Every day, people around the world appreciate the nutritional benefits of aloe vera. Traditionally, aloe is known for its wound healing qualities and as a natural moisturizer.
However, its uses go well beyond that. It’s been used in numerous beauty products as an additive for its vitamin and acemannan content (a compound with antiviral and immune-stimulating properties); however, its nutritional properties also make this plant a living superfood. You can even get it as a powerful supplement that can be used topically or taken internally!
These benefits have ensured that the aloe vera plant has become incredibly popular. It’s a very easy plant to care for, making it a staple in many homes. Scientifically named aloe barbadensis miller, it’s one of the best plants for someone who is new to gardening or interested in growing their own super foods!
Nutrients Found in Aloe Vera
Aloe vera possesses many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support proper body function. It has high levels of vitamin A, which is a key player for a healthy immune system, organ function, and reproduction. (source)
Aloe vera is also a tremendous source of vitamin C. Vitamin E is another nutrient it offers that’s great for protecting against free radical damage. It could even offer benefits for heart health. And, it’s not just these three antioxidants, aloe vera also contains B12, folic acid, and choline; all of which help with nervous system health.(source)
It’s a great source of minerals like calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc, which are essential for proper function of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways.(source)
Additionally, aloe vera contains at least eight different enzymes — alliinase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinesia, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase. Bradykinase can help reduce skin irritation when applied topically. Some of the other enzymes can help the body break down fat, sugar, and other nutrients. For this reason, digestive enzymes are great for leaky gut.(source)
Catalase, which is found in most organisms, is important when it comes to protecting cells from oxidative damage–something implicated in many diseases, as well as the body’s aging process.(source)
A recent study looked at the prebiotic potential of aloe vera mucilage, suggesting that it could be used to support gut health and probiotic colonies. And, its high acemannan content could also have immunomodulatory properties.
Additional Health Benefits of Aloe Vera
Moisturizes the skin
Nutritional / Dietary Supplementation
Promotes normal cholesterol levels
Supports cardiovascular health
Boosts the immune system
So Why Grow Your Own Aloe?
You might be thinking, “It’s so much easier to just buy aloe vera from the store. Why would I ever go out of my way to make my own?”
That’s a good question and we’ve got the answer.
According to one study, using aloe vera extract from non-decolorized aloe was found to have possible carcinogenic properties. These problematic alkaloids are found on the outer portion of the leaf. However, there are many whole-leaf aloe vera supplements and products on the market.
When you are working tirelessly to prepare such supplements in bulk to be placed on store shelves, it can be easy to overlook this detail. The best way to avoid coming in contact with non-decolorized aloe, and making yourself susceptible to its health risks, is to grow your own at home and prepare it properly.
In addition, the plant is well known for its quick leaf multiplication and for mothering plantlets known as ‘babies’ that can be removed to yield entirely new plants. This means that once your plant reaches maturity, you will be able to harvest aloe vera leaves continuously and save some dollars while you’re at it. Now let’s learn how to grow your own!
Growing Your Own Aloe Vera
When you first get started with growing your own aloe vera, the most important things to consider are the soil and location of the plant. First, decide where you will be growing your aloe vera. Whether indoors or outdoors, it is imperative that you choose a place where your plant will receive plenty of light. This can be a little tricky, though, because too much direct sunlight can cause the plant to dry out and turn the leaves brown – but too little light will stunt the plant’s growth.
It is also important to note that aloe can freeze in the winter if outside, so keep your local climate in mind when choosing where you want to place your plant. I recommend choosing a pot you can easily bring indoors during freezes or leaving your plant in a location you can cover with a tarp or blanket. If the plant is to be grown indoors, make sure the plant will receive enough indirect sunlight; south or west-facing windows are ideal.
Once you’ve decided where your aloe vera is going to live, it’s time to begin thinking about the soil. Aloe vera likes dry soil, so I recommend using cactus potting soil mix. The best alternative would be to use a regular potting soil with perlite added. When planting your aloe vera, make sure to position the plant so it is upright, and cover the base and roots with the soil. Provide several inches of space between plants, as they do grow outward from the center. Give your aloe vera a bit of space because the mother plant will offset the “babies” from the outer base.
It’s also important to choose an appropriate planter. Start with a medium to a large planter and make sure it has good drainage. Planters with a single large hole in the bottom are best, as your plant will not grow if there is standing water. In fact, one of the most common issues new plant owners run into when trying to care for aloe vera is that they overwater the plant. When watering, the soil should feel damp but not soaked.
The best way to gauge watering is to feel the plant leaves every few days, as long as they feel cool or moist, the plant has enough water. If the leaves feel dry or brittle, first examine the sunlight conditions, then adjust water as needed. Before you water again, the soil should be completely dry. During cooler months, it will need less water.
Once your plant reaches maturity, you can begin to harvest aloe for its nutritional benefits. It’s safe to begin this process once additional leaves or shoots have grown from the center of the plant. To harvest leaves from your aloe vera, start by selecting mature leaves from the outermost section of the plant.
When harvesting your aloe vera leaves, ensure that you remove aloin (yellowish, brown sap) before taking it. Aloin has been linked with diarrhea when consumed in large quantities.
How to Use Your Homegrown Aloe Vera
Once you’ve begun harvesting you plant it’s time to start using it to boost your health. Try these common aloe vera uses to get started:
Apply to your skin after you have been exposed to the sun
Use as shampoo to prevent dandruff, rub thoroughly into your scalp
Rub gently on burns to ease pain and accelerate healing
Administer the gel onto cold sores to prevent further infection
Remove makeup naturally with aloe gel
Drink up to three eight ounce glasses of aloe a day to fight digestive illness and menstrual cramps
Mix half a cup of aloe with half a cup of water and gargle to fight gum disease and plaque buildup
Growing aloe vera at home will guarantee the health benefits of aloe vera, as well as give you the unique satisfaction of growing your own.
Global Healing center. A Surprising Superfood: Learn the Benefits of Aloe Vera http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/learn-the-benefits-of-aloe-vera/ Published: December 11, 2015. Accessed: December 5, 2016.
Mercola. Plants Migrate, too: On the trail of aloe very benefits http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/08/10/aloe-vera-benefits.aspx Published: August 10, 2015. Accessed: December 5, 2016
Global Healing Center. Absolute Beginner’s Guide to growing your own aloe vera http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/guide-to-growing-your-own-aloe Published: December 9, 2015. Accessed: December 5, 2015.
NCBI. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906676/ Published: September 9, 2008. Accessed: December 5, 2016.
NCBI. The Choline pathway as a strategy to promote central nervous system (CNS) remyelination https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4625486/ Published: September 10, 2015. Accessed: December 5, 2016.
NCBI. Aloe Vera: A Short Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/ Published: 2008. Accessed: December 5, 2016.