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Aloe vera Plant – Uses, Benefits and Proper Plant Care

The world is filled to the brim with different sorts of plant life. Some of them are poisonous, some of them are delicious, but a few of them seem to be elevated directly into magical status. One such plant is the aloe vera, perhaps the most versatile of the flora. The plant with the thick, spiny, green leaves can be used to soothe burns, to clear your complexion, to remove makeup, and a slew of other things. You can even eat the stuff, which carries several health benefits. Perhaps the best part of aloe vera is the fact you can grow it in your own home with a little love and tenderness.

Topical Uses

In North America, aloe is perhaps best known as an ingredient in various products you can purchase at the grocery store. It is found in lotions and other skincare products and is used often in drive away the burning sensation one feels after a bad sunburn. Few things are as great as aloe vera for a bad sunburn. There are many aloe vera plant types, with tons of benefits, and you can create a whole bunch of beauty products all on your own.

Sunburns and Regular Burns

If you’ve found yourself having spent a bit too much time in the sun, reach for the aloe vera. While there are a great many products out there which include aloe as part of the healing and soothing formula, you don’t necessarily need to buy a bottle to find some relief.

Some of the other items found in these products are more chemical by nature and aren’t needed to reap the full healing benefits. Menthol, for instance, can sometimes be found in these products to provide a cooling sensation, but it does nothing to aid the actual healing.

The gel contained within the leaves serve as something of a pain reliever and helps to stimulate the regrowth of skin cells. This, combined with its moisturizing properties, make the plant one of the best ways to get your skin feeling better after spending too long in the sun.

In fact, aloe vera can help with most burns through the same method. Various studies showed a definite reduction in healing time for burns treated with aloe vera as opposed to those treated without.

A trick you can do is to fill an ice tray, the kind you put in your freezer to make ice, with aloe gel, then pop it into the freezer. When you get a burn, the cold from the ice works with the healing ingredients of aloe to reduce the pain even faster.

It should be noted, however, that aloe vera isn’t a cure for all. Anything more than a minor burn or sunburn should be shown to a medical professional.

Makeup Remover

One thing many makeup removers contain is an astringent, or something similar, which only serves to dry your skin. Those who wear makeup need to take their makeup off at the end of the day. But why go with chemicals when there is a natural alternative?

A glob of aloe gel placed onto a cotton pad or ball can serve as an excellent tool to remove that pesky makeup at the end of a long day. Not only will it get the job done, you’ll find your skin moisturized and feeling great.

Face Wash and Exfoliator

Sticking with the skin care theme, using aloe vera after removing makeup is also a great idea. There are a couple of great recipes out there to mix together an excellent face wash that’s perfect for your bedtime beauty routine.

Stir together one tablespoon of aloe vera gel, a teaspoon of lemon and a teaspoon of almond milk. Lather up your face and leave it on the skin for a minute before rinsing it all off and admiring the effects. Doing the same with a blend of a tablespoon of aloe gel and a teaspoon of organic coconut oil works to help reduce aging, some suggest.

You can further better your beauty routine by using aloe vera gel as a base for an exfoliator by mixing half a cup of the gel with brown sugar or baking soda, just enough so you can feel the gritty texture. Take the stuff and start rubbing it all over your rough parts and bask in the delightful softness you feel after rinsing off. Thanks to the ingredients in aloe, you won’t have to worry about irritation.

Hand Sanitizer

Yet another fun homemade concoction is this recipe for a hand sanitizer. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have a tendency to leave your skin feeling dry, which is more than a little unpleasant. Many lotions and hand soaps combat this in their own way, but you can give this a go: half a cup of aloe gel, a quarter cup of rubbing alcohol and 20 drops of an essential oil you like. It’ll smell good, sanitize your hands and, thanks to the aloe, keep them moisturized.

Shaving Gel

One way aloe vera can be used, which may not be thought of as readily, is as a shaving gel. You can use pure aloe gel to shave your legs, face, or whatever, and it works pretty darned well. The slickness of the gel helps you get close without cutting yourself, and if you do cut yourself, the natural antibacterial nature of the stuff will keep you from getting an infection. Should you wish to go the extra mile, you can also mix it with other ingredients, such as lotions or various sorts of oils. On its own, though, it gets the job done well.

Herpes and skin conditions

There is some evidence to support the idea that aloe vera can be used to combat the symptoms of genital herpes and some skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne. In early testing done by the University of Maryland, it was found that aloe vera gel outperformed some medications when it came to reducing inflammation. Testing also discovered aloe, when mixed with tretinoin, is great for treating acne, better than when using tretinoin on its own.

