Aloe vera has been used as a medicinal plant for over 5000 years. Meanwhile, many of its favorable properties have also been scientifically proven.
The possible application areas are incredibly diverse and range from skin irritations to weight loss cures to strengthening the immune system. Since the aloe is not very demanding in the care, very many people have a houseplant, from which they can quickly obtain the gel.
However, there are also numerous ready-made products such as juices, teas, and creams, which can be used quickly and easily.
In the following guide, we will inform you in detail about the plant. Here you will learn, among other things, the proven healing properties of the plant, how it is used, and what to consider when it is kept as a houseplant.
Interesting Facts About Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is one of the 500 species of aloe known to date. Some other species of aloe also have healing properties, while others have no beneficial properties for humans. However, aloe vera is the most effective of its kind. It is considered one of the oldest medicinal plants globally and is also one of the most widely known.
Although the aloe vera has cactus-like characteristics, it belongs to the bulbous plants. For this reason, the medicinal herb is also called desert lily. Unlike other bulbs, however, the aloe can go for several months without water. This is due to its nature because its leaves can store a lot of water.
The aloe stores the water supply in the form of the well-known gel. On the one hand, this helps the plant to survive in periods of drought, and on the other hand, the plant uses it for self-healing. With the help of this gel-like structure, the aloe can shrink wounds like incisions and thus close them.
Origin and Cultivation
It is believed that aloe originated on the Arabian island and was later cultivated in all the world’s tropical and subtropical regions. In the meantime, however, it has been naturalized in numerous countries. For example, the plant is found in the Mediterranean region, the Canary Islands and the West Indies, India, and Mexico.
Although aloe vera likes a warm climate, it can easily be kept as a houseplant, even in northern countries. In summer, it can even be kept outdoors. More information about this can be found further down in the text. It is said that Christopher Columbus always took an aloe on board his ship, and Mahatma Gandhi always drank aloe vera juice during his fasting cures.
Carl von Linné made the first scientific description known to us in 1753. Linné called the plant Aloe perfoliata var. Vera. In 1768 Laurens Burman raised the variety. Similarly, the name Aloe barbadensis was proposed by Phillip Miller, who referred to the naming of Caspar Bauhin. He had already named the aloe Aloe Vulgaris in 1620.
Uses, Benefits, and Effects of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera can be used both internally and externally. It is mainly used for irritations and inflammatory diseases of the skin, sunburn and generally burns, constipation, and the cosmetic industry.
Drinking the juice is also said to strengthen the immune system and thus contribute to overall health. Generally, aloe vera is said to cure numerous diseases. However, many of them are not scientifically proven. Nevertheless, the internal intake is undoubtedly perfect for people because the plant has countless vital ingredients.
According to scientific studies, certain aloe ingredients should also stimulate cell division, leading to a significant acceleration of tissue regeneration. This is probably also the reason why the gel helps with injuries and irritations of the skin.
Furthermore, aloe has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it has long been considered a plant for first aid and is now a standard in many households.
Healing Properties of the Plant:
Aloe vera can be used in numerous situations, providing relief. For example, since it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it helps heal wounds. This property may also be due to the promotion of cell division. Many people also use aloe vera as a complementary therapy for joint pain.
Furthermore, the plant brings a lot of benefits to the skin. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is used in many creams and other cosmetic products. However, aloe vera also shows a significant healing effect on skin diseases such as neurodermatitis. It also relieves itching after an insect bite.
The plant also helps with a wide variety of burns. For example, it can be used for sunburn and burns caused by radioactivity or X-rays, and burns caused by alkalis or acids. Also, the plant brings the stomach again in motion if one suffers from constipation. In this case, however, the dosage must be strictly observed because aloe has a laxative effect in excessive quantities.
Since aloe vera contains hundreds of vital nutrients, it also generally promotes health. Experts believe that the numerous favorable properties are mainly due to the perfectly balanced combination of ingredients.
