We all love a nice succulent and Aloe Vera is one of the best for beginners and experts alike, it has a lot to offer.
Aloe Vera is a low maintenance, large garden plant in USDA zones 8-11 and a wonderful houseplant in other regions. When applied to the skin the sap can reduce inflammation around all types of burns, especially effective on UV. It also has collagen supporting properties and can help to reduce acne scarring.
There is a lot more on offer here as well, Aloe Vera is a star among plants.
How To Harvest Aloe Vera
Do not be daunted by this as you will harvest from a mature plant that will not be harmed by you taking a leaf here and there.
Harvesting Aloe Vera could not be more straight forward. Simply cut towards the base of a leaf and you will see it comes away cleanly if you use a sharp knife. The wound will heal within 24 hours. Take 1 inch slices and wrap the remainder of the leaf and put into the refrigerator.
If you plan on repotting I would not take a leaf for a while as you may have an accidental breakage or two during transplanting.
Medicinal Qualities Of Aloe Vera
- People do use Aloe Vera juice to aid digestion and it can be seen to carry a warning for it’s laxative like effects. This very quality means that it is in dispute about being safe for continued use and the general feeling is short term and in smaller quantities.
- Aloe Vera reduces inflammation on burns and other minor abrasions. By reducing inflammation it can also reducing the pain associated with a burn. Particularly effective if you keep your Aloe Vera leaf in the fridge once you have cut it as the cooling sensation is fantastic.
- Aloe Vera can be used in dental hygiene. Now this is based on a very small sample study of 30 participants with 15 using the Aloe Vera mouthwash and 15 using a placebo. The antibacterial properties in Aloe Vera were thought to account for the report of less inflammation in participants. There is much anecdotal evidence to support this and long history of Aloe Vera being used in societies who had yet to discover toothpaste. A 2019 study by Damascus University looked at the build up of plaque and gingivitis. The findings are interesting and will hopefully lead to further studies with larger sample sizes.
Cosmetic Benefits Of Aloe Vera
- As a hair conditioner you can use the gel of around one leaf for medium length hair. Either use a replacement for a bottled conditioner and work through your hair after shampoo. Then you can rinse and you will have shiny hair, or you can use as a leave in conditioner. For this you will need to prepare your gel. Just use the clear sap from the leaf and harvest as above, then mix equal parts to water. Stir for a while until it is all combined and you have a thinner mixture. Then add one to two drops of essential oils. This is important for those who would like the added benefit of a nice scent to their hair. Wash your hair as normal, condition and rinse and then add this as you step out of the shower. Work it into the scalp to help with dandruff and other skin complaints. Finally there is a hair mask that you can make with Aloe Vera and coconut oil. Mixing 2 parts coconut oil to 1 part Aloe Vera gel. You will need the oil to be melted so do this gently in a microwave first. Then use a fork to mix through the sap, make sure that your coconut oil is just liquid, not hot. Then apply to your hair, massage in well and leave on for at least 10 minutes. The longer you leave it the better the quality of nutrition.
- Anti- wrinkle properties of Aloe Vera are well researched and taken orally as a supplement there is significant evidence to suggest a reduction in fine lines. This is attributed to Aloe Vera extract having a procollagen gene expression, meaning it sort of activates what is already there and encourages elasticity in our skin. Using Aloe Vera topically and applying it directly to the skin has less research to back it up, but anecdotal evidence suggests it helps and add moisture. Simply wash and cleanse your face as normal, then apply the gel from your Aloe Vera plant. Harvest in slices as suggested and one leaf will see you through about two weeks of this process. Leave your layer of gel on for no more than 10 minutes as it will dry out and make your skin feel a little tight. Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Do this as part of your daily facial regime.
- Acne scars and burn scars are often treated with Aloe Vera. I hesitated before putting this in the cosmetic section as I have bad acne scarring and I feel that it is not out of vanity that people wish to diminish these issues, more for confidence. An evaluation of clinical research in the topical use of Aloe Vera gel has found conclusively that there is evidence to suggest it works to ‘enhance the healing process of dermal injuries’. This includes post-operative scarring, burns, frostbite, skin infections, pressure sores and more. When we talk about the effectiveness of any treatment it is always when used in consultation with a qualified medical professional. Even a qualified herbalist would not recommend ceasing treatment in favor of alternatives, more likely they could advise to what could work alongside more modern medicines.
Aloe Vera In The Garden Or Home
- Growing outdoors as a structural plant attracting hummingbirds and native wildlife. Aloe Vera grown outdoors in USDA zones 8-11 grows to be up to three feet, as a houseplant you will achieve 1-2 feet in height. The spread is roughly the same again and plant spacings should take this into account. The flowering stalk will shoot up higher still and stand proud of the spiked leaves. The tubular flowers are yellow and will feed your local hummingbirds through the Summer months.
- Grown indoors as a houseplant it will remove harmful solvents from the air. This is where science fiction meets science fact as Nasa conducted a Clean Air Study and looked at several houseplants. It was not just to see how effective they were at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen but also at cleansing certain toxins from the air. Aloe Vera was tested alongside other house plants like the peace lily or spider plants. It was found that Aloe Vera was effective at removing benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Now this was in sealed conditions to replicate those of space, however this should also be noted that they used on plant per 100 square feet. The conclusion could be that the more houseplants you have the more air purifying qualities you will find.
What Next & Further Reading
- How To Grow Aloe Vera In The UK Seriously easy and this guide will help you in any country but just check your specific sunshine and heat levels. Although a desert succulent, you will need to keep Aloe Vera out of direct sunlight.
- How To Grow Exotic Herbs At Home In The UK Once you get the bug for houseplants there may well be no stopping you!
- Sempervivum Tectorum Houseleeks A Grower’s Guide have been traditionally used in a very similar way to Aloe Vera.
- Green Pharmacy: The History and Evolution of Western Herbal Medicine by Barbara Griggs