It’s All in the Leaves.
I consider aloe to be one of the essential herbs to have in your home. Fortunately, it is one of the easiest plants to grow, requiring no special soil or even much watering.
I purchased my plant from a local produce stand within a few weeks of arriving in Texas. Once I got it home I replanted it. In late spring I gave it a bit of 5-3-3 organic fertilizer when it was looking really sad, and now I water it once a week. I keep it indoors in a sunny window, where it will get plenty of light and a bit of southern afternoon sun.
I wish I had a picture of it last October because it has filled out and grown a lot. It’s doing so well in fact, I think it will need to be repotted again by the end of the year.
It is thought that aloe originated in Africa, but it is not clear where. We do know that it has been grown by gardeners and herbalists for many of years. Its medicinal properties are legendary.
How to Grow Aloe Vera
The New American Herbal says that Aloe Vera has been selected and bred by humans over millennia and is unknown in the wild. The plant we know now may have an ancient hybrid that accompanied travelers through history for thousands of years. The Everything Guide to Aloe Vera for Health: Discover the Natural Healing Power of Aloe Vera has many ways to incorporate aloe vera use into our daily health and beauty routines. Learn how to grow aloe vera for your own use.
Aloe Vera Properties
Aloe is a low maintenance succulent plant that has thick stems full of juice and gel. Its leaves grow in a spiral from the base. These will become large and over time will create an elongated trunk that makes the plant lopsided.
As mentioned above it needs only moderate watering, well-drained soil, and lots of sun to thrive. In garden zone 8 and above it can be grown outdoors with frost protection.
Medicinal Aloe Vera Uses
It’s all in the leaves. Each leaf has two different medicinal uses – the juice and the gel. The yellow juice tastes bitter and is found between the leaf and the gel. It is known as a laxative and some people drink it for health benefits. It’s hard to extract the juice at home.
For me, the gel is what it’s all about.
Applied topically, the thick gel that oozes from the cut leaves is known to have soothing and pain relieving properties. Here’s how to get it.
How to Get Aloe Gel From a Plant
With a knife or using a twisting motion, detach a mature leaf from the lower part of you plant. Don’t worry about the plant; the remaining leaf area will repair itself. As a matter of fact, you can even cut off a portion from the middle of a leaf and it will seal over.
Place the leaf on a plate and open it up by making a split down the middle. Use a tablespoon to scoop out the inner gel. If you’ve never done this before, it really does keep it’s shape surprisingly well. It’s also extremely slippery. You can try to mash the extracted gel with the back of the spoon, but a fork works even better. If you are going after a consistent texture, you can put it in a blender to get it really smooth.
One medium leaf will produce about 2 Tablespoons of aloe vera gel, which will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. It is possible to extend the shelf life by a few weeks by adding 500ccs of vitamin C per cup of gel.
Using Aloe Vera Gel
For Sunburn – apply the gel directly onto a burn. You will feel the soothing and cooling effects immediately. Once the gel begins to dry, it can tighten the skin. If that becomes uncomfortable, just wash it off.
So that you are always ready, consider making frozen aloe gel cubes for sunburn relief. Follow the directions at Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care to make your own. Be sure to get the recipe for “exfoliating face & body wash with oatmeal” and “soothing mask with aloe and yogurt” while you’re there.
For Hair Care – Aloe Vera and Triple Herb Shampoo
- // 6 Tablespoons aloe vera gel
// 2 teaspoon fresh or dried spearmint leaves
// 2 teaspoon fresh or dried nettle leaves
// 2 teaspoon fresh or dried calendula flowers
// 20 ounces boiling water
// 8 ounces castile soap
// 5 – 10 drops lavender essential oil
Pour boiling water over the spearmint, nettle, and calendula, and let them steep at least 30 and up to 60 minutes. I like to use a french press. Strain the herbs and let them cool completely. If you are using fresh aloe from your own plant, mash or blend the gel (otherwise you will have aloe chunks in your shampoo). Add all ingredients together into a recycled shampoo bottle. Close the lid tightly and shake it well. You should also shake each time before using.
This recipe makes approximately 20 oz. of shampoo. Recipe courtesy of Twin Eagles. Be sure and check out their other aloe recipes Calendula Lavender Mist & Aloe Facial Toner.
For sore muscles and arthritis – (from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs)
- // 4 tablespoons Comfrey root and/or leaf
// 1/4th cup Aloe Vera Gel
// a few drops of spearmint or peppermint essential oil
Make a strong tea infusion of comfrey root/leaf and save 1/4th of a cup. Combine with aloe vera gel in equal parts. Add the EO and mix well. Shake before using and apply topically to sore muscles and joints. This mixture will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
Aloe vera is an easy to care for plant that is a great addition to your home medicine cabinet. Use these remedies to treat burns, skin irritation, and muscle aches.