“Aloe you vera much.
If you’ve ever spoken with me about plants, chances are that you know I’m not all about looks. Sure, a flower can look nice and bring beauty to a garden, but beyond its visual appeal, it really doesn’t offer much. The plants I’m much more interested in go beyond the blooms and pay you back for all the hard work you do to keep them healthy with a little hard work of their own. Like aloe vera.
The Miracle Plant
We’ve all heard of this succulent’s amazing ability to soothe any burning effects – everything from accidentally catching your arm on the stovetop to an extra hour in the sun. Whatever burn may ail you, the age-old remedy has been the gel of a little aloe plant.
Recently, though, it’s reported list of benefits has grown quite significantly. Found in everything, from ointments to juices, aloe has been labelled as a cure-all for everything – including dry skin, open wounds, wrinkles, acne, dandruff, digestion, and even weight loss. With an impressive list of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino and folic acids, too, it’s even been labelled as a superfood.
The truth is, though, not enough science exists to support any evidence that aloe even has any medicinal benefits at all. In fact, the medical community only classifies aloe as “possibly effective”. However, they do admit its soothing effects for inflamed skin (and I can tell you from experience that it makes an accidental lobster tan feel a whole lot better).
How to Take Care of an Aloe Vera Plant
More at home in the desert, you won’t find many succulents growing in the wild prairies of Alberta, our winters are just too cold. Instead, to keep them happy here, we treat them as houseplants to keep them healthy and warm year-round.
To get started with your healing houseplant, plant your aloe vera with cactus soil – or potting soil amended with sand – in a pot with plenty of drainage. Aloe veras, like their cacti cousins, hate standing water and are very prone to root rot, so keeping their roots dry is key.
Once potted, place your plant somewhere it will get plenty of light. Like other succulents, aloes will wilt without their daily dose of vitamin D, so a South or West-facing window is best. You won’t want to let it burn in the sun, though. (How’s that for irony?)
When it comes to watering, the most important thing to remember is to let the soil dry completely between waterings. In the summer, this may mean every week or two. In the winter it’s a little closer to a month or two. There’s no exact scheduled timeframe to follow, but just checking in with the soil every so often will be enough to tell you what your plant needs.
How to Prepare Aloe Vera:
While science can’t speak to all the other “benefits” of aloe you may see on the internet, it won’t deny how great it is at soothing burning and itching. And if you’re already growing it at home, why not take advantage of this effect with some homemade ointment.
The famous first-aid gel can be found in the plump leaves of your aloe vera- all you need to do is cut it open. To make sure you’re keeping your plant healthy, you’ll only want to take off 1 or 2 leaves at a time – taking only the outer leaves, which are the most mature and ready to go. Pick the fattest, juiciest one and cut it off clean at the base.
Before jumping right into it, you’ll want to drain the sappy substance that leaks from the freshly-cut foliage. Just place it against the edge of a bowl and leave for an hour or so before moving on. Then the rest is easy.
Simply lay the leaf flat and peel off the top layer of skin with a knife. Then, with a spoon, just scoop out the clear gel inside (a.k.a. the good stuff). If you like a thinner consistency, blend it up before refrigerating, but it’s not necessary.
With centuries of continued use and quite an impressive nutritional facts sheet, aloe vera is certainly a plant that is more than meets the eye. Not just a treat for the eyes, it’s also a treat for the body, making it a must-have in any houseplant home.