Leaf of Life: Where It Grows and How to Use It
Leaf of Life: a Medicinal Herb
Leaf of life is a medicinal herb that is native to Madagascar and is very common in Jamaica. It's also a popular houseplant and has become naturalized in many tropical and subtropical areas.
It is widely used as an herbal remedy for many different types of ailments and is linked to helping lessen the symptoms of upper respiratory issues such as bronchitis. In this article, I will discuss:
- Different names for the leaf of life
- Where the leaf of life can be found
- How to use the leaf of life
1. Names for the Leaf of Life
The scientific name of the leaf of life is Kalanchoe pinnata. It is also known as Bryophyllum pinnatum and Cotyledon pinnata.
The leaf of life is also known by several common names:
- Air Plant
- Cathedral Bells
- Miracle Leaf
- Life Plant
- Leaf of Life
- Love Bush
- Live Forever
- Goethe plant
CABI Invasive Species Compendium Map of K. pinnata
- Kalanchoe pinnata (cathedral bells)
In Queensland, Australia, K. pinnata was ranked 47 of 200 invasive naturalized plants (Batianoff and Butler, 2002). This map of the geographical distribution of the leaf of life shows where the plant is considered naturalized (aquamarine dot).
2. Where Is the Leaf of Life Found?
This plant can be found all over the world in the southern hemisphere:
- French Polynesia
- United States
- and many other places!
In Jamaica, it can be found everywhere, and in some locations, it's considered invasive due to overpopulation and cultivation.
Planting and Propagation
Some people plant it in their gardens for easy access. It makes a very decorative addition to the garden. In order to propagate a leaf of life plant, all you need is a leaf dropped into some soil. Each leaf will grow a new plant from the seeds around the edge of the plant.
3. How Do You Use Leaf Of Life?
Always consult with a qualified herbalist or medical professional before introducing a new herbal supplement into your regimen. Proper dosing strength and dosing frequency should be monitored by a qualified specialist. Check for side effects with current medications and any contraindications that may exist with preexisting conditions before proceeding.
What is the Air Plant Good for?
Historically, Kalanchoe pinnata was used in folk medicine to lessen the symptoms of cardiovascular dysfunction, diabetes, wound healing, and inflammation. The leaf of life was used traditionally in Trinidad and Tobago as a treatment for hypertension and kidney stones, and studies show K. pinnata extract significantly promotes wound healing. According to Obregón-Díaz et al (2019) and Biswas et al (2011), the roots and leaves of Kalanchoe pinnata are known to have the following capabilities:
These attributes suggest the leaf of life could have remedial properties for a number of ailments.
Ways the Tree of Life Could be Used
It's important to note that the following remedies are derived from my experience and are not scientifically backed. Talk to your doctor and herbalist before attempting any of these remedies or the recipes I've provided.
Leaf Of Life Tea Recipe
The leaves of the plant can be picked and stored for days without withering because of their succulent nature. I personally use this tea as an alternative remedy for respiratory conditions, and I always get great results.
Herbal tea made from the leaf of life is used to alleviate the symptoms of conditions such as shortness of breath, menstrual problems, asthma, coughs, as well as a chest cold. If you do have asthma, be sure to have a doctor-prescribed medication as well, as asthma can be deadly.
To make an easy and quick cup of leaf of life tea:
- Bring one cup of water to boil then add three leaf of life leaves; let simmer for three minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to sit for two to three minutes.
- Remove leaves from the tea and sweeten with one to two teaspoons of organic honey.
If you are making more than one cup, increase the serving size of boiling water and the number of leaves added.
Chest Cold Remedy
The stem, as well as the leaves, can be placed in water and taken daily to rid the body of mucous and waste matter.
- Warm three leaves and juice them.
- This should yield two to three tablespoon of the leaf of life juice.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Take one tablespoon three times a day for as long as needed.
Cough Mixture for Cold, Coughs, and Chest Congestion
It is said that you can chew the leaves, and extract the juices by adding salt.
I detail the way I prefer to extract the juices below. I place the stems, as well as the leaves, in water and take it daily to rid my body of mucous and waste matter.
- Warm 13 fresh leaf of life leaves over a fire or the stove.
- Rub the leaves between your palms until they become juicy.
- Squeeze the juice into a small pot. This should yield at least six to eight tablespoons of juice.
- Add the juice of three limes and two ounces of honey to the pot.
- Simmer on a low flame for five to seven minutes.
- Remove from flame and allow it to cool. Store in a bottle.
- Take one tablespoonful every three hours for two weeks.
- Skip one week and repeat, if necessary.
I'll occasionally eat the fresh leaves of the leaf of life as a remedy for intestinal problems.
Poultice for Skin Ulcer, Sprains, and Insect Stings
The crushed medicinal leaves of this herb will bring relief from insect bites, bruises, boils, and also skin ulcers. A poultice of the crushed leaves can also be applied to the outer body for sprains, pains, as well as earaches. Placing the back of the leaves on open sores, cuts and wounds will promote healing, help stop bleeding, and discourage infection.
- Grind seven fresh leaves into a poultice.
- Apply the poultice evenly to the affected area.
- Apply a fresh poultice twice a day, morning and night, as often as needed.
If you have an open wound, be sure to talk to your doctor before applying leaf of life poultice.
Biswas, S. K., Chowdhury, A., Das, J., Hosen, S. Z., Uddin, R., & Rahaman, M. S. (2011). Literature review on pharmacological potentials of Kalanchoe pinnata (Crassulaceae). African journal of pharmacy and pharmacology, 5 (10), 1258-1262.Chicago
Honychurch, P.N. Caribbean Wild Plants and Their Uses. 1986. Macmillan Caribbean.
Nayak, B. S., Marshall, J. R., & Isitor, G. (2010). Wound healing potential of ethanolic extract of Kalanchoe pinnata Lam. Leaf—a preliminary study. Chicago.
Ojewole, John A.O. "Antinociceptive, Antiinflammatory, and Antidiabetic Effects of Bryophyllum Pinnatum Leaf Aqeuos Extract." Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 99, Issue 1, 13 May 2005, pp. 13-19.
Robertson, D. "Jamaican Herbs: Nutritional and Medicinal Values." 1982.
Taylor, Leslie. The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs: A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinals. 2005. Square One Publishers.
Xiuzhen, Yan, Lee Kuohsiung, and Yamagishi Takashi. "Isolation and Identification of Cytotoxic Compounds From Bryophyllum Pinnatum." Chinese Journal of Cancer Research. December 1992. Volume 4, Issue 4, pp. 1-3.
Have You Tried Leaf of Life Tea?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 Gina Welds Hulse