When you forget to use sunscreen or the sun surprises you one day while out and about, you generally turn to aloe vera to treat that sore and irritating sunburn.
Because it brings so much relief during the healing process—almost like a gooey superhero—you’ve probably wondered what else Aloe Vera gel is capable of.
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The plant is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and irritation, fight bacteria, and deeply moisturize parched skin.
Aloe Vera has been used for various health conditions for thousands of years. You can buy Aloe Vera gel at the grocery store or pharmacy but did you know you can also grow your very own Aloe Vera plant at home?
Read on to learn how to use Aloe Vera and the potential benefits and risks.
How to Harvest Aloe Vera Gel
When the tips of the leaves attain a rosy tinge, the leaf is ripe and ready to harvest. Choose a thick, smooth large leaf and use a clean, sharp knife to cut it as close to the trunk as possible. A knife is the best way to harvest the leaves, as handpicking aloe vera may cause tissue damage to the leaf and the plant.
Just getting a healthy leaf will get you nowhere if you don’t know how to prepare it properly. Aloe leaves contain a yellowish sap, called aloin, which can be very bitter and cause stomach upset in some individuals. If you plan on ingesting Aloe, be sure to drain all of the aloin beforehand.
Aloe is one of those set-it-and-forget-it plants that do best when you don’t over-tend to it. With minimal effort, aloes will thrive in most households–even with little sunlight and water. Simply choose a large enough pot and some dry, sandy soil (like the kind you would buy for cacti), and place it near a bright window.
Direct sun can burn the leaves so don’t panic if your home doesn’t get a ton of sunlight. Water it every few weeks, letting it dry out between waterings. That’s it.
If you can’t use all of the gel from a single leaf in one sitting, simply cover and place in the fridge. It will be good for a few days this way; but don’t forget, like all good things, aloe does degrade slightly over time. For long term storage, simply cut the leaf (with or without skin) into cubes and freeze.
Depending on the size of your plant, you can harvest a good amount of gel in very little time. All you’ll need is a sharp knife, a clean work area, paper towels (or clean cloth), and a storage container.
Which Aloe Leaf Should I Choose?
The first thing you need to do is identify a ripe leaf. Look for one that’s thick, smooth, and deep green. If you squeeze it gently, you should feel a bit of pressure without being able to squeeze all the way through. The size of the leaf will depend on how large your plant is. If you have a large, mature aloe plant, you should choose a leaf that’s about a foot long or longer.
If you have a smaller potted plant, leaves that are around 4 inches long and at least an inch thick will work fine. The larger and thicker the leaf is, the more gel you’ll get. Make sure that you leave enough leaves for the plant to continue growing. Avoid taking too many from the same spot, and only harvest the larger leaves from the center.
Fresh Aloe Vera
- Choose a large, unblemished leaf from a mature aloe plant.
- Since most of the nutrients are housed near the stem, use sharp scissors to cut the leaf as close to the stem as possible.
- Let the yellow sap drain from the leaf, then rinse it and pat it dry.
- Lay the leaf on a flat surface and use a serrated knife to remove the top piece of skin. Flip the leaf over and remove the bottom piece of skin. Discard remaining stalk and rind.
- Apply the gel directly to the skin or freeze and apply to inflamed skin, cuts or wounds.
- Add to smoothies, drinks, or salad dressings immediately after harvesting.
How to use Fresh Aloe Gel
1. Heals burns
You can apply fresh aloe gel directly to your skin. Due to it’s soothing, moisturizing, and cooling properties, aloe vera is often used to treat burns. If you have a sunburn or another mild burn, apply aloe vera a few times a day to the area. If you have a severe burn, seek medical help before applying aloe.
2. Clears Acne
Using fresh aloe on your face may help clear up acne. You can also purchase aloe products designed for acne, including cleansers, toners, and creams. These may have the extra benefit of containing other effective ingredients, too.
Acne products made with aloe may be less irritating to the skin than traditional acne treatments.
3. Adds Moisture
Because aloe vera gel is mostly water, it helps to hydrate the skin without that post-application greasy feeling.
4. Slows Signs of Aging
Aloe stimulates fibroblast activity which creates an uptick in collagen production and elastin fibres that make the skin less wrinkled and more elastic.
5. Lightly Exfoliates
The salicylic acid aloe vera contains acts as an exfoliator, helping to gently slough off dead skin cells.
6. Ease Eczema and Psoriasis
Aloe vera gel also contains compounds that help reduce inflammation, meaning it may be helpful in easing skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
7. Make a Natural Shaving Cream
Because aloe vera is hydrating and has a slippery texture, it makes a great natural alternative to expensive shaving gels.
8. Relieve Itchy Bug Bites
If you have a mosquito bite that just won’t quit, turn to aloe vera. It can help soothe irritated skin, such as from bug bites, because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
9. Rinse your Hair with it
Aloe vera also does wonders for your hair. Makes for a nourishing hair mask’ simply apply aloe vera to your strands and let it sit before showering!
10. Heal Dry, Cracked Feet
Turn this ultimate green beauty ingredient into a foot mask that makes dry, cracked feet baby soft. Mix together 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 4 Tbsp aloe vera gel, and 1/2 cup unscented body lotion and rub all over tired feet until well exfoliated. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Aloe’s healing properties work just as well on our insides as they do on our outsides. When eaten, aloe vera aids digestion decreases inflammation and promotes healing of the digestive tract. There are dozens of other benefits for aloe vera, such as toothpaste, constipation relief and possible improvement of IBS symptoms but we would never suggest you ingest anything without first discussing it with your doctor, pharmacist or otherwise seeking a professional opinion.
How to choose the best aloe vera gel
If you aren’t in a position to grow your own Aloe Vera plant or your plant isn’t ready to be harvested yet, here are a few things to consider when purchasing a bottle before the home-made products can be used.
The higher the Percentage, the Better
This is why we strongly suggest using your own natural plant. A low percentage of aloe vera within the gel means it contains other additives like thickeners, preservatives, colours and fragrances.
100% gel doesn’t mean 100% Aloe Vera
Make sure aloe vera is at the top of the list of ingredients. “99% pure aloe vera” is your best bet.
Check the Expiration date
Fewer preservatives may mean the product is less shelf-stable, but it also means the product is cleaner and better for your skin and body.
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Avoid Aloe Vera gels that contain alcohol, fragrance, and color. Alcohol denat and cetyl alcohol, for example, can also irritate the skin.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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