Aloe Vera: Care, Uses and Risks – All You Need to Know

Planta de sábila

Translated by Nick R

Fortunately, centuries ago, society discovered the many benefits that Aloe Vera has to offer. Therefore, it has been a popular medicinal plant implemented in all kinds of health and beauty products.

That is why today we want to share with you all about its properties. We’ll recommend everything from skincare masks to smoothies for the proper body maintenance. In addition, we’ll teach you how to plant and take care of it so that you can have one in your garden.

What’s Aloe Vera?

Planta de sábila

Aloe Vera is a perennial succulent plant, that is, it retains water through its thick leaves and has a lifespan of more than 2 years. It’s native to Africa, but its cultivation has widely spread worldwide.

Its scientific name is Aloe Barbadenses Miller. It belongs to the aloe genus which has more than 250 species; however, only 4 plants have medicinal properties, being Aloe vera the most popular and used on all continents.

As for its botanical description, it’s a plant whose short stem doesn’t exceed 30 centimeters. After 3 years, it produces small yellow flowers from a long spike, although they’re usually removed for sale.

Its leaves can measure from 10 to 20 centimeters wide, 5 cm thick and 50 cm long. They have a grayish-green color and have serrated edges. Besides, they’re grouped together forming a rosette, just like the petals of a rose.

As for the viscous tissue inside the leaves, that is the famous gel from which we obtain the properties that we’ll talk about later. Its effectiveness comes from the fact that it’s mainly composed of water, organic salts, enzymes, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Aloe also provides us with a component called aloe juice (acibar), a yellowish liquid that must be removed from the plant in order to use the gel. People also say that it is iodine (although it has almost none of this element) and its removal will prevent the gel from, above all, having odor.

Also, for oral consumption, you should remove the aloe juice (acibar) since it acts as a laxative to combat constipation if that is not the intended effect. Moreover, it has a bitter taste and a strong odor.

How to extract Aloe Vera nutrients?

Initially, we’ll explain how to extract the gel so that you can use or consume it:

  1. We remind you of the importance of letting the leaf be in a container with ambient water overnight. It should be upright and not lie down so that the aloe juice can easily come down.
  2. Another option is to place it vertically for several hours and then introduce it (by parts) in warm water with a teaspoon of salt. This will hasten the descent of that yellowish substance.
  3. Now, if you don’t have the stalk divided, you should make 3 to 4 cuts along the leaf to split it into parts and thus facilitate the process.
  4. Then, remove one of the pointed ends from either side with the knife.
  5. You may notice that the leaf has one flat side and one slightly more curved or convex. Take it from the flat side up and remove the rind and the leaf, making sure that no bits are left.
  6. At this point, you’ll be able to see all the gel inside and you’ll only need a spoon or a knife to start scraping and removing it easily.

A very important recommendation is never to use a blender to blend the gel, the blades will eliminate a great number of the Aloe vera’s properties. You can easily and quickly use a fork or a balloon to whisk manually.

To clarify, the problem with the blender also occurs because the centrifugation or the rotating force it generates will inject oxygen into the gel. This causes it to oxidize quickly, and it’ll no longer have the same consistency.

Also, as we were telling you, you can drink the juice that this plant produces. To do so:

  1. When leaving the aloe vertically, try to place it on top of a plate to then use the aloe juice that will remain there. There will be a few drops only, but you’ll still be able to take advantage of it.
  2. If you leave it overnight in a container with water or if you put it in hot water with salt, the juice will also be extracted. Clearly, its consistency will be more liquid.

Medicinal uses of Aloe vera

Well, now we’ll tell you about all the properties and benefits of this wonderful plant and what other preparations you can make to use it on your body, either internally or externally.

Use of Aloe Vera on the skin

Speaking specifically of its topical use on the skin, aloe vera will help you to:

  • Relieve burns. Also applies to sunburns, plus, it’ll give you a cooling sensation.
  • Treat conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis. It has antiseptic properties that provide a soothing effect and reduce itching and inflammation. However, aloe shouldn’t be applied to deep or irritated wounds.
  • Combat acne. It reduces the frequency and appearance of acne and prevents pores from clogging. Plus, it’s a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins that protect your skin. And finally, a very important aspect is that this product is completely absorbed by the skin as it passes through the 3 skin layers.
  • Prevent fine lines and wrinkles. It’s excellent for slowing premature aging and providing hydration to dry skin. Additionally, it reduces skin blemishes and contributes to healing.