The Ingredients of Aloe Vera
The most important reason for the many healing effects of Aloe Vera is, as already mentioned, the hundreds of vital ingredients of the plant. Inside the leaves, 160 important substances have already been detected, but several experts suspect that it has up to 400 essential ingredients.
According to researchers, the healing effect does not rest on a single ingredient but on combining the many different substances. This is also the unique feature of the plant; it combines the precious substances in optimal coordination.
Aloe Vera contains, among other things, the following trace elements and minerals:
Iron is needed, among other things, for the immune system, the formation of blood, and a strengthening of the general condition.
Calcium is essential for teeth and bones, but it is also necessary for the coagulation of blood and the conduction of stimuli in nerves and muscles.
Manganese is needed for bones, tendons, connective tissue, cartilage, and blood formation. It also supports the body in various detoxification processes.
Magnesium is involved in energy metabolism and is an essential component of many enzymes. The substance also prevents calcium deposits in the blood vessels and thus protects against vascular and heart diseases.
Selenium is vital for the immune system, among other things. It also helps the cells to destroy free radicals.
Zinc has a protective function against free radicals and also strengthens the immune system. It also promotes the healing of wounds and has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Does Aloe Vera Help to Lose Weight?
Generally, it is only possible to lose weight successfully through a calorie deficit. However, aloe vera can still be helpful during a diet.
The medicinal plant has a large variety of nutrients, so it can counteract deficiency symptoms – which are very common in diets. Thus, it also promotes the feeling of satiety because the body reacts to missing nutrients with hunger. Therefore, it can be useful to drink aloe vera juice during a diet.
The aloe vera drink should not contain any preservatives, as these reduce the bioenergetic availability enormously, and the nutrients are thus less efficiently utilized by the body.
Instead, natural organic juices of the plant should be used. Only in this way can an ideal effect be guaranteed.
The following properties are also attributed to aloe vera, which should help with a diet:
- Improvement of fat metabolism
- Stimulation of the intestinal function
However, except for the stimulation of the intestines, these properties have not been scientifically proven. Moreover, the laxative effect of the plant should only be used in cases of constipation.
Application of Aloe Vera
The application of aloe vera differs depending on what it is to be used for. A fundamental distinction is made between external and internal use. For skin problems or wounds, the aloe gel is used externally, while for constipation or a weakened immune system, it is used internally. Also, a fresh aloe leaf or a ready-made product can be used.
Use a Fresh Aloe Leaf
A few things should be considered to use fresh leaves from your aloe vera houseplant. First of all, the age of the plant is essential. Aloe develops its valuable properties only from the third to the fourth year of life. If the plant is mature, it can be harvested throughout the year.
To do this, the oldest leaves, that is, the outer ones should always be carefully cut off with a sharp and clean knife. The cut should be made as close as possible to the stem. Otherwise, the plant may lose a lot of liquid.
The leaf is then washed off and placed in an upright position in a jar for about one to two hours. In this way, the bitter and yellowish resin aloin flows off. Now as much gel as is needed can be dissolved from the peel. For external use, the gel can also be used directly.
Storing the aloe leaf properly
If something is left over, it is not a problem: the plant contracts at the cut and thus heal itself. However, it should be wrapped with a kitchen paper piece to prevent it from losing too much liquid and drying out.
However, the cut should by no means be sealed airtight. Otherwise, it will not be able to breathe. The leaf should be stored in a dry and cool place, but neither is the sun nor in the refrigerator. If the leaf is stored correctly, it will keep for six weeks from the time of cutting.
If you want to reuse the leaf, you should cut off a piece about 1 millimeter wide, as bacteria may have accumulated at the cut. However, the inside of the leaf is sterile and can therefore be used without any problems.
For internal use of aloe vera, small amounts of the gel are always drunk. For this purpose, either a ready-made juice can be purchased, or one can be made yourself. Aloe can also be consumed raw, but its taste is somewhat bitter and takes some getting used to.
Therefore, it is a good idea to mix the remedy with foods such as sweetened yogurt. However, if you want, you can also take an aloe leaf, cut it open on the side and then eat the pulp or gel from the peel. Those who prefer to drink a ready-made aloe juice should pay attention to the other ingredients of the product.