Internal Uses

In addition to its myriad topical uses, aloe vera has been found to be highly effective at working its magic in certain cases when used on more severe wounds, such as cutaneous wounds and ulcers, as well as having some effects when ingested. Care should be taken in these situations, however, as severe injuries should still be seen by a medical professional.

Bad Breath

If you wake up each morning with a constant case of halitosis, aloe vera may be just the cure for you. A herbalist and author named Letha Hadady suggest dissolving a quarter cup of pure aloe vera gel into a half cup of water or apple juice and drinking the concoction in order to drive away bad odors. Her reasoning? A compound found in the plant called B-sitosterol which can ease acid indigestion.

Laxative

That quarter cup of aloe vera mentioned in the bad breath drink is about as much as you should ingest at once unless you need to get things moving in your digestive system. Aloe vera can also be used as a laxative when taken in larger quantities. This is especially true for the juice of the aloe which can be taken from the skin of the plant, rather than the gel. This, however, is not a recommended use, as it can cause some extreme cramping.

Pearly Whites

Want to avoid going to the dentist? Early research indicates aloe vera might be able to help with that, as well. It seems that something in aloe keeps harmful bacteria from developing and causing tooth decay and gum damage. This research is still fairly young and needs more time to come about, but the prospect is certainly exciting.

First Aid

Aloe vera has been found to work well in the treatment of open wounds, though it isn’t a recommended treatment at this point. According to work done by a research group in India, aloe vera can help reduce bacterial growth in wounds and did seem to help the healing process, though it didn’t do as well as more traditional medications. For now, it isn’t recommended to use aloe on open wounds, especially larger ulcers and such, but it can work in a pinch.

Aloe As Food

When you think about all the medicinal uses of the aloe vera plant, you may not consider including it as part of your diet, as well. Aloe vera can be mixed with drinks, can be put into salads and can even be consumed raw, should that suit your fancy. Just keep in mind, this is the inner part of the plant. The thick skin isn’t particularly edible.

In a Salad

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After peeling off the skin and washing off the gel, chunks of the inner meat of the aloe vera plant can be placed into a salad, or even used as the main ingredient of a salad, with a little doctoring up with some herbs and such. You can also mix some of the gel in with your salad dressing to reap those benefits.

Getting Juiced

Consuming the juice of the aloe vera plant can also be a boon to your health. You can actually eat the plant completely raw, getting to the gel inside by crushing up the meat of the plant to help release the juices. To make it easier to consume, you can create a juice of sorts by soaking the plant in water overnight, then drinking the water the next day. Instead of water, you can also mix the stuff in with various kinds of juice.

Cooking with Aloe

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If you’re looking for something a little different, try cooking aloe vera. You don’t want to do anything harsh such as frying, but if you poach it, you’ll find it gets very soft and the weird, sticky texture of the gel fades away, leaving behind the meat of the plant with its mild flavor. You can cook it with spicy and potent herbs to get the flavors really going.

The Magic of Aloe

How does aloe vera work? What is it about the alien-like plant which gives it its healing qualities? Could it, in fact, be alien life? Well, no, probably not, but there are some special properties to the plant which can be pinpointed as helping it do its healing magic.

Compounds

The gel which is found just under the skin of the aloe plant, the part which is credited with healing wounds and burns, is actually almost entirely water. Some 99 percent of the gel is water, but mixed in are glycoproteins and polysaccharides. The former reduces pain and inflammation, and the latter helps the actual healing process by stimulating the skin cells. Some suggest it also improves blood flow to damaged areas, further increasing healing.

Precautions

There is much to keep in mind when it comes to aloe. The fact it cools and helps your skin out is undeniable, and this is likely done by the aforementioned chemicals and the cooling effects of the water within. However, there hasn’t been a significant amount of actual testing over the years. Tests have been small, and more needs to be done to truly grasp what Aloe can do.

One compound in the plant has even been picked up by a pharmaceutical company to be used in medications, and the FDA has approved it, so there is work being done, but for now, use aloe as a supplement, it isn’t a cure-all. It is also noted it shouldn’t be applied directly to open wounds, as this hasn’t been studied especially well, either.

Aloe on Your Own

When you have aloe in your own yard, there isn’t any need to go out and buy products which contain aloe. Many of those products have such minute amounts of the stuff they aren’t worth the cost of entry. So, your best bet becomes growing your own, and it isn’t something which is necessarily hard to do.

