We recently got a new grocery store in a town near me. I was checking it out one day and came across an array of fun and unusual foods uncommon to most average grocery stores. While there I saw several long beautiful aloe vera leaves and decided to purchase some.
As I continued shopping, a woman stopped me and said, “Excuse me for asking, but what IS that?” I smiled and briefly explained to her that it is the leaves from the aloe plant and how to use it for burns and cuts. She left with a smile on her face and I was happy to teach her something new.
I know sometimes I sound like a broken record but aloe vera gel is one of those things I grew up believing could only be bought in a store, processed, and in a fancy package. But just like so many other things, it is incredibly easy and inexpensive to make at home.
What Is Aloe Vera Good For
Most people are aware of the benefits of aloe vera gel on sunburns. It is wonderful for soothing pain and reducing inflammation caused by minor burns, but in addition to that, it has a wide application of uses.
Several other over-the-counter first aid products can easily be replaced with homemade, natural versions. Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and has antioxidant properties that aid in healing.
I use aloe vera gel in several of my beauty care recipes. It is very hydrating to the skin but does not leave an oily feel so it is good for most skin types. These qualities also make it great for the hair and scalp, especially if you struggle with dry, itchy scalp and dandruff.
- DIY Hair Growth Serum
- Homemade Baby Wipes
- Natural Liquid Foundation
- Natural Creme Blush
- Natural Homemade Mascara
- Essential Oil Cooling Spray
- DIY Beach Waves Spray
- Foaming Shave Soap
Many people also take aloe vera internally to aid in digestion and to help relieve stomach ulcers. Aloe vera gel contains numerous vitamins and minerals that help replenish the body. These remedies should be practiced under the advice of your health care provider.
Where Can You Get It
Aloe vera makes a wonderful houseplant. Not only will it help filter the air in your home, but you will always have it on hand for all of its wonderful uses. A small aloe vera plant shouldn’t be too hard to find at a nursery.
The aloe plant is similar to a cactus in care requirements. It requires well draining, sandy soil and does not tolerate frost, but will do very well indoors. Water it thoroughly but then allow the soil to dry about 2 inches down before watering again. (Be sure to check the care instructions for your particular plant.)
As I mentioned, I was able to get cut aloe vera leaves locally in the produce section at a grocery store, but they are probably going to be more readily available at organic stores or markets that cater to healthful living. You could also try a smaller grocery store that specializes in Indian food if you have one in your area.
How To Harvest The Gel from Aloe Vera
Aloe vera leaves are long and slightly curved with serrated edges. The gel is the thick fleshy part that is between the skin of the leaf.
- aloe vera leaf
- sharp knife
- clean airtight container for storing
- blender or immersion blender
- clean bowl (if you are using an immersion blender)
- Cut the leaf into sections about 8″ long. This makes it a little more manageable.
- Cut off the serrated edge. Try to get just the edge because it is difficult to get the gel out of those pieces.
- Cut the 8″ lengths into 2 or 3 long strips.
- Turn your blade to its side and slide it in just under the skin on the end of one of the strips.
- Carefully slide the knife along the bottom edge of the skin down the whole length of the leaf. Try to stay close to the skin so you get as much gel as you can.
- Once you get the whole piece of skin off, flip the section over and repeat with the other side.
- Cut the flesh into 2 or 3 pieces and place in a clean bowl (if you are using an immersion blender) or your blender pitcher.
- Repeat steps 4-7 until all sections have been skinned and gathered into your blender pitcher.
- Blend until smooth. It will almost immediately froth when you start your blender. This is normal. If you are using an immersion blender just blend it in the bowl until smooth.
- The froth will eventually go down. You can wait or you can just go ahead and pour the gel into the clean storage container and refrigerate.
- It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
Preserving The Gel
Fresh aloe vera gel will only be good for about a week in the refrigerator. This may not be a problem if you are using a smaller leaf from your own houseplant, but if you buy a large leaf you will likely end up with more gel than you can use in a week. There are other ways you can preserve it so that none of it goes to waste.
After you store the aloe vera gel you will use in the coming week, pour the extra gel into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. Then transfer the aloe cubes into a freezer safe container or bag. Pull out an aloe cube as needed for burns or to use in one of the above recipes. This is a great way to keep it on hand if having your own plant is not an option.
Alternately, before you blend the flesh, cut it into cubes and lay it on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Once the pieces are solid, transfer to a freezer safe container or bag. Pull a piece out as needed.
Add Natural Preservatives
When I get one of the large leaves I usually end up with about 1.5 cups. I place 1 cup into a clean pint mason jar. The remaining gel gets frozen as I instructed above. I waited for the froth to go down before I did this so I knew exactly how much I had.
To the 1 cup I add 2000 mg of Vitamin C and 1600 IU (1 tablespoon or 4 400 IU capsules) of Vitamin E. Powdered Vitamin C works well or you can crush the appropriate amount of tablets. Stir well until the vitamins are well incorporated. I stirred for a bit and then let it sit. When I came back to stir it again the Vitamin C was much easier to stir in.
You could also blend this with your immersion blender. This should increase the life of your gel to about 8 months if it is stored in the refrigerator.
Do you have an aloe vera plant? How do you use the gel?