In addition to being a certified herbalist and aromatherapy consultant, Gina finds the unrelenting allure of gardening very strong.
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.
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
manatita44 from london on February 21, 2021:
It's an interesting plant. We probably have it in Grenada under a different name. Read another article of yours yesterday. Extremely beautiful but I realized from my comments, that I had visited it before.
Leaf of Life can probably help my very sore fingers. Any other ideas?
Gina Welds Hulse (author) from Rockledge, Florida on February 20, 2021:
Essential oils like eucalyptus and sweet orange, as well as herbs like turmeric can certainly be beneficial for what I think you are asking....COPD, correct? I've never tried leaf of life for that, but I do have an article about using essential oils for COPD.
Gina Welds Hulse (author) from Rockledge, Florida on February 19, 2021:
I am really not sure, to be honest. Just do a bit of local research. Let me know what you find out. I'd be interested. It grows in different places and has so many different names. Just be careful that you do in fact get the variety mentioned in the article as there are many varieties of this, and not all are beneficial.
hk on August 06, 2020:
Emmanuel on May 14, 2020:
Can this leaf be helpful for hyperinflated lung disease?
Eula on April 14, 2020:
I am from Jamaica and know this plant.my mom used it for a lot of ailments.i would like to find this plant,i live in Melbourne Florida.
samuel ajibola on March 05, 2020:
leave is used for boils from Nigeria
Joyette Helen Fabien from Dominica on November 12, 2019:
We have a lot of this plant in Dominica, but strangely it is not widely used.Thanks for sharing this information on its uses and benefits. I am going to begin using it.
Patrick on November 09, 2019:
I wish I would have known about this plant years ago. It could have helped my wife who suffered from kidney failure. She has passed away at the age of 53.
Mizoon Ibrahim on September 26, 2019:
I have leaf of life growing wild, never knew the benefits of the plant.
Danie Victor Alexandre on September 15, 2019:
I have been a gardener most of my life. Now that I’ve raised my children, I have a bit more time to devote to my garden. That is whenever I need tropical therapy from my job, CEO of a law firm on the Treasure Coast Of Florida.
I have been discovering the miraculous benefits of most of what’s in my garden.
The greatest discovery was the leaf of life plants I’ve been seeing pop up. I was about to remove them until a high school friend visiting me pointed out the numerous health benefits of this plant.
My question is:
Where would I find the most information regarding small plants with lifesaving benefits most consider weeds?
Theodora on September 02, 2019:
Please am battling with depo shot contraceptive i took it for three months and it has wear off but my menses hasn't come out for months now i dnt know if the leaf of life can help correct my system.
Norma Vombo on August 30, 2019:
Can this plant be found in African countries ? I am in Zimbabwe and have a problem of high blood pressure.
Marc on August 18, 2019:
Where can I purchase a plant.
I live in So Cal. , but willing to travel.
Nancy PNG on May 28, 2019:
How do I prepare it for the lump in my breast
Gina Welds Hulse (author) from Rockledge, Florida on May 23, 2019:
That is one way that I like to eat it as well. So simple! Thanks for visiting!
kalong on May 23, 2019:
i wash it and chew it.. its really good leave
Quincy Swain on March 26, 2019:
I have had this plant in my yard all my 48 years on this Earth, never knew what this plant was good for, and never could kill it. But by fire
Isaac mensah marfo on February 12, 2019:
I have the leaf of life and I will try it.God have bless us
lami on February 05, 2019:
Why vomiting after eating the leaf
Uwadiamen Iyamuosa on January 31, 2019:
I made a tea by boiling the leaves.
I have taken it twice now and each time have vomited.
What could have gone wrong to make me vomit?
Melissa Clauson on December 22, 2018:
Do you think this would work well if I placed in a dehydrator and used dried leaves in a tea?
NH on December 09, 2018:
I also want to as where to find this leaf. I reside in UAE. I bought one from the nursery but the taste is horrible and it's giving me nausea and I threw up after the consumption of leaf.
