Aloe vera gel is a great healer that can soothe irritated skin. The gel has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in traditional medicine to treat wounds, burns and other skin conditions. It is also a popular treatment for sunburn. Studies even suggest that it may have anticancer, antioxidant, antidiabetic, and other therapeutic benefits.
Of course, you can buy the gel in your local pharmacy, but if you learn how to harvest aloe vera gel from the plant, you can ensure that the ingredients are pure and fresh. The gel can also be stored for future use.
How to Make Aloe Vera Gel
Many people use an aloe plant to treat a burn or a wound by simply cutting a piece of the leaf off and squeezing or rubbing the liquid onto their skin. Although this method is effective, it wastes most of the valuable inner gel of the leaf. To properly remove the inner gel of an aloe vera leaf, the leaf needs to be fileted instead of simply squeezed. This process also harvests much more aloe gel from the leaf.
- First, wash your hands well. When ready to harvest the gel from an aloe leaf, choose an outer leaf that is healthy and grows toward the bottom of the plant. To remove the leaf, cut it at an angle close to the plant's base. Plants that are too immature to harvest will not have leaves growing close to the ground.
- Once you cut the leaf from the plant, place it upright in a container in a slightly tilted position. Let the leaf stay in that position for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, allowing the dark resin sap to drain from the leaf.
- Place the aloe leaf on a flat surface such as a cutting board. Carefully cut off the tip of the leaf and the pointed rough edges on both sides using a very sharp knife. Make certain to cut both sides of the leaf all the way from top to bottom.
- Separate the front and back of the leaf by slicing it lengthwise from the inside - similar to how you would filet a fish.
Scoop out both the slimy mucilage gel and the clear inner gel which appears more as a solid gel. For most leaves, a spoon works for scooping out the gel. If the leaf is very large, a butter knife may work best. When removing the gel, it is important to press down lightly but firmly, being careful not to remove any remaining sap.
How to Store Aloe Vera Gel
Store the aloe gel in the refrigerator in a plastic container that is safe for food storage or a glass container. The best container choice is a dark green or brown glass jar, which helps to keep out light. Many people add a drop of vitamin E and a small amount of citric acid powder to prevent discoloration and make the aloe vera gel last longer. In place of citric acid powder, simply crush a vitamin C tablet into powder or use a drop of grapefruit seed extract.
Knowing how to make your own aloe vera gel and the correct method of preparing and storing it provides you with a supply of the healing gel that lasts under refrigeration for a year or longer. Instead of purchasing aloe vera gel at the store, begin growing and harvesting your own natural product right at home.
Aloe Vera Safety Tips
Aloe vera can be used safely to treat sunburns and other types of skin irritation. Experts suggest rubbing the gel directly on the skin once it is removed from the plant. In some rare cases, an allergic rash may develop. If so, stop using the gel. Also, aloe vera should never be used on an open wound.
Some people ingest aloe or use it in drinks or smoothies. However, medical experts advise against it as it can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea. Also pregnant women are cautioned against taking aloe because aloe juice (also called aloe latex) can cause contractions and potentially trigger a miscarriage. Women who are breastfeeding should also avoid aloe latex because its effect on infants and children is not known.