Some manufacturers mix the juice of the plant with many inexpensive ingredients to minimize their expenses. To improve the taste, of course, it can be useful to add other ingredients, but the aloe content should match the juice’s price.
Aloe vera is also offered in the form of powder or dry extract. The extract is either aqueous-alcoholic or aqueous-only. Ready-made aloe vera juices may also contain other substances, which is why the dosage here should always follow the package insert.
What is the taste of aloe vera?
Fresh aloe vera tastes very bitter and harsh. However, this is mainly due to the Aloin it contains. If you let the leaf “bleed” beforehand and use only the pure gel, the taste is more bearable.
Nevertheless, it is advisable to add some juice, yogurt, or sugar to improve the taste. Hot drinks are not advisable as an additional ingredient, as they destroy many elements of the medicinal plant.
Making aloe juice yourself:
The most widely used aloe vera recipe comes from Franciscan Father Romano Zago. It is easy to make and, therefore, extremely popular.
- One freshly harvested aloe vera leaf (about 300 grams).
- ½ kilo of bee honey
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar cane liquor (for preservation)
Put all three ingredients in a blender and grind, then pour into a jar. The juice will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons every day before meals.
In most cases, it is advisable to use only the leaf’s gel and to “bleed” the leaf before using it (see the chapter on separating the leaf). Otherwise, Aloin gets into the drink, the substance of aloe responsible for the laxative effect and tastes very bitter. However, in certain therapies, it is useful to process also the peel of the plant.
Internal Use – Dosage and Instructions
The ingredient of aloe aloin has a laxative effect from about 20 to 30 mg per day.
Ready-made aloe vera juices may contain other substances, which is why the dosage should always follow the package insert.
In general, internal use should not be for more than two weeks, as continuous use will increase intestinal sluggishness. A slight discoloration of the urine during use is normal. For more information on risks, side effects, and contraindications, see below in the text.
If you want to treat your skin with a fresh aloe vera leaf, you can simply apply the leaf’s gel to the desired area and let it absorb. As large as the selection of ready-made aloe vera products for external use is different are their applications. Therefore, with ready-made creams, toothpaste, or other items, always refer to the package insert.
Make your own aloe vera face mask
If you want, you can quickly and easily make your face mask with a fresh aloe vera leaf.
- One fresh aloe vera leaf
- One teaspoon honey
- One teaspoon of cottage cheese
Peel the leaf and then press it through a fine sieve. Now mix the squeezed gel well with the edible curd and honey, and the mask is ready.
The mask should be applied thickly to the skin of the face and leave for 10 minutes. Finally, it can be roughly removed first with a cosmetic tissue and then rinsed with a little lukewarm water.
External Use – Dosage and Instructions
External application of aloe gel does not cause any risks or side effects. Therefore, it can be used without any problems. It is usually enough to rub the gel on the affected area lightly.
In the case of ready-made products, the package instructions should be followed. Here, it is also necessary to pay attention to the highest possible concentration of aloe. Only in this way can the highest possible effect be guaranteed.
Possible Risks and Side Effects of Aloe Vera
- Too high a dose of fresh aloe has a laxative effect and can lead to dehydration.
- Continuous use increases intestinal sluggishness.
- Harmless discoloration of the urine, which is due to a temporary change in pH
Aloe vera, when used both externally and internally, carries few risks and side effects.
When taken internally, there is a risk of too high a dosage, which has a laxative effect. Therefore, it causes severe diarrhea and the associated consequential risks, such as potassium loss or problems with electrolyte and water balance.
When used externally, there are no side effects.
However, ready-made aloe products often contain other ingredients that can lead to side effects. For example, someone may have an allergic reaction to another substance in the item. Aloe vera should also not be taken for longer than one to two weeks. The laxative effect irritates the intestinal mucosa and thus increases intestinal sluggishness.
