So, you have an aloe plant. But you’ve been reading about all the ways you can use that beautiful plant to make medicinal creams, conditioners and food, and you have one simple question: how do I do that? How do I get an aloe face cream that fights acne from this long-leaved plant? How does the touch plant become a smooth and sleek conditioner for my hair? Just looking at your potted plant makes all these possibilities seem impossible. But they’re not! You can make them all by yourself, in your home–given you have the courage. If you want to make homemade, health-promoting products from your aloe plant, you have to be prepared to do a little surgery on your plant. Snip, snip! But don’t worry, you won’t be hurting your aloe one bit by borrowing some of its leaves. Think of it as using your aloe so that you hurt no more!
What Part of the Plant? The Leaf.
Take a look at your aloe plant. Overwhelmed at where to start? Don’t be! Those long, tough-skinned leaves are what contain all of the medicinal potential you’ve been hoping for! Since that is the case, you will need to remove one or two leaves at a time to create one product–whether it be an aloe-based cream, dessert, smoothie, soap, conditioner, etc. Get out those tools!
Can I Remove a Leaf of My Plant without Damaging it?
Although a plant is living and breathing, you can cut off a piece of it without repercussions. Removing a leaf or two of your aloe vera plant will not damage or harm it. It will live! All it may do is harm your plant’s aesthetic appeal, which can easily be avoided by strategically selecting which aloe leaf to take. Although it’s for a good cause, you don’t want to leave your aloe looking bald! Another part of not damaging your aloe plant when removing a leaf is making sure you cut it off correctly.
How to Cut that Aloe Leaf!
That leaf! It’s gotta go! But before it does, you want to make sure you are removing your plant’s leaf in a way that will not damage the plant or any surrounding part of it. Do not pull! I repeat, do not just pull of a leaf of your plant! To avoid unnecessary harm to your plant, you will want to use
- a sharp knife or razor
to properly remove a leaf. How far down do you cut? All the way! You will probably need the gel from an entire aloe leaf (or two of them) for your medical concoction, so take the whole thing. Position your sharp utensil right where the leaf meets the stem to ensure a clean cut. Just be sure not to slice the stem–you just want the leaf!
If you are using the pure aloe gel just to clean a put over a cut or bruise and only want to take half of a leaf, you can do that too. To make sure your slicing does not become like an open wound, you can dust the open part with agricultural sulfur to kinda close it up. But that’s optional! Totally up to you!
Now What am I Looking For? The Anatomy of an Aloe Leaf
So you have your aloe leaf. What now? That still doesn’t look like a lovely face cream! You already know your focus is on your aloe’s leaves, so let’s explore the anatomy of the aloe leaf to find out your next step. You want to have a good sense of where everything is in the leaf before you start cutting it up and dissecting it. There are two parts of the aloe leaf you want to concern yourself with:
- Aloe gel: This is the part of the leaf you want to gather for whatever you are creating. It is a thick, gel-like substance located in the center of your aloe leaf, so you’ll need to slice the aloe leaf open to get to it!
- Aloe latex: Before you get to the aloe gel, you’ll probably encounter aloe latex, a yellow sap-like substance that lurks just below the aloe leaf’s surface. Avoid that at all costs! Inevitably, some may get in your aloe gel (especially if you are an aloe-dissecting newbie!), but you can get rid of it by rinsing off your aloe gel–not once, not twice, but three times–before using it, especially if you are making something that you are ingesting. Did I forget to mention that aloe latex functions as a laxative. The last thing you want to be doing is running to the bathroom because you got some of that aloe latex!
Now you have a better sense of where everything is inside the aloe leaf, and what you are and aren’t looking for when opening it up. A quick quiz to make sure:
Aloe latex? No. Avoid at all costs.
Aloe gel? Yes. Gather that jelly substance like there is no tomorrow!
Getting to the Gel: Extraction Techniques
To get out that aloe gel, you can use either kitchen utensil:
- a sharp knife
- fruit peeler (be careful, this method makes you more likely to come in contact with aloe latex!)
Read the linked articles for detailed instruction on how to use each one!
Mostly likely, you next step will be to turn that aloe gel into aloe oil, which we then be what goes into all your cream, conditioner and soap recipes! If you are making an aloe-inspired juice, water or food like a dessert or salad, your aloe-extracting may be done: you just need the pure gel! Good luck following the rest of that recipe! Your aloe is officially no longer a plant!
