Kalanchoe pinnata — scientifically known as Bryophyllum calycinum and Bryophyllum pinnatum — is a succulent perennial plant found chiefly in Madagascar, China, Africa, and South America. Kalanchoe’s main medicinal value stems from a high concentration of alkaloids, steroids, lipids, and other phytochemical compounds present in extracts of the plant. Among holistic and herbal medicine communities, kalanchoe pinnata’s medical use typically covers a range of mild to severe health conditions and is administered internally, externally, or both, depending upon individual need. Other names for the plant include air plant, miracle leaf, Goethe plant, and life plant.
One of the most common medical uses for the kalanchoe pinnata is for the treatment of wounds and minor illnesses. For lesions, skin ulcers, and external infections, the leaves of the plant are mashed or boiled and applied directly to the affected area. Healers claim that the plant speeds healing while providing analgesic relief to the patient. For illnesses such as head colds and influenza symptoms, caregivers usually boil kalanchoe leaves to make a topical poultice or administer extracts in a warm drink. Some healers also rely on kalanchoe’s antiviral properties to treat drug-resistant bacterial infections such as staphylococcus, pseudomonas, and E. coli.
Asian healers regularly use kalanchoe for conditions related to the eyes, ears, and throat. Ear infections and conjunctivitis might respond well to one or two drops of a diluted kalanchoe solution, while throat afflictions require a poultice made from the plant’s leaves. In both China and Trinidad, extracts and leaves from the plant are common ingredients in medicinal preparations for digestive illnesses, bleeding, inflammation, and respiratory conditions.
Musculoskeletal injuries also appear to benefit from treatments made with kalanchoe pinnata. South American and Chinese holistic healers often use the plant for sprains, fractures, strained muscles, and swelling. Trinidadians use kalanchoe for many physical illness as well as more abstract mental and emotional conditions. For instance, Trinidad healers might prepare a bath of kalanchoe leaves to dispel enchantments or make a warm drink with the leaves to combat parasites such as the tay tay worm.
Despite a degree of controversy among medical professionals about the efficacy of kalanchoe pinnata, some medical journals have cited successful clinical trials. For example, the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology reported positive results from a trial in which kalanchoe root was used to destroy parasitic worms. Additionally, the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology published the results of a study in which a solution made from kalanchoe extracts quickly healed the wounds of live rats.