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Ivan Edward Danhof: 1928–2021


Ivan Danhof, PhD, MD, often referred to as “the Father of Aloe Vera,” died on July 15, 2021, after a five-year battle with blood cancer. He was 93 years old. Danhof was an early pioneer in aloe (Aloe vera, Asphodelaceae) research and used his findings to produce aloe-based nutraceutical products. He also maintained a private medical practice, which he retired from at 90.

Danhof was born on June 24, 1928, in Grand Haven, Michigan. He, his parents, and three siblings moved to the Dallas, Texas, area in 1945, when his father took a job as a pastor. Except for brief absences to study elsewhere, Danhof lived in Grand Prairie for more than 60 years.

Danhof graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas in 1946 and obtained a two-year degree from North Texas Agricultural College, now known as the University of Texas at Arlington, which he attended with his future wife, Martha. Danhof earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology at North Texas State University, now known as the University of North Texas (UNT), and, in 1950, he married Martha. The couple left Texas the same year so Danhof could pursue his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned an additional master’s degree in nutrition and a doctorate in physiology.

In 1953, Danhof returned to Grand Prairie and studied for his medical degree at Southwestern Medical School, now known as the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and simultaneously taught there as a professor of physiology. He graduated in 1962, and in 1966 had a postgraduate fellowship at the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation of the Southwest, where he developed expertise in gastroenterological diseases, pharmacology, and clinical nutrition. Even after going into private practice for digestive medicine, Danhof maintained a relationship with the medical school for about 30 years, teaching as an associate professor in physiology and conducting pharmaceutical research.

In 1968, after receiving a Fulbright scholarship, Danhof traveled to Afghanistan, where he taught at Nangarhar University in Jalalabad and was a clinician at the university’s hospital. His wife and three children accompanied him, and they lived there until 1970. He sought to improve the care and services that the hospital provided and arranged for interns and residents from Texas to work there. His tenure in Afghanistan also marked the beginning of Danhof’s interest in herbal and traditional medicine, as he observed people from nomadic tribes who came to the hospital only when their folk remedies were insufficient. Another lasting legacy from his time in Afghanistan was two “God-given” additions, Sadir Ahmad and Faiz Behsudi, the first of several adopted members of the Danhof family.

Upon returning to the United States, Danhof continued his teaching career and medical practice, which expanded in 1976 when he established North Texas Medical Associates to further his research. This facility, which Danhof designed, also housed IED Limited, his nutraceutical company that developed nutritional and herbal products under the brand name Danhof Aloe. Danhof also served as a pharmaceutical consultant and on review panels and advisory committees of the US Food and Drug Administration, largely for gastrointestinal drugs. His interests included digestive diseases and natural treatments for those diseases.

Danhof’s research on aloe began in the mid-1980s and resulted in his book Remarkable Aloe: Aloe through the Ages (Omnimedicus Press, 1987). He studied the many folk uses of aloe, from its use for gastrointestinal diseases to the immune-boosting properties of aloe leaf polysaccharides, which can activate natural killer cells that can target and bind to cancerous cells.

His interest in aloe became more personal when his grandson Phillip was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia at age 2 in 1994, and aloe’s anticancer potential became his primary focus until his retirement in 2018. Over the years, he was awarded numerous patents for extract preparation methods for aloe-based products. Danhof’s daughter Jane, a breast cancer survivor, used her father’s extracts as part of her treatment. In recognition of his achievements, UNT honored Danhof as a distinguished graduate in 2005.

Those who knew him remember Danhof as a devout Christian, and he was a member of the congregation formed by his father in Grand Prairie. His creative talents often were reflected in this area of his life, as he contributed to the design of the church’s updated building and stained-glass windows, directed the choir, played the organ, and composed original hymns. His skill with the pipe organ led to a hobby of refurbishing old organs and donating them to local churches. His interest in architecture was akin to another career; he designed multiple commercial buildings in Grand Prairie, residences for colleagues, and his own family home.

Danhof and his family also traveled extensively. He was multilingual and grew up speaking Dutch since his parents were both from the Netherlands. Eventually, he also was fluent in Esperanto, Farsi, French, German, Pashto, and Spanish, with lesser fluency in Japanese and Mandarin.

Ivan Danhof is survived by his wife of 71 years, Martha Aye Crouch Danhof; sister, Phyllis Danhof Speck; his children Sadir Ahmad, Jane (Harry) Danhof Slaten, Mark (Debra) Danhof, Lucinda Johnson, Martha (David) Danhof, Masahiro Tajima, Gary (Melody) Danhof, and Faiz (Liz) Behsudi; and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and -nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, Benjamin and Lois Danhof; sister, Marie Danhof Cooper; and brother John Danhof.