Contraindications and interactions when taking aloe vera:
- Hypersensitivity to the Active Substance or Liliaceae
- Intestinal Obstruction
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (E.g., Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease)
- Abdominal Pain
- Severe Dehydration
- Children Under 12 Years of Age
- Probably Pregnancy and Lactation
While there have been no reports to date, demonstrating that aloe vera has a harmful or adverse effect on an unborn child. However, it is suspected that aloe exhibits genotoxic properties. Therefore, it is not advisable to take aloe internally during pregnancy.
It can also not be ruled out that it may be transferred to the baby during breastfeeding, so it should also be avoided during the nursing period. Children under 12 years of age should also preferably not take aloe vera internally. Furthermore, it is not advisable to take it for a long time. This can lead to a lack of potassium. Simultaneous use of adrenal steroids, licorice root, or thiazide diuretics further increases potassium loss.
Also, people with pre-existing conditions and allergies should be cautious when using it internally. This is because the laxative effect can cause gastrointestinal discomfort on the one hand and electrolyte loss on the other.
Use of aloe vera as tea, spice, in capsule form, tablets, or as a drink
With the many positive properties of aloe vera, it is no wonder that numerous plant products can be found. Whether as a dietary supplement, sunscreen, cosmetic product, or tea, the choice is immense.
As a rule, aloe has the best effect when used very fresh. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to keep it as a houseplant. However, it cannot be kept fresh for quite as long.
Cosmetic companies use some tricks to extend the expiration date. Depending on the method, however, important components of the aloe can be destroyed. Numerous dubious manufacturers stretch their products with various other ingredients.
What to look for when buying aloe vera products?
Unfortunately, many manufacturers advertise the numerous positive properties of aloe vera, but their products contain only a minimal amount of the plant. Therefore, caution is always advised when buying aloe vera products.
Often, the plant is also attributed to healing effects in advertising that have not been scientifically proven. Experts consider foodstuffs containing processed aloe vera in particular, which advertise a great many properties beneficial to health, to be pure money-making. If the aloe vera in a product is touted as a miracle cure, it can be assumed that it is a dubious manufacturer.
Aloe Vera can neither heal internal diseases nor make up for an unhealthy lifestyle. It can only have a supportive effect and help with skin problems. In many cases, the product cannot fulfill the promised effect because they contain only highly processed and small quantities. During processing, however, numerous ingredients are already lost.
Some manufacturers then enrich the product with additional vital substances, which have nothing to do with the aloe vera. But even with products for external use, attention should always be paid to the aloe content. For example, a fresh leaf’s effect is much more effective than a product with minimal content.
For example, if you want to combat a skin problem, you can rely on only one aloe vera product for this purpose. So it makes more sense to buy one high-quality cream instead of several low-quality skincare products such as shower gels, scrubs, or shampoos.
Another major problem is that the water does not have to be specified in the products. However, the percentage of aloe vera must be noted on the packaging. It is recommended that you only purchase products with an aloe vera content of at least 99%.
Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe vera juice usually consists of the juice of the plant, an acidifier, and preservatives. However, some products contain other ingredients to improve the taste.
Aloe vera juice contributes to health by providing the organism with critical vital substances and cleansing the intestines. Thus, due to the product’s laxative effect, toxins and harmful substances are supposed to be flushed out of the intestines. This, in turn, is said to improve the absorption of essential nutrients.
Two tablespoons (20 ml) of the aloe vera juice, which consists of over 99% fresh juice of the plant, should be taken three times a day before meals.
Where can I buy aloe vera?
- Health food store
- Online stores
Aloe Vera products can now be purchased in most drugstores, health food stores, pharmacies, and even many supermarkets. Of course, there is also the possibility to buy aloe products online.
Advantages of organic products
It generally makes sense to go for organic products when it comes to aloe vera products. This is because it can be guaranteed that the item does not have any genetically produced ingredients. With organic products, no irradiation is used to cover up hygiene deficiencies.
It is also advisable to prefer products with the so-called “International Aloe Science Council” (IASC) seal of quality. This association was founded in 1981 in the USA to inspect and monitor aloe vera products. Products with the IASC seal have been tested for purity and aloe content.
