For many centuries, the aloe vera plant has been known and used for its beauty, medicinal, health, and dermatological properties (History of Aloe, 2021). Botanically, it is called Aloe barbadensis miller, belonging to the Asphodelaceae family. Aloe vera is a shrubby, perennial, succulent, xerophytic, pea-green color plant that grows mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Europe, Asia, and America. Aloe vera has over 75 potentially active constituents, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, aspirin, lignin, saponins, amino acids, sugars, fatty acids, hormones, and salicylic acids.
Historically, aloe vera is one of the oldest mentioned plants commercially grown for the health and moisturizing benefits found inside its leaves. An adult aloe vera plant attains maturity at 3-4 years and may reach a height of 30 inches along with up to 21 leaves (“The Aloe Vera Story – Lily of the Desert,” 2021). Countries like Africa and other ancient cultures believe aloe vera is the epitome of protection, spiritual upliftment, and good luck. The benefits of aloe vera cannot be understated. Consequently, knowing how to harvest and preserve the plant for maximum benefits is vital.
Harvesting aloe vera is not just about the acquisition stage but also extends greatly to the preparation stage. After harvesting an aloe vera plant:
- Hold down the cut end to allow the aloin to run out.
- Wash the leaf with water, lay it flat on the table, and cut the serrated edges.
- Begin on one side and filet off the skin on all the sides, including the yellowish layer, until you expose a clear to white, translucent flesh.
This flesh is the good stuff you are looking for that is ready to use after a quick rinse. In the long run, it makes no difference if you want to use a store-bought aloe vera gel or a fresh aloe vera plant. With the store-bought aloe gel, preserving may be pretty easy as the commonly added preservatives do the work for you. However, keeping the harvested gel fresh may be a little challenging for whole leaves. Extending the entire leaves’ lifetime is possible by storing them in your refrigerator or freezer; otherwise, the leaves will start going bad after 1-2 days.
Types of Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera Powder
Aloe vera leaf powder comes in two variations: leaf powder and inner leaf powder (2021). Distinguishing between these two variations is essential in ensuring you get a product that best suits your needs. Leaf powder, sometimes called 100X, is made from the entire aloe leaf and may omit aloin. Aloin, also known as aloe latex, is found beneath an aloe leaf’s skin. In preparing aloe vera powder, the filtration process, where most, if not all, of the aloin, is removed, is very vital. So important is the process that if not performed, the product fails to be California Proposition 65 compliant and is listed as carcinogenic. Since this powder type is less labor-intensive, it is generally less expensive. Additionally, you can obtain more aloe powder from the liquid than the inner leaf product due to its higher matrix.
On the other hand, inner leaf powder uses only the gel taken from the leaf’s interior, meaning that the aloin is generally left unused. The quality of the inner leaf powder highly depends on how well the leaf is skinned. Inner leaf powder, obtained from inner leaf juice, has a lower brix level meaning that more liquid is used to produce the same powder quantity. Comparably, it is more labor-intensive. These two attributes result in powder being generally expensive.
Uses and Preparation of Aloe Vera Powder
To make aloe vera powder:
- Take 1-2 fresh aloe vera leaves.
- Wash it thoroughly to remove the yellow resin from the leaves.
- Slice it into a tiny piece.
- Place the slices on a tray.
- Dehydrate them using a dehydrator or place them under the sun to dry.
- Once dried, then ground into a fine powder.
- Transfer the powder into a container and use it when needed.
Aloe vera powder is valuable to most cosmetics and self-care products, including toothpaste, shampoo, mouthwash, conditioner, skin salve, face scrub, hand sanitizer, and makeup.
Aloe Vera Gel
While you can quickly get aloe gel from stores, most of these commercially prepared aloe gels contain additives that may be potentially harmful. Preparing aloe vera gel at home is easy, provided you have the needed equipment, including a knife, a small spoon, a blender, an airtight container for storage, and an aloe vera leaf.
Uses and Preparation of Aloe Vera Gel at Home,
To obtain the aloe vera gel
- Use a fresh aloe plant leaf cut from the plant’s base. Alternatively, you can buy it from a local store.
- Wash the leaf well and allow it to stand upright in a cup or bowl for about 15 minutes to allow the yellow-tinted resin to drain out of the leaf.
- This resin contains latex, a skin irritant, so completing this step is vital.
- Follow this step by washing off any remains, then peel off the thick skin using a small knife or vegetable peeler.
- Peeling the leaf will expose the natural aloe vera gel, which you can easily scoop out with a spoon being careful to exclude any pieces of the aloe vera skin.
- Place the gel in a blender and mix until it is frothy and liquefied. Your aloe vera gel is now ready for use.
- If you keep the gel for over a week, add preservatives in vitamins C and E to extend the shelf life.
Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe vera juice, a thick liquid made from the aloe vera plant leaf’s flesh, is commonly used to treat sunburns. Drinking this healthy elixir in the juice will provide several health benefits.
Uses and Preparation of Aloe Vera Juice
To obtain the aloe Vera juice:
- You crush or grind the whole aloe vera plant leaf, then subject it to various steps of purification and filtration process.
- You can easily prepare the aloe vera juice at home by following simple steps.
- Begin with taking an aloe leaf and cutting it from the stem, then wash it properly.
- Use a sharp knife, and cut the leaf into tiny cubes being careful about the thorny edges. For the best results, always go for a green aloe leaf.
- The next step is to extract the gel by removing the aloe leaf’s outer layer to slice through the leaf’s latex. You can use a spoon or knife to scoop out the gel. Ensure you remove the latex so the gel is free of laxative properties.
- Finally, to make the juice, you will need a blender. Add two tablespoons of aloe juice and water to make a natural aloe juice.
- Usually, accentuating the taste and the health quotient of your healthy aloe juice is a perfect idea. You can accommodate your choice of ingredients, such as honey, ginger, and lime juice, making sure to drink the mixture the same day you blend it.
- Because of its mild and tolerable flavor and the fact that it mixes easily into smoothies and shakes, aloe vera juice is a practical whole-food supplement.
Aloe Vera Oil
While the aloe vera may be considered a wonder plant, it does not produce any oil. However, preparing aloe vera oil is not difficult, and you can achieve this in the comfort of your home.
Uses and Preparation of Aloe Vera Oil
To prepare aloe vera oil to use at home,
- You will need aloe vera plants and coconut oil.
- Place this aloe leaf on a flat surface and cut off the sharp thorns from the leaf’s sides.
- Scoop out the aloe vera gel after cutting the lead from the top.
- Add the aloe vera pulp to a mixer grinder, remove the crushed aloe vera and keep it inside. An alternative to this is purchasing natural aloe vera gel from the market.
- Place your pan on medium heat, add coconut oil and crushed aloe vera, and keep stirring until the oil turns brown.
- Allow the oil to cool down, drain the mixture, and store it in a dry bottle.
Aloe vera oil is added to skin moisturizers, anti-acne agents, hair-growth boosters, hydrating and anti-aging solutions, and stretch mark healers.
NOTE: Please, seek advice from your health practitioner before adding these herbs and spices to your diet. Because some herbs and spices might contraindicate with prescription medication.