Aloe vera is that spiky thing we often see used as a houseplant due to its low maintenance nature. I can almost always guarantee that I’ll spot it in an office building for this very reason. However, besides it being able to – for the most part – fend for itself, aloe vera has lots of uses outside of being a (admittedly slightly ugly) bit of greenery in the home.
You probably best know aloe vera for its magical ability to heal burns. The flesh of the plant has a gel-like texture as well as soothing and moisturising properties – exactly what you need for superficial, mild burns and sunburn. If you have aloe vera in your home, you’ll find it much less expensive to cut off a section of a leaf and apply the gel to the burn, than going out to buy a special cream that you may only use a couple of times!
Burn relief aside, here are 3 more uses for aloe vera that you might not have thought about!
1. Eat aloe vera for better digestive health
The gel of aloe vera is safe to eat (you may want to check that you’re not allergic, just in case) and can be eaten raw straight out of the leaf. Make sure to avoid the yellow latex, however (the yellow bit between the gel and the outer leaf) as this can cause stomach problems due to its laxative qualities. The gel may be able to soothe stomach issues, thanks to its high vitamin and antioxidant count.
A review of several studies actually showed that the consumption of aloe vera had a positive effect in the short-term treatment of IBS, compared to placebos. There were no adverse effects of consuming aloe vera reported.
2. Use aloe vera toothpaste for healthier teeth
Worried about gum disease or cavities? Try using aloe vera to fight off candida; this is a fungus which can cause poor oral health and even lesions within the mouth. One study found that the use of an aloe vera toothpaste lowers inflammation, plaque and the presence of candida within the mouth, overall improving oral health.
3. Rub aloe vera on your skin as a moisturiser
Why spend crazy money on skincare, which might contain lots of harmful chemicals, when you can use aloe vera? It’s completely natural, and works wonders when moisturising the skin.
Those struggling with acne may find that many drugstore skin creams irritate their skin due to the presence of chemicals. However, aloe vera is the ideal alternative, as it reduces inflammation and soothes instead of irritates.
How to harvest aloe vera gel
You might look at an aloe vera plant and think, ‘how can I get the gel out of this spiky thing?’. Here’s a step-by-step process:
- Use a clean knife to carefully slice a leaf off an aloe vera plant. Make sure that the leaf is fully grown, well watered and in good health – it should be nice and chunky!
- With a knife and chopping board, cut off the spiky end. Next, slice along the edges at a half-centimetre width. You should have a neat rectangle.
- Slice horizontally between the skin and the fleshy gel to remove the skin from one side. Flip it over – you should now be able to see all of the gel inside.
- Use a spoon to scoop out the gel. No need to push hard – it should come away easily. Try not to scrape the skin on the other side of the gel.
- Place the gel into a blender, blend for a few seconds and empty out into a bowl. It can be stored in the fridge for a few days, or used immediately!
Still confused? Watch my how-to demonstration below.
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What do you use aloe vera for? Let me know in the comments section below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.