I am also really glad that you landed on this one. I think you'll be surprised to find out what there is still more to know about aloe that nobody has told you yet. My hope for this article is that you, as a consumer, will be more empowered to know what you are really consuming in using aloe supplements or skincare.


More about the unique properties of Cape Aloe

There are two distinct parts of the plant that are harvested. Firstly the yellow exudate (better known as the bitter sap), which drains from the outer green skin of the leaves when cut, and the remainder of the leaf that contains the mucilaginous gel and is extremely fiber rich. Compared to the Aloe Vera, Cape Aloe (or Aloe Ferox leaves) contain more potent properties as demonstrated by the following.

The freshly cut leaf of Cape Aloe produced approximately 20 times more bitter sap, weight by weight than the Aloe Vera. After extraction, the juice of the Aloe vera leaves decolorizes and loses its viscosity much more rapidly than does the juice of Cape Aloe. The amino acid content of Cape Aloe is almost double that of Aloe vera. Although both Cape Aloe and Aloe vera contain 7 of the 8 essential amino acids and all the other 12 non-essential amino acids, it is evident that Cape Aloe contains a higher concentration of these minerals, which can potentially ascribed to its harvesting in its natural habitat and not in domesticated fields. In skincare, Cape Aloe gel enriched with aloins (bitter) is demonstrated to inhibit collagen degradation.

The healing properties of Cape Aloe: according to scientific sources

Okay, hold on to your seats. It's about to get real fancy and scientific. I contemplated whether I should add this part. But I think it's important that we get the facts out there. These facts are not just pretty words on a picture, but they have been demonstrated by scientific research that has been ongoing for the last 50 years. If you're not a big reader, just skip down to the next picture, it's summarized there )

A study by Davis (1985) showed that when Cape Aloe was applied topically in a hydrophilic cream it reduced inflammation associated with arthritis (39%) and subsequent arthritis (45%). It has also been found that aloe has analgesic properties that can be ascribed to the presence of salicylates, which has an aspirin like effect (Shelton 1991)

Wound healing
Wounds treated with aloe showed rapid granulation and increased oxygen supply as a result of the increased blood flow (Davis 1989). The skin punch wounds healed more rapidly. The aloe gel reduced wound diameter, seemed to reduce scarring and inhibited acute inflammation. In another study, (Heggers 1996) stimulation of fibroblast activity and collagen proliferation was demonstrated. A recent study (Barrantes 2003) demonstrated aloe gel enriched with aloins (bitter) to inhibit collagenase and metalloproteases activity, which can degrade collagen connective tissue when unchecked. This activity supports the use of aloe in the treatment of chronic ulcers, burns and wounds.

The skin is composed of polypeptide chains that form aggregates of collagen fibrils, which influences the swelling and water uptake by the skin. The diffusion of water through the skin is limited and controlled by the stratum corneum (skin surface) that is in equilibrium with the atmosphere and underlying tissue. Since aloe is approximately 99% water it penetrates through the surface of the skin (stratum corneum) to the vascular dermal area thus hydrating the skin. Concurrently, the gel forms a cover to prevent the escape of moisture in the skin. Aloe gel increases the penetration of the skin by water hydration, occlusiveness (closes passage) and by increasing compound solubility. Subsequently, Davis (1991) has demonstrated that aloe gel enhanced the penetration of hydrocortisone and adds to its biological activity. Concomitantly, aloe gel increased oxygen supply as a result of increased blood flow (Davis 1989) and stimulates fibroblast activity and collagen proliferation (Thompson 1991) essential for skin tissue regeneration.

Gut health
The aloe juice has been used as a gastroinal tonic in a series of trials (Bland 1985) on human patients. It indicated a tonic effect on the intestinal tract with: a reduction in pH a reduction in bowel transit time intestinal bacterial flora benefited with a reduction in yeast bowel putrefaction was reduced and protein digestion and absorption was improved.The cathartic and laxative action of aloe bitter is well established. Its primary effect is caused by its influence on the motility of the colon (inhibition of stationary and stimulation of propulsive contractions). This results in an accelerated intestinal passage and a reduction in liquid absorption increasing water content in the faeces (Blumenthal 1998). In addition to the purgative effect the anthraquinone (bitter) substances stimulate the flow of gastric juices thus improving digestion. Soeda (1964) found that fractions from Cape Aloe gave a prophylactic (prevents infection) effect. While in a subsequent study, Soeda (1966) found the aloe juice to have inhibitory action against some bacteria and fungi.

In conclusion, the Cape Aloe has been demonstrated to be the most compound dense aloe species that provides an extensive range of health properties when used externally (like in skin care) or consumed. The unique biome and wild-harvesting method sustains the Cape Aloe's rich nutritional benefits, locking them in for the consumer to benefit from. The wild-harvesting story is a good one, don't miss out on it, see the link below


> read more about wild-harvesting of the Cape Aloe


I hope that you were able to pick up a new thing or two about aloe. If you want to learn even more about specific Cape Aloe products that are out there or get a free sample, give our product site a visit.