Getting an Aloe Plant

There are hundreds of varieties of aloe out there, but what you’re looking for is aloe vera. It is also known by its fancy name of Aloe Barbadensis, so ask for that if you want to look like you know everything. Aloe plants can be purchased at most plant stores. Just make sure the one you buy is nice and green.

Wondering how to care for an aloe vera plant? There are two ways to keep your aloe vera plants. You can have them in a pot indoors or plant them in a planter or pot outdoors, or even in your yard. The two methods do have different steps you should take to make sure your plant stays healthy and alive, though neither one is anything for which you need a verdant green thumb.

Growing Indoors

There are lots of aloe vera growing tips. If you live in an apartment, or just want to keep the stuff out of your yard, potting your aloe is a great way to make sure you have the plant at hand when you need it. Growing indoors is also ideal for colder climates, as the aloe plants originate in tropical climates.

Aloe is a succulent, and there is potting soil specifically designed for such plants. You’ll want a wide pot, to make sure it has room to grow, and you’ll want to make sure the pot has good drainage as you don’t want too much water on the roots at all times.

As with most plants, caring for an aloe plant has important things to remember, like how it’s important for the aloe to have sunlight. It should be between eight and six hours a day and should be indirect. From time to time throughout the week you may want to give the pot a spin to make sure all sides are getting their fair share of sunlight.

Watering is an easy thing and only needs to be done every once in awhile. After watering, don’t water again until the water has dried or drained by one to two inches from the top. If you’ve got too much water, you risk having the roots of the plant begin to rot, hence the need for drainage.

When it’s a warmer part of the year, you can keep the plant pretty moist, but it is recommended to reduce the amount you water in the colder parts of the year as the soil will take longer to dry, putting you at an increased risk for rot.

Once the plant starts getting large and heavy, you may find you’ll need to repot it in order to keep the roots from getting tangled up on each other, or growing strangely in a condition called being root-bound. In time, your plant may also begin to grow smaller plants, which will require removal to keep the original from losing out on nutrients and such.

Growing Outdoors

It should be no surprise that growing the aloe plant outdoors is the best option, considering outside is its natural environment. If you’re especially gung-ho, you can grow your plant outside during the warm months, then pot it up and bring it in for during the colder months, giving your aloe its best chance to thrive in colder environments.

In the more tropical parts of the world, you don’t really have any reason not to grow your plant outdoors, assuming you’ve got the space. If you live in USDA zones 8 through 11, you’re good to go. For the most part, you’ll just need to get it into the ground in some loose dirt and let it do its thing. In the ground, the plants are fairly low maintenance, needing only sunlight and a bit of water from time to time.

If you don’t live in one of those zones, you can still have your plant outside, but it will likely need to remain in some sort of pot.

Growing Concerns

There are a couple telltale signs to keep an eye out for in order to make sure your aloe is getting everything it needs. The first is to watch how the leaves or the aloe are growing. They should be growing up at an angle, not out flat and horizontally. If you find they’re growing out, not up, this typically means your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight. For an outdoor plant, you may want to consider finding a new part of the yard. It’s easier to move a potted plant to a new location with enough light. If the beautiful green leaves of your aloe plant aren’t looking so green, and instead are looking browner, your plant is getting too much sunlight. So, you know, do the exact opposite of what we said before. Get it out of the direct sunlight or provide it with some sort of shade. Another thing to look out for are the leaves. If they start to curl inward, the plant isn’t getting enough water. The curling is caused by the plant using its own water, causing it to cave in on itself. Slow plant growth can also be a sign of a water issue, signaling the pH levels of your water are off.

The Magic Plant

As with any sort of home remedy, care should be taken when using aloe vera. Does it work? All signs point to yes, but testing still needs to be done to find out how truly effective it is. Perhaps someday we’ll get to this point, but until then, use your own discretion. Getting your hands on the stuff isn’t hard, and if you’re buying the gel in the store, you want to go with 100 percent pure, unless you’re in need of something with a better scent. Even then, making your own products at home is easy enough should you have your own aloe vera plant. Growing one isn’t a big deal at all, and just takes a little bit of time and care. It also helps they’re not too hard on the eyes with their pretty green leaves.

About The Author

Candace Osmond

Award Winning Designer, Candace Osmond has been in the industry for over a decade. She studied Interior Decorating & Design and is also an accomplished writer and multi-published author. When she's not typing away from the comforts of her desk, Candace can be found travelling to warm destinations, tending to her garden, or enjoying the outdoor haven that is her backyard. Candace currently resides in the breathtaking Maritimes of Eastern Canada with her husband, two beautiful kids and one slobbery bulldog.

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