I am using it for my gall stones . can anyone pls send me the picture of this leaf ( those who hv already consumed).
The one I have is succulent & fleshy. so what surprised me here is the drying process of the leaves.
Rosalie on November 27, 2018:
Where can I find this leaf of life I have high cholesterol I live in southern california plz let me know
GLORIA on November 04, 2018:
hi i have it in my garden . Can it be used for gall stones?
Priyasarki on October 16, 2018:
Hey is this plant helpful for kidney stones..
But I don't recognize this plant please help me
Adrienne on September 10, 2018:
I drank the tea for five days, and I did get pregnant the next time I had sex after trying for four years
Gina Welds Hulse (author) from Rockledge, Florida on September 02, 2018:
The best way would be in a pot, and bring it inside during the cold winters. It tolerates the cold in Florida, but temps in Florida do not get as cold as the Northeast.
email@example.com on August 30, 2018:
how can i grow this plant in the northeast region of america?
Fazi on June 05, 2018:
Is it good for diabetes??
King Ollie on May 09, 2018:
I was on my deathbed now im not
sharon burke on May 04, 2018:
I have been using the Leaf Of Life plant for over a year now and it really works. I gave my daughter for a high fever recently (as she chewed it up) and after a few hours she was well on her way. This is truly a treasure and a remedy for colds and flu like symptoms. Thank God I found it.
Paula on March 15, 2018:
I have been spreading this information for a number of years now. So glad to know that the Big Pharma can’t harvest it (all) and put into powder. Thank God/Yah. I just eat a leaf occasionally (without salt). This lady from Haiti saw my plants and told me that her brother had kidney stones and was schedule for operation, his mom gave him this tea for two weeks. When he got to the hospital for the surgery there was no Kidney stone. What great gift we have from God/Yah. Be blessed, Shalom
Terry on February 17, 2018:
I juice the leaves and add a pinch of salt and give it to my boys .
JoAnne on January 18, 2018:
Lovely music and video.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 02, 2018:
I know this plant as we had some in our garden. I know some people use it but I really haven't. I want to try the tea and thanks for the brewing instructions here.
Elaine on January 02, 2018:
I am growing baby plants from a leaf I brought back from St Lucia.
How big do they have to be before I separate them and is it best to cut the leaf into sections and leave the sections attached to the baby plants. I have seven babies so far. So exciting!!!
I don’t want to lose these treasures
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 26, 2017:
Interesting. I know this plant but have never thought it's edible. Thanks for the new knowledge.
Dominique on September 10, 2017:
Where can u get it from pls
Gina Welds Hulse (author) from Rockledge, Florida on August 31, 2017:
I never thought about adding the leaves to salads. I would think the very young ones would be best.
Browny on August 31, 2017:
It is a wonderful plant ..truly a leaf of life. .it is also a great add to salad dishes. .. love this plant a great gift from mother nature. .bless
LEAFOFLIFE on August 11, 2017:
Will the tea method help with the high blood pressure and cholesterol?
Fatter on June 12, 2017:
Hi, I brought a leaf of life plant home from Jamaica. I live in Denmark, Europe and have the plant in a pot in the window, it seems really happy. How much water does it need? Is it a sukkulent, that needs to dry between watering or should it never dry? Hope you can help..
Ako on June 05, 2017:
Can the leaves of life be used to treat vaginal stenosis?
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 09, 2017:
I learn so much from you, Gina. I love that natural remedies can be derived from plants we find in the garden. I don't know if I've ever seen this particular plant, but I'll certainly keep my eyes out for it!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 11, 2017:
It's good to know about these all-purpose health-remedy plants. Thanks for the suggestions on how to use this leaf of life.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 09, 2017:
Cool I will look into local varieties.
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on April 08, 2017:
This is very interesting and I would try it thank you for bringing it to our attention.
Blessings my friend