The Aloe Vera Houseplant
Aloe Vera, the plant you think of when you sunburn your entire body after a day sunbathing on your rooftop drinking a case of Miller Lite. Oh, yes. The wonderful cool touch of Aloe Vera which helps heal and makes you feel whole again. So, what’s it actually good for and is it worth trying to keep alive in your home?
This beautiful plant is not only a great option for the indoors, but it’s also a great medicinal house plant. As a herbalist who studied Chinese medicine, I am constantly looking for good household options when it comes to growing medicinal herbs in my home. It’s a constant struggle to find the right ones, especially since I live in a cold climate and don’t have any outdoor space.
But when it comes to Aloe Vera, you don’t have to worry about your climate or the amount of outside space you have, you can grow this thing anywhere.
The story of Aloe Vera
Native to the Mediterranean and Africa, Aloe was used by the ancient Chinese and ancient Egyptians to treat burns, reduce fevers and heal wounds. Cleopatra used Aloe in her skin regimen and millions of people today use it for their scalding burns.
In Chinese it’s known as Lu Hui, and has been used as a popular medicinal since it was introduced to the east only a few centuries ago. It’s classical use in Chinese medicine is similar to its modern use, from skin care to cosmetics to treating wounds and burns. However, in Chinese medicine we tend to focus more on its internal uses, prescribing Aloe to kill intestinal parasites (roundworm or tinea infections), strengthen digestion and guide out bowel obstructions. I use it in my clinic for constipation on a regular basis.
In the Philippines, it’s used with milk for kidney infections and in Japan, Aloe is used as an ingredient in commercially available yogurt.
There are over 400 species of Aloe, but “true aloe” is known as Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Fully grown, the plant can reach 60 to 90cm in height.
How to Use Aloe Medicinally
How do you turn your Aloe house plant into a medicinal powerhouse? It’s very easy.
Take the lower leaf of the plant, slice it open and obtain the gel within the leaf. You can apply the gel over the affected area of the skin for burns, skin care, etc.
Boil some of the leaves in a pan of water and breathe in the vapor.
First rinse the plant with cold water, cut it in half with a sharp knife and remove the thorny parts. Then, extract the transparent gel that contains the laxative properties and place it in a blender.
The gel should be processed once it’s extracted as it hardens quickly once it makes contact with the air. Add some lemon or grapefruit juice to the mixture.
Drink two or three ounces of the juice daily, preferably on an empty stomach. Take two tablespoons and stir in a glass of water or fruit juice.
Don’t consume if you are pregnant, have diabetes, thyroid or kidney disorders.
Aloe Vera Care
Aloe is relatively easy to care for. As a succulent, it doesn’t need much water and does best in dry conditions.
Lighting: Aloe likes the sun, but they can turn brown in harsh light. Indirect, bright sun is the best for these plants. Also, they can freeze during the winter so protect them from drafts and frost.
Water: Aloe can’t tolerate standing water. Make sure you are using well-draining soil, one that is made for cacti. You can buy some here. Smaller pots will drain quickly, which would work better for the aloe. Only water them sparingly, once per week or longer. Let the pot dry out between waterings.
The best way to check the soil is to place your finger 1 to 2 inches into the soil. If it is moist, this means your plant is well hydrated.
-If the leaves are lying flat, your Aloe doesn’t have enough light.
-If the leaves are thin and curled, you need to water the plant more.
-If the leaves are brown, take the plant to a location with less direct sun.
Growing plants medicinally is not only great for a nice looking apartment or home, it’s great for your health! Buy some Aloe for your future cuts, burns, or constipation. It’s also a great way to impress your friends.