The aloe plant is a popular household plant with a gel-like substance found inside of the leaves. For thousands of years, people have used this gel for medicinal purposes.
Going back 6,000 years to early Egypt, the aloe plant was known as the “plant of immortality” for its ability to live and bloom outside of soil and because it was gifted during funerals. Today, the gel found inside the leaves of the plant is marketed and sold in everything from topical creams to dietary supplements.
Aloe plants are robust, and even people without green thumbs should be able to keep them alive. Harvesting the aloe gel also won’t destroy the plant either. Provided you give it the right conditions, new leaves should grow in its place.
Keep reading to learn how to care for, harvest, and use aloe plants for medicinal purposes.
Growing and Caring for Aloe Plants
Shopping for a maturing aloe plant at the store is best if you are looking to use the aloe gel more immediately. When shopping for aloe plants, look for planters with holes that will drain excess moisture. Aloe plants are native to dry regions, and wet soil can cause the roots to rot. Also make sure that the planter uses perlite, lava rock, coarse sand, or cactus soil.
Aloe plants love sunlight. You can leave them in the shade, but they may they can go dormant and no grow under these conditions.
Water and fertilize aloe plants sparingly. Depending on the soil and planting conditions, you may only need to water them once every three weeks, or when the soil is dry 1-2 inches below the surface. Replant when “root bound” to help the plant to continue to grow.
There are a lot of ways to replant or grow a new aloe plant. If you are curious about this, check out this guide.
How to Harvest Aloe Gel
When you first buy your aloe plant, it will probably be young, so you avoid cutting it until mature. Mature leaves will be thick and smooth and will be ready for harvesting. Using a sharp knife, cut near the trunk and avoid pulling or bending the leaf as this can damage the plant.
To harvest the aloe gel, you will cut it much like a fish. Cut off the serrated edges, and then down the middle until you see the white, translucent flesh. This is what you want to apply to your body.
You will have a lot of excess aloe when done. Scrape it into ice cube trays and freeze it for up to a month. Thaw when needed.
Since aloe plants are slow growing, avoid cutting the same plant too frequently. This is a good reason to have several aloe plants growing at once.
How to Use Aloe Gel
Using aloe gel is simple. But before getting started, make sure your gel has been drained of its yellow sap, as this can be irritating for some people, especially if ingested.
Here are some of the ways to use the gel:
- To moisturize the skin.
- To ease sunburns.
- For acne, blemishes, eczema, psoriasis, and bug bites.
- Removing makeup by applying the gel to a cotton ball and rubbing on the skin.
- As a natural shaving cream.
- As a skin exfoliant.
- To rinse your hair (2 tsp of aloe vera gel, 1 tbsp of lemon juice, and 1 cup of water.)
- For dry and cracked feet (½ cup oatmeal, ½ cup cornmeal, 4 tbsp aloe gel, and ½ cup unscented body lotion, let sit for 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water.)
You can also drink aloe gel, but it may not sit well with your body, so be careful. If you want to try consuming aloe, read this article first.
You don’t have to use the aloe plant for medicinal reasons. It is a friendly and enduring plant that doesn’t need a lot of care to thrive. Whether on your desk at work, in your home, or planted in the garden, aloe is a great plant to have around.