Aloe Vera has been grown for years as a beautiful houseplant, but did you know that you can grow aloe vera for its medicinal properties as well? Aloe has a long list of unique medicinal applications that make it an invaluable house plant.
The first time I was introduced to the aloe plant was when I was three years old. I awoke in the middle of the night and noticed that my mother had left a vaporizer running in my room. The steam piqued my curiosity and when I reached out to touch the source of it I got a nasty surprise, a painful burn.
My mother, upon hearing my howls, scooped me up and brought me to the living room where we had an aloe vera plant growing on a window sill. She broke off a piece of the plant and began rubbing the cool wet insides of the plant on my burn.
Apparently, my mom was ahead of her time! In a study conducted with 50 participants in 2013 found that those who used aloe vera in place of silver sulfadiazine cream actually showed better healing results! Not only was the aloe considerably less expensive, but the group utilizing aloe vera also healed faster with increased pain relief.
In addition to treating burns, growing aloe in the home improves indoor air quality and has a number of other medicinal uses. So many uses in fact, that it has been dubbed a “miracle plant” since the dawn of recorded history.
Uses of Aloe Vera
Topical applications of Aloe Vera
- Treats burns, including sunburns
- Alleviates itching from bug bites and rashes
- Can be used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema
- Is used to treat cuts/ has antimicrobial properties
- Use as a base to create an effective homemade hand sanitizer
- Used to treat varicose veins and hemorrhoids/ reduces inflammation
- Relieves Anal Fissures, in a 2014 study improvement in pain, wound healing and hemorrhaging were considerably better than the control group.
Oral Applications of Aloe Vera
- Can be used to treat indigestion
- May inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria (which often leads to ulcers)
- Can be used to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics
- Is an effective laxative
- Is used to cleanse the body of accumulated toxins
- Improve oral health when added to toothpaste *2017 study showing significant improvements
To use aloe vera for oral applications cut open several stems of the plants and squeeze out the gel contained within. Add the gel to juice and mix it in the blender. Doing so makes the aloe gel more palatable. Cheers, drink up!
How to Harvest Aloe from a Plant
Aloe harvested from live plants is more potent and effective than store-bought aloe products. This is because aloe begins to lose its potency soon after being harvested. Preservatives are also added to some commercially prepared aloe products which further decrease their effectiveness.
To harvest aloe for gel and juice:
- Remove no more than 2-3 leaves at a time, choosing thicker leaves from the outer edges of the plant.
- Be sure the leaves are mold and damage-free, they need to be healthy.
- Since most of the beneficial nutrients are contained within the base of the leaves, cut them as close to the stem as possible, avoiding the roots of the plant.
- Gently wash and dry the dry leaves and using a knife, remove the prickly edges.
- Separate the interior gel from the leave by carefully cutting it open and scraping alongside the leaf.
- As you cut the aloe you might be aware of a yellow-sap like substance. This is known as aloe vera latex. Dispose of this substance.
- Finally, cut the gel into cubes or slices.
How to Grow Aloe Vera
Like Cacti, aloe vera plants need a warm sunny spot and very little water to thrive. To start them from seed, sow the seeds in 4″ pots that have been filled with a soil mixture that includes 50% sifted compost and 50% coarse, sharp sand (or pumice). Add a tablespoon of wood ash. To transplant aloe, simply plant them in a cactus potting soil mixture, or use your favorite potting soil, but amend it with perlite or sand.
Similar to cactus, aloe vera does not like to sit in standing water, so ensure the pot has lots of drainage holes. To prevent over-watering check the moisture content of the soil by inserting a finger into the soil several inches deep. When the soil is dry that means it’s time to water the plant again.
Aloe vera plants prefer six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily, but they will tolerate light shade as well.
If the leaves of the plant begin to turn yellow or brown it may mean that the plant is being over-watered or receiving too much heat from direct sunlight. In this case, reduce watering and/or try to move the plant to another location. As leaves are cut to use new leaves will eventually grow in to replace them.
More Aloe Vera Resources:
For a more comprehensive list of aloe’s uses here are a few good books to check out:
- Hydrogen Peroxide and Aloe Vera Plus Other Home Remedies by Conrad LeBeau
- Aloe Vera: Nature’s Soothing Healer by Diane Gage
- Aloe Vera Handbook: The Ancient Egyptian Medicine Plant by Max B. Skousen
If you aren’t quite ready to take care of an Aloe Plant, but would still like the benefits of natural aloe vera gel, you can purchase pure Aloe vera gel as well.
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