Occurrence and Cultivation of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera grows wild in numerous regions today. These include:
- East and South Africa (especially in Uganda)
- On the Canary Islands
- On the Caribbean Islands
- Cape Verde
- In the Caucasian and Arab countries
- Central and South America
- In the southern USA regions
- In the Lesser Antilles
- Sri Lanka
- Southern China
Most of these countries also grow the aloe specifically for export on plantations. However, it is important to note that the plant’s quality varies depending on sun exposure and soil conditions. In general, it can be said that aloe vera should rather come from a mixed culture and not from a monoculture.
Otherwise, in fact, there may be an infestation of pests, which can be controlled only with artificial fertilizers if chemical agents are used; in turn, the risk of allergies, liver damage, and toxic deposits of our tissues increases.
Aloe vera is a fast-growing plant. At about three to five years, it is fully grown. From then on, it contains all the valuable substances. The medicinal plant can live for about 10 to 15 years. It can be harvested all year round, but only up to three times a year.
Here, the whole plant is never harvested. Instead, three to a maximum of seven of the lowest leaves are cut off close to the stem.
More than half of the leaves should remain on the stem. About seven to nine leaves are needed per kilogram of aloe vera gel or liter of aloe vera juice. A mature leaf is about 5 cm thick, 50 cm long, and weighs 0.5 kg. It should also not have been damaged by excessive heat or frost.
The Vegetative Characteristics of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera grows in very dense groups and has either short stems or no stems at all. The plant is sprouting, which means that each part of the plant lives independently after separation. This is also a way of propagation.
The Leaves of Aloe Vera
The plant has about 16 leaves, which grow on the stem. The leaves are about 6 to 7 cm wide and 40 to 50 cm long. They have a greenish-gray color but sometimes become reddish. The surface of the leaf is smooth, and the sides have teeth about 2 mm long.
The Flowers and Inflorescences
Aloe vera flowers in spring as soon as it is sexually mature, i.e., from about the third year of life. The flowers grow fast and upright. The candle-straight and high inflorescences can be money, orange or red.
Grow Aloe Vera Yourself
If you keep an aloe vera as a houseplant, you can directly benefit from its positive properties and be sure about the gel’s purity. And the best part is that aloe vera is extremely undemanding. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind. The following conditions are essential for aloe vera:
- Warm and stable temperatures
- Very porous soil (e.g., a mixture of soil, gravel, and sand)
- Very infrequent watering and low humidity
- Location, temperature, and light
Aloe vera prefers a subtropical or tropical climate. Therefore, it needs a lot of sun and warmth. However, it should be acclimated to direct sunlight only slowly.
Young plants, in particular, can only tolerate direct sunlight to a limited extent. Therefore, they should rather get a location in partial shade. Especially the midday sun is a problem; the morning and evening sun are usually well tolerated.
Aloe vera does not tolerate low temperatures and should definitely be kept indoors in winter. At temperatures below +4° Celsius, the plant dies. Any forest also destroys the essential ingredients of the aloe. It is best to bring it into the warm as soon as the temperatures drop below 10 ° Celsius.
In summer, however, the medicinal plant can and should be brought outdoors if possible. However, it should be placed in a place protected from wind and rain. Aloe usually grows a little crooked, so the pot can easily fall over in the wind. Also, the plant does not tolerate high humidity. For this reason, for example, the kitchen or the bathroom is not a good position for the aloe.
The Pot and the Substrate
Aloe vera requires fairly dry soil. Therefore, it is also important that the substrate is very porous and, if possible, also calcareous. Thus, various succulent or cactus substrates are suitable for the aloe vera. However, it is also possible to mix soil with some granite chips, coarse sand, and perlite. Also, since this is a desert plant, the soil should be low in nutrients.
Aloe vera usually grows a little crooked, which is why there is overweight on one side. Therefore, the container can easily fall over, in turn, injuring the plant. Therefore, a heavy container that does not narrow towards the bottom is best for the aloe vera.
