I reached several times for an aloe leaf this summer already to help me deal with summer burns, so thought maybe I should blog on the uses and recipes using Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis).
While I was visiting my kids in Utah, I went for a walk and got lost - a few miles out of the way lost on a hot, full sun blazing day. By the time I made it back home (remembered I had google maps on my phone to find my way home finally) I was sunburned, thirsty, tired and my lips were burnt. Boy do burned lips hurt and blister. So I took a "leaf" off an aloe plant, split it open and put some of the inner gel onto my lip. Felt instantly better but oh yuck, the taste was so bitter. After using that a couple more times, my lips healed up and I had no more problem or pain. Aloe is a very useful plant to have in every home, especially during the summer.
So for us to grow Aloe in the Red River Valley, we need to place them in pots in a very sunny south facing window and in summer we can place the pot outdoors in a sunny location. Choose a pot big enough to contain the aloe's roots without crowding them. Add 1 to 2 inches of gravel on the bottom of the pot to increase drainage. The pot needs to have drainage holes as well.
Fill the container with a potting mix designed for succulents. Use a commercially produced mix from a garden store, or make your own with 1 part potting soil, 1 part sand and 1 part peat moss. Test the soil for adequate drainage by moistening it, then squeezing it in your hand. When you let go, it should fall apart rather than stay in a muddy clump. Water thoroughly during the spring and summer so that the soil is soaked through, but wait to water again until the soil is dry. During the winter, water with only a cup of water after the soil dries out. The aloe goes dormant in the winter and doesn't need the extra moisture.
Uses for Aloe include:
healing agent for burn, sores and poison ivy. The gel can reverse blisters
and prevent scarring and tissue damage.
Can use for a sunscreen as it blocks 20-30% of the suns rays
Powerful laxative (can cause cramping and pain if used in excess). The
outermost layers of the leaves and skin have the laxative properties, so
when scrape leaf, avoid those areas to prevent intense cramping.
Remedy for digestive irritation and inflammation (ulcers and colitis)
Soothes inflammation such as with bursitis and arthritis.
Healing to eyes with drops from a fresh cut aloe leaf
To make an aloe gel for burns, wounds and skin irritations: Cut a large leaf from your aloe plant,making sure to harvest the outer leaves first. Slice it open (best to do over a plate to catch the ooze as you cut it). Use a tablespoon to scoop out the inner gel. If you want a smooth gel, puree it in a blender. Store the gel in a small bottle in the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least several weeks. To extend it's shelf life, add 500 IU of Vitamin C per cup of gel.
To use the gel, apply directly to the skin. It will feel cooling and soothing and will begin immediately to repair and heal damaged tissue. As the aloe dries, it will begin to pull and tighten the skin. This is part of the healing process, but if it becomes uncomfortable, gently rinse the aloe off. Repeat application several times a day.
For sunburns, I also have ready aloe gel I have scrapped and blended previously and frozen in an ice cube tray. On sunburned skin, it is easier to rub an ice cube over the skin then to spread a thick gel.
If you suffer from arthritis, you can make an Aloe Comfrey Arthritis gel to soothe those sore muscles and joints. Make a strong comfrey tea and combine 1/4 cup of this comfrey tea with 1/4 cup aloe vera gel and add 1 to 2 drops of spearmint, peppermint or wintergreen essential oil. Mix well and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
For internal use, place 1 cup aloe vera gel scraped from leaves into a blender and blend thoroughly with juice of 1 lemon and some spearmint leaves. Sweeten with a spoonful of honey if desired (it is quit bitter). Add 1/2 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice for added digestive enzymes. Drink 1/4 to 1/2 a cup as needed throughout the day. This will help with constipation and leaky gut.
Another formula is to take 1/2 teaspoon aloe gel, 1 tablespoon elderflower, 2 teaspoons fenugreek and 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds. Take several times a day to help with stomach aches, constipation and indigestion.