Now that you know the benefits of aloe vera on the skin, we’ll show you some preparations you can make to apply it.

Use the Aloe frozen

When you extract the gel from the leaves, you can place it in ice cube trays which are those plastic containers for the freezer. This way, you can then take the aloe vera ices and rub them on your skin, especially on burns as they’ll relieve your skin.

Similarly, before extracting the gel from the leaf, you can also cut it into medium or small rectangles of aloe vera crystals. Place them on a plate, with no need to wrap them in plastic or aluminum foil, and let them freeze in the refrigerator.

Use the Aloe gel by itself

This method is the most common and consists in applying the gel directly to the skin. When using it on the face, it’s particularly applied this way, with no need to add any other components.

You must leave it on for at least 30 minutes. If you prefer, apply it at night and wash your face or the part that has the Aloe vera in the morning.

Combine Aloe with your face soap

It consists in mixing 3 to 4 tablespoons of gel with your facial soap. This method is good mostly to fight acne and keep the skin clean, free of impurities and excess oil.

Use of Aloe Vera on the hair

Using Aloe vera on the scalp is good for:

  • Fighting dandruff. It helps in the desquamation process and relieves itching from the first use. This thanks to that aloe vera cleanse and moisturizes your scalp.
  • Strengthening and promoting hair growth. Its high amount of vitamins and healing properties will give you stronger and healthier hair, contributing to hair growth.
  • Restoring damaged hair. In case you feel your hair brittle and with lots of frizz, especially from the use of flat irons and curling irons, Aloe vera works as a natural restorer.
  • Preventing hair loss. As we were telling you, it’ll help you to strengthen the hair fibers and get hydration. This will ensure that your hair won’t fall out so easily.

If you want to get these benefits, you can use the following preparations:

Gel hair mask with oil

You can mix the gel with your favorite essential oil, for example, argan oil or coconut oil. Apply all over your hair from roots to ends and leave it on for as long as possible.

We recommend leaving it overnight, and to avoid smearing it on your pillows, you can use a shower cap. It is also good to massage with your fingertips and finally wash your hair thoroughly. Repeat the process 1 or 2 times a week.

Gel hair mask with sugar

In the same way, you only need to mix the gel from about half an aloe vera stalk with 3 tablespoons of sugar. It’ll be good to exfoliate the dead cells on the scalp and strengthen the ends.

Apply it all over the scalp using gentle circular massages with your fingertips and spread it towards the tips. Leave it on for at least 1 hour before washing your hair, of course, the longer the better. Repeat this process 1 or 2 times a week.

Include Aloe Vera in your shampoo

The amount of gel can be obtained from half of a stalk, especially if the shampoo is new and comes in a large container. All you have to do is add the gel directly into your regular shampoo.

Use the Aloe gel on its own

You can apply it directly to your scalp. In particular, if you suffer from dandruff, concentrate the gel on the itchy or flaky parts of your scalp.

You can apply it the night before washing your hair or at least 1 hour before bathing. Repeat the process twice a week.

Use of Aloe Vera in the organism

Orally consumption of Aloe vera will help you in:

  • Treating constipation and digestive affections. Especially if you consume the aloe juice as it has laxative properties.
  • Preventing the growth of infectious bacteria. That’s thanks to its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It’s said that it helps prevent cancer and the unpleasant symptoms caused by chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Reducing dental plaque that causes tooth cavities and gum disease. Especially, if you apply it directly to your teeth by using it as a mouthwash. It also provides relief for bleeding or inflamed gums.
  • Keeping you hydrated. Aloe helps eliminate toxins while optimizing organ function.
  • Increasing collagen production. This will also benefit you to improve skin elasticity.

We continue to tell you what preparations you can make to consume it orally:

Aloe Vera as a dewormer

This is where juice (acibar) will be beneficial. To eliminate parasites in children you’ll only need 2 drops of this substance in half a glass of water. While, for adults, 4 drops will be enough. In both cases, it should be drunk on an empty stomach for 7 days.

