Tag: medicinal plants

Sep 02

Natural and Noteworthy: Aloe Vera

My thumb isn’t exactly green, but it has developed a vaguely-greenish tint over the years. It’s maybe a chartreuse by now.

(Side question: how many of you think of chartreuse as being a color in the pink-red-purple range, instead of the yellowish-green that it is? I’m genuinely curious, because it seems to be a “thing.” I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)

via FreeImages.comSarah Williams

Image via FreeImages.com/Sarah Williams

So that’s chartreuse??

Back to my chartreuse thumb–I love plants, but I have a system of what I loosely label “natural selection” happening at my house. If a plant can survive my sometimes-sporadic care, it is welcome to stay and thrive all it wants. If it doesn’t make it? Cue the guilt.

Aloe vera is a plant that falls somewhere in between for me. I can keep an aloe plant alive for a fairly long time, but then, all of a sudden, the decline begins and I start covering mirrors in my house. (No, not really.) Still, aloe vera is a wonderful, multi-purpose plant, so I love to have one here.

*NOTE: Aloe vera is toxic to cats and dogs, so if you choose to have an aloe plant, keep it somewhere pets can’t reach! If you’d prefer not to keep an aloe plant at all, aloe vera gel is available. Just check the label, to be sure it’s pure.

How do I love thee, aloe vera? Let me count the ways:

via pixabay courtesy of unsplash

Image via pixabay/unsplash

  1. Helps to treat minor burns, including sunburns–This is why I usually keep aloe handy, somewhere in the vicinity of my stove. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, aloe compounds help reduce pain and inflammation, while promoting skin growth and repair. Just snip off an aloe leaf (as close to the base as possible, without disturbing the roots–although I sometimes only take the tip of a leaf), split it open to access the gel and rub the gel over the burn. DON’T apply to open wounds.
  2. Bug bites or minor skin irritations–As with treating minor burns, aloe’s antibacterial properties can help heal skin irritations and bring relief to bug bites (it helps with pain and discomfort very quickly).
  3. Bruises–Aloe is said to speed up recovery time when applied to bruises, by sealing the skin and offering healing properties.
  4. Rashes, cold sores–Since aloe has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it can help heal minor rashes, itchy spots, and cold sores. Simply apply the gel to the area three times a day, until the rash, etc. has healed completely.via pixabay courtesy of Birgit_H                                         Image via pixabay/Birgit_H
  5. Acne–Aloe has been shown to help heal existing acne and acne scars, but it probably won’t prevent future breakouts.
  6. Moisturizer/aftershave lotion–Although aloe vera is not sufficient to moisturize skin properly on its own, it can act as a soothing component to a moisturizing system (when combined with emollients–e.g. jojoba, rosehip, or avocado oils; shea or cocoa butter–and humectants–e.g. lecithin, glycerin, or panthenol/Vitamin B5). Such a moisturizing system would work great as an aftershave treatment, as well.
  7. Face mask–To improve skin’s color and texture while reducing inflammation, apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel to your face and let dry, then remove with warm water and a wash cloth. Some people may find this drying to their skin, so be sure to follow with a moisturizer (see above).
  8. Anti-aging treatment–As part of a moisturizing treatment (see above), aloe is believed to help reduce and/or prevent wrinkles.

via pixabay courtesy of PollyDot

Image via pixabay/PollyDot

More about aloe vera:

Aloe vera is a succulent, one of hundreds of varieties of aloe plants. Though cactus-like in appearance, it is related to lilies and onions.

In caring for your aloe vera plant, you can mix some sand in with your soil and allow it to dry between waterings. Drench the soil completely when it’s time to water your aloe, but make sure the soil drains well. Aloe plants do not like standing water.

Aloe vera does not need to be fertilized, but if you choose to add a fertilizer to the soil, do it once a year (in the spring) and use a very diluted version of the fertilizer (if using your aloe for medicinal purposes, make sure you use a fertilizer for edible plants). Aloe plants are accustomed to growing in harsh conditions and usually do better in similar environments within your home.

To propagate, remove “pups” or small offshoots with their roots intact and replant. Wait until the pup is about one fifth the size of the mother plant before separating. (Sometimes they will need to be cut away from the mother plant.)

Propagating the plant through cuttings can also be done, but it is tricky and not often successful. Cut the leaf close to the base of the plant, allow the cut area to dry (one week) before replanting, to avoid infection. Dip in a rooting hormone and replant.

**Some people recommend taking aloe internally, but not enough research has been done to convince me. It is known to be dangerous when taken internally by pregnant (also possibly lactating) women. I feel similarly reluctant about using aloe to treat dental or mouth issues. Also, some people are allergic to aloe, so you should stop using it if you develop a rash or any other symptoms of an allergic reaction.

***This post is intended as a reference only and NOT to take the place of any medical advice. Always check with your doctor before trying any new treatments, including natural ones.

via pixabay courtesy of strecosa

Image via pixabay/strecosa

So, do you keep aloe vera in your home? Have you tried using it for any of the above issues? Any last thoughts on the color chartreuse?? 🙂