Scientific name: Aloe barbadensis

Originally from east Africa, aloe vera has become an incredibly popular plant, so much so you can find it just about anywhere, from a kitchen decoration to the garden and the average store. But are you one of the few that actually cuts the plant and uses it for its many benefits?

Nutrients

  • Fiber
  • Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, E
  • Selenium
  • Silicon
  • Enzymes
  • Aloin
  • Anthraquinones
  • Polysaccharides
  • Tannins
  • Amino acids
  • Salicylic acid (active ingredient in asiprin)
  • Minerals: calcium, chrome, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc

aloe vera

Health Benefits

  • Healing for burns (1st, 2nd, 3rd, & sunburn): By cutting small sections of the thick leaves as needed, the gel inside is soothing and pain relieving, while also containing something called anthraquinones which promote quick healing/tissue repair.
    • Also helps prevent scaring.
  • Bug bites, rashes, eczema, acne, skin ulcers, poison ivy: Apply the gel to any of these issues as they arise to heal much quicker.
  • Laxative: taken internally the skin of the plant leaves is one of the safest. Also a main ingredient in many laxative products. CAUTION: if taking the skin by itself, be careful! Taking too much can cause problems like intestinal cramping and pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory
    • Taking the gel internally & externally can help arthritis & bursitis.
    • Taking the gel internally is helpful for digestion, stomach ulcers, and colitis.

Use Tips

To prepare fresh aloe gel to use from your plant, either you can just cut 1/2 inch strips off one leaf until it’s gone (if you don’t mind the way your plant looks this way), or to have some gel handy all the time, cut off a whole leaf, slice it open and scoop out the gel with a spoon into a bottle (blend in a blender if you want a smoother consistency). This will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

If using internally, to be safe and not accidentally take parts of the plant that have a little laxative action… you can buy aloe vera gel at the store which will also have a longer shelf life.

CAUTION

  • The outer skin of the leaf (also can be bought in powdered form) has strong laxative properties, and so should be taken with care and following dosage directions.
    • If pregnant, it’s best to avoid taking aloe internally to be safe.
  • Do no use aloe to treat staph or staph related disease (eg. impetigo). It seals the bacteria and creates a better environment for them to grow in.

Quick Remedies

(consult a doctor if experiencing any serious conditions)

  • Sunburn, bug bites, poison oak & ivy: No matter how severe, gently rub fresh aloe from inside a leaf onto the affected area. Wash and repeat as needed.
  • Arthritis pain, irritated digestion, colitis: Mix fresh aloe into your morning smoothie or drink with a little lemon juice and water or other juice, daily until symptoms have subsided.

How to Grow

Planting

Where do you live?

Aloe vera grows well in warm dry climates, so if you put it in a nice sunny window it’ll be happy for quite a few seasons without much hassle.

Put em in the ground

If you’re in a place that will get far below 40º, consider covering your aloe plant, or bring inside for the winter.

  • Full sun
  • Sandy, well-drained soil
  • Moderate watering
  • Can be pretty tolerant

Care

  • Aloe vera will tolerate some bad conditions but if it’s looking discolored or droopy it might need more sun or possibly less water (watering a good amount and letting the soil dry out is good practice).
  • If planting in a pot, it prefers a smaller area.

Harvest

  • As said above, feel free to either cut off an entire leaf or cut off segment by segment as needed.
  • To start more plants, cut a few 3 inch pieces, let dry out a bit, dip the cut ends in honey (optional) and stick the cut ends into soil. Hopefully some will take, and throw away any that look like they’re rotting.