Very useful informations. But I have a problem. My aloe vera plant has not that gel consistancy… it’s pretty much just water, not sticky at all. Is it a different type of plant or am I not taking care of it right?
Danielle Brown says
How old is your aloe plant? It is really only mature aloe plants (4 years old) that start producing quality aloe gel with medicinal properties. It is quite possible that your aloe plant is still too young and patience is your best bet.
Penny Green says
I’m sitting here reading your post, excited to get started with my newly purchased plants. I think I’m ready and I scroll down to some comments and find this. “Only mature plants 4 years and older produce what I’m looking for.”
Wish you would have said that in the beginning. I don’t think my 2″x 4″ babies are old enough.
My bad, should have read the post first.
I have a fairly young plaint on my hands, will that affect the gel I get from it?Its about a year or two,
well, not sure about the others but mine is rarely 7 months old and it is doing really well.. I use it regularly and I cannot support the hypothesis of it requiring as long as FOUR years to be fruitful..
Hi 🙂 I’m wondering if there are specific aloe vera plants that are usable for both edible and exterior purposes or can I just use whatever aloe plant I can get my hands on? are any of the species dangerous to use or not recomended? Or am I just good to go? Cause I have a plant but I don’t know exactly what kind of aloe it is.. How do I know that it’s edible?
Thank you <3
Love your site btw
I also wonder about this. Are certain plants better for cookin. And others better for medicine? And more importantly, are there any aloe species that could be dangerous or useless for skin or ingestion?
For Sofia or James, or anyone else interested:
There are at least two kinds of aloes that have medicinal and other benefits, vera and arborescens. I don’t know if there are any others, but you can probably get one or the other of these two by looking online if there are no places selling them near you.
This site seems to be dealing only with A. vera, but I once saw a T.V. program about an old lady in Japan, who was showing the aloes in her garden and telling how she used them. They were not Aloe vera, but Aloe arborescens (Do a google or bing search for images of it and you will see how its form is different from that of A. vera) . She cut a small piece off a leaf, removed the “thorns” and chewed it right in front of the camera. Whether true or not, she claimed that it was good to eat both the gel and the skin.
I grew A. arborescens in Japan and now have several plants in my garden in California. I have eaten both gel and skin with no ill effects, but anyone trying something new would be well advised to start very small. It does taste terrible, I admit. I have grown several types of Aloes and don’t know if any other than A. vera and A. arborescens *can* be eaten at all (or if they have the same medicinal benefits), but that is no problem because if you have arborescens, you will end up with such a large plant or number of plants that you will be able to use all you want without killing it–unless you are making some commercial concoction to sell. They also bloom with beautiful orangey-red stalks of flowers.
I have always had trouble growing Aloe vera and no trouble at all with Aloe arborescens. The latter has leaves forming at various points on its stem, not from the base of the plant near the ground. Many “rosettes” made up of a number of leaves are formed in this way, and any rosette can be cut off, leaving several inches of stem, and stuck in the ground to root and start a new Aloe plant. (Depending on where you live, you may have to withhold water until the new roots form, perhaps just misting the plant until then. If you are in a very hot place, start it in a pot so you can keep it in dappled or light shade at first. Mine get full sun just in the mornings, but the rooted plants are not very fussy.)
With Aloe vera, on the other hand, the number of leaves on any one plant is limited and if you want to reproduce it, you have to wait and hope it will form pups (baby plants) in the ground around it. So, other things being equal, my vote goes to A. arborescens.
By the way, I heard from a friend that the reason it is better to use a mature plant if you want to eat it or make some concoction for your skin is that a mature plant has beneficial nutrients in it that are not present or else not yet strong enough in young ones. That makes sense. Besides, if your plant is too young and you start cutting its leaves, how will it grow well?
Chrys JK says
thank you for this information
JJ Jemaa says
Just wondering about the life cycle and growth of an aloe plant…
Aloe You says
The aloe plant is a great thing to have in your house for quick treatment for burns and scratches. One thing to remember James, is that with aloe vera it was primarily used in the past for topical treatments and only recently used as a means of ingestion. Aloe vera can be a natural laxative so the ingestion of it should be carefully moderated. It is also known to lower blood sugar levels, so something diabetics should be aware of. A great post with useful information. Please keep up these posts.
The best source of Aloe and tutorials that I trust is Aloe1.com. (Stockton) He will teach you how to do the extraction and has many great products. By the way the 4 gallon bucket purchase (pricey but worth every penny) already complete and safe is my go to on a daily basis.
Aloe vera is also a great air-purifying plant!
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