Houseplants offer some surprising perks, from purifying the air in your home to improving your mood. The benefits of an aloe vera plant are especially obvious, as anyone who has ever rubbed the gel from the plant on a nasty sunburn knows. If you grow the prickly succulent at home, there's no need to spend money on aloe products from the drugstore. With the right knowledge, it's easy to harvest homegrown aloe vera and take advantage of its medicinal properties.
Active compounds in aloe vera have been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and promote the growth of new skin cells. That's why the plant is used as a treatment for everything from dry skin to first- and second-degree burns.
If you have an aloe vera plant growing in your garden or on your window sill, you can harvest the mature leaves once they develop a reddish color at their base. Use a knife or shears to cut them close to the stem, and take care to avoid pricking your hands on the leaves' serrated edges.
Your freshly-cut aloe leaf should release a yellowish liquid from the opening. This substance is called aloin, and it can be toxic. Allow it to drain completely by resting the cut end of the leaf over a plate or bowl for at least one hour.
After draining your aloe vera of its aloin and rinsing it with cool water, get ready to cut it open. Place the leaf on a cutting board and slice off the prickly sides. Using a thin, sharp knife, peel away the top layer of the leaf's outer skin, trying your best not to remove any of the gel with it. (Think of removing the skin from a fish and keeping the filet intact).
Once you've disposed of that layer, use a spoon to scoop the aloe gel out of the bottom half of the leaf. Trim and wash away any yellow bits before applying the clear substance to your body.
Though fresh aloe gel is best used right away, you can store it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 10 days. Slathering it directly on a sunburn for soothing relief is one of the most common ways to use aloe, but that is just one of its potential applications. From haircare to gut health, here are more benefits the plant offers.