Aloe Vera as a drink

Surely you have seen several drinks that claim to have aloe vera crystals or that are made from them. While they may contain some of their properties, they indeed add other substances such as sugar or preservatives that take away their natural properties.

That said, we’ll show you how to prepare your own 100% natural aloe vera water. It’s very easy to prepare, inexpensive and multi-beneficial:

  • You must take the aloe vera gel and place it in a container with about 1 liter of boiled or filtered water per leaf. Although you can cut it in parts and prepare 1 or 2 glasses per day only.
  • With your hands, begin to mix the crystals with the water simply by applying pressure and breaking up the gel.
  • It’s ready! Try to consume it fresh on the day you prepare it because when you store it, this drink ferments and can become harmful.

Now, we’ll share with you how to prepare the well-known Aloe Vera punch:

  1. To prepare 1 glass you need to gather in a container the aloe vera gel (what you get in a part of 6 cm approximately), the juice of 1 lemon, honey to taste, grated ginger, a pinch of turmeric and pepper.
  2. You should mix it all even with the help of a fork or a hand mixer, serve and enjoy.
  3. Some people prefer to make this drink with only gel, honey and lemon. This is an alternative if you don’t like any of the other ingredients or don’t have them at home.

This drink is excellent for cleansing the liver, colon, blood, pancreas, and others. It’s also anticarcinogenic and prevents diabetes and hypertension. It should be taken on an empty stomach for at least 48 days and about 30 minutes before breakfast.

Other popular uses of Aloe Vera

Other ways to use Aloe vera are:

  • After removing the gel, the leftover leaf pieces can be used as fertilizer for other plants. These should be placed with the inside facing down.
  • You can have it in your room as it’s one of the plants that will help you sleep and breathe better. Especially because it produces oxygen throughout the night.
  • In some homes, it’s believed that leaving the aloe plant behind the door helps to eliminate and avoid bad energy. Similarly, as the plant grows, the economic situation of the house improves.
  • It’s also used by businesses to attract good fortune. They place it at the main entrance or hang it in strategic points.

How to keep an Aloe vera plant?

If you want to know how to plant your own aloe vera and what care you should consider, we tell you next.

How to reproduce Aloe Vera

There are 3 ways to reproduce aloe vera. It can be done by leaf cuttings, shoots and seeds.

Reproduction of Aloe Vera by leaf cuttings 

This involves taking small or medium-sized leaves from the lower part of the plant. It’s important to wait until the base of the leaf is dry and is not secreting gel, as it would rot when planting.

Afterward, place them in the pot with the substrate vertically. A good thing is that aloe branches quite easily.

Reproduction of Aloe Vera by sprouting cuttings 

If you have a plant in your garden from which you want to remove some cuttings, to reproduce them you should look at the small leaves that are sprouting near the ground next to the parent plant.

They’re like little sprouts that you’ll need to remove carefully, trying to make sure they come out with some root so that they’re viable.

Reproduction of Aloe Vera by seeds 

This is the most time-consuming process so it’s rarely the most common; however, it’s also viable. For this we recommend you place the seeds superficially on a pot with sand substrate. Watering can be done almost every day but in small quantities.

How to plant Aloe Vera

If you’re planting the cuttings in a pot, first make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom. If not, you can place some stones before adding the soil to help prevent water stagnation.

Next, add a portion of soil and place eggshells. Then continue to fill with the substrate and place the cutting to see how high it’ll be. In other words, this way you’ll know if you need more soil to ensure that the offspring is low enough.

Once you have defined the height, hold the cutting with one hand so that it is firm, and with the other add more soil to the sides. Then, with your fingers, press the soil down a little to make sure that the sprout is well-positioned.

As for the planting process in the garden, look for a place that receives good light and has good space. You simply need to dig a hole according to the size of the cutting and here you can also incorporate eggshells.

Then position the cutting and fill it with soil around it. You can add more nutrients to your garden soil with the help of compost or fertilizer.

Finally, in both cases, remember to give the plant a good splash of water as soon as you have planted it.

