Aloe Vera is a popular ingredient in skincare products, juices, and herbal remedies. Though these products have their advantages, it’s hard to improve upon the effectiveness of Aloe gel straight from the leaf of the plant. Aloes are tough, low maintenance plants, and easy to grow indoors. Harvesting the Aloe gel for yourself allows you to access the good stuff at its freshest, most concentrated, and most effective. This is especially important when using Aloe topically. If you choose to ingest it, you can control the concentration of Aloe in your juice mixtures and smoothies.
What you will need:
- An Aloe Vera plant
- A sharp knife
- A clean cutting board or work surface
- Refrigerator storage containers
Optional: rubber gloves (useful to avoid scraping yourself on the serrated edges)
First, make sure your Aloe plant is mature and healthy. The leaves should be fleshy and green, and at least eight inches in length. The outermost leaves are the best to use. These are the oldest and largest, containing a thick, nutrient-rich gel layer. Although Aloe leaves will not grow back, the plant wound seals quickly and new growth (which emerges at the center) is not affected.
1. Remove the leaf. A sharp knife creates a clean cut, limiting damage to the plant. Slice close to the base of the leaf and away from the center of the plant.
2. Once you have your Aloe leaf, rinse the outer skin and knife well under running water.
3. Remove the serrated edges and skin. Mature Aloe Vera leaves are slightly curved. Place the concave side down on a cutting board. Next, slice around the perimeter. This will leave you with the top and bottom layer of skin, exposing the Aloe gel in between. The top layer of skin comes off next. Run the knife just under the surface and peel it away. Now you can flip the leaf over and do the same to the other side.
4. Transfer the Aloe gel to a storage container like a plastic or glass dish with a lid. You can scrape the leaves if you will be using the gel topically and you want to get every last bit. If you plan on consuming it, be forewarned that this portion may contain some aloin, a compound found in the skin which can have a laxative effect. Store in the fridge. fresh Aloe gel will keep for about a week. If you wind up with more than you can use in that time, stick your leftovers in the freezer. You can also lengthen the shelf life by adding vitamins. For every 1/4 cup of gel, add 500 mg of Vitamin C and 400 IU of Vitamin E. You can grind Vitamin C caplets or drain Vitamin E capsules by pricking them with a small pin. Run the mixture of gel and vitamins through a blender, or stir vigorously with a spoon. This mixture can be stored for up to 8 months in the refrigerator.
For more help in demystifying the process, this video, How to Filet an Aloe Leaf, is a great visual aid!