Planting and Repotting
When planting aloe vera, it is essential drainage. Excess water should always be able to drain. During planting, care should be taken not to injure the leaves. After all, if open wounds develop, the aloe loses a lot of valuable liquid.
Aloe vera grows relatively quickly, so regular repotting is necessary. When hardly any soil is visible, the plant should be repotted. This is usually necessary every two to three years.
- Allow soil to dry out.
- Fill the new container with soil and provide it with a notch.
- Grasp the aloe as far down as possible (never by the leaves!).
- Now very carefully, loosen from the soil.
- Carefully place the aloe in the new container and cover the root with soil.
- The container should now be tapped several times on a firm surface so that the substrate can slide down.
- If necessary, the aloe can be supported initially with a few sticks.
- Finally, water the plant well and then remove the excess water.
A common reason for the poor condition of aloe vera is the well-intentioned but counterproductive excessive care of the plant. In fact, the plant very rarely needs water. It is better to water the aloe too rarely than too often.
- Aloe vera should be watered only when the soil has dried to the depth of a finger.
- It should be kept very dry, especially in winter. The high humidity is enough so that it only needs to be watered every four to six weeks.
- In summer, it can be watered so that the root ball is minimally moist.
- Excess water must always be able to drain away completely – waterlogging should always be avoided.
- Water only the soil around the trunk and not from above on the leaves. Otherwise, rotting may occur.
- During the growing season, in summer, fertilize the plant with a universal or a special fertilizer for succulents. If the aloe is to be used for medicinal purposes, be sure to use only organic fertilizer.
Harvesting and Cutting
Aloe vera does not necessarily need to be pruned, but those who want to use it for its beneficial properties should do so professionally.
However, it may be wise to remove badly damaged or dried out leaves or cut the root ball to limit growth.
In general, harvesting should only be done when the plant is mature, i.e., from about the third year of life. Only then does the aloe have all its valuable ingredients. Now it can be harvested all year round. However, it is advisable not to harvest more than three times a year and always leave more leaves on the plant than you take off.
If you want to cut off a leaf to extract the gel, you should use the plant’s lowest leaves for this purpose. These should be cut very carefully with a clean, sharp knife close to the stem as possible.
Injured, diseased, or wilted leaves can be cut off in the same way. If you do not want to harvest seeds, you should also cut off the faded flowers. This prevents the aloe from putting all its energy into seed formation.
It is effortless to propagate the aloe vera. The plant usually forms many children – besides, the mother plant grows many other plants, which have their root ball. These can be repotted easily. Thus, it is usually better to first remove the mother plant from the pot and then place the daughter plants in new containers.
It is also possible to propagate the aloe by cuttings. To do this, first cut off a side shoot of the plant without the root. This should now be stored in a dry place for 30 to 40 hours so that the wound dries and closes. The offshoot can now simply be planted in a suitable substrate. Until roots and the new leaves have formed, the offshoot should be watered regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About Aloe Vera.
Is aloe vera harmful?
No, aloe vera is not harmful. On the contrary, if the medicinal plant is used correctly, it can positively affect health. However, care should be taken not to take too high a dose of orally.
Is aloe vera poisonous?
Aloe vera contains some substances with positive properties when taken in small amounts but can be toxic when taken in excess. These include, above all, the anthra-glycosides, such as the plant’s Aloin.
Aloin can have a laxative effect in excessive doses and lead to cramp-like gastrointestinal problems. For birds and cats, the substance is toxic even in small quantities!
Is aloe vera healthy?
Yes, aloe vera is very healthy when used correctly and when contraindications are respected. However, in certain cases, such as during pregnancy, it should not be used. The dose should also be observed; otherwise, side effects such as diarrhea (diarrhea) may occur.
Where can I find information about experiences with aloe vera?
Numerous testimonials on various aloe vera products can be found on the Internet. If you are interested in a specific item, you can read many reports online from people who have already tested the respective product. But be careful! Many manufacturers also write positive testimonials themselves to influence potential buyers. If many reports from verified buyers can be found, this indicates the comments’ authenticity.