How to care for Aloe Vera

Containers for Aloe Vera 

We recommend using a pot made of terracotta or similar porous material, it’ll allow the soil to dry out between waterings and will be heavy enough to prevent the plant from flipping over.

Soil for Aloe Vera 

You can get special soil or substrate for succulents. Ideally, it should be light, porous and provide the plant with good drainage and low humidity. You can check our blog on types of substrates, there we show you how you can prepare them yourself.

A great tip is to apply a few dried and crushed eggshells as they’ll provide calcium which is good for the aloe vera.

Watering for Aloe Vera 

Be careful with excessive watering because aloe vera doesn’t like water stagnation. Clearly, it’s a plant that stores water in its leaves; however, it appreciates receiving a good stream of water. Especially because it helps to keep its leaves firm and straight.

A sign of alarm is seeing that the leaves are falling, thas is usually due to a lack of water. On the other hand, it doesn’t like stagnant water either, a tip to know when to water it’s to feel the soil to check if it is dry.

Sunlight for Aloe Vera 

It’s a plant for both dry and warm climates. It likes to receive sunlight directly or indirectly, so it can be in a semi-shade. In some cases, if the climate is hot the plant will have brown-edged leaves, which means it’s burning so you should move it to avoid damage.

Likewise, if the plant is in a cold place with no sunlight, it’ll begin to lean in search of light. Over time, it’ll become deformed and you’ll have to move it to save it.

The optimal minimum temperature is 18° C and a maximum of 40° C.

How to harvest Aloe Vera

Clearly, you need to know how to remove the leaves from the plant so that you don’t hurt it and use it correctly.

Initially, you’ll know that the plant is ready to be trimmed when the bases of each leaf are thick. Then, to select the leaf or stem, remember that you need to take the ones that are first from the bottom to the top. That is the one that is closest to the ground.

Do not think that it’s necessary to cut from side to side to extract it, that will only damage the plant and the leaf. You simply have to make a small cut on the closest side to the stem and pull the leaf gently. You’ll see how it gradually gives way until it comes out in a few seconds.

How to transplant Aloe Vera

After you have had an aloe vera plant for several years, you witness how it tends to develop many young shoots on the sides and needs to be transplanted to a new container. For this, if you have it in a plastic pot, the most comfortable thing to do is to knock it on the sides so that the soil loosens; yet, some prefer to cut the container on the sides.

For more resistant pots, you can gently run a knife around the sides, between the soil and the pot, and then gently pull it upwards to release it.

Take a good look at the parent plant which is the one in the center and has the most developed stem and root. On the sides, you’ll see small shoots that have grown and you should separate; they can be used as cuttings for other plants.

Finally, find the place where you’re going to replant both the mother plant and the cuttings. It can be directly on the ground or in pots, but make sure that the container for the larger plant is suitable for its size.

As an additional tip, if the mother plant has a very long, thick root, you can cut off part of it with a sharp knife. Don’t worry this won’t damage it and will allow it to adapt to the pot more comfortably.

Contraindications of Aloe Vera

Like any natural product, you should never overconsume it. Although it has extremely positive properties, you shouldn’t think that the more you take, the better the results.

What matters is to consume approximately 1 or 2 glasses of aloe vera drinks a day, maximum for 2 months, and then suspend its consumption for a short time.

On the other hand, you mustn’t consume this plant if you’re being medicated with allopathic drugs, that is to say, chemical drugs. For example, for diabetes or hypertension.  Aloe vera will neutralize these chemicals and as a result, the medicines won’t act on your health.

However, you do can consume aloe vera, but you must do so within 2 hours before or after ingesting the pills.

People with allergies to garlic, onions and tulips are more likely to be allergic to this plant. That said, it’s good to place a little of the gel on your wrist and be attentive if in a few minutes it generates a reaction.

Finally, we hope that this blog has been of great help to learn about aloe vera and all the properties it has to offer. We also hope that you got motivated to start using it and enjoy gratifying results on your skin, hair and organism. Besides, as you could see, planting and caring for it is really simple. This is a plant that will live for several years, and you'll never regret having it in your garden, your vegetable garden or in your home.