Aloe vera is one of the true super plants. This plant is perhaps best revered for its ability to relieve pain from a sunburn. While this is certainly one of the uses, aloe can also do so much more. Read to learn about aloe vera uses, aloe vera benefits, AND aloe vera plant care.
When I was a kid (a freckly, redheaded kid at that), I fondly remember visits to my grandmother’s place at the beach. She lived in a warm city where the sun shone relentlessly in the summer despite the fact that it was windy enough to keep us cool.
This meant more hours of fun in the sun, which was more than my skin could reasonably handle. Even when I did put on sunscreen and reapply regularly, the sun would win out by the end of the day. I would be left with those bright pink shoulders that radiated heat up to my ears!
That was when my brilliant grandmother would cut off a little piece of her aloe vera plant, split it open with a knife, and apply it to my shoulders. It stung just a bit right at first but then cooled the sunburn down. The relief came almost instantly, and when I woke up the next morning, my shoulders were pink but not inflamed and not radiating heat like the sun.
That’s because aloe vera is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and it is most potent when applied directly from the plant. Since then, I’ve always kept at least one aloe vera plant growing in my house and have had some that have grown and provided me with the healing gel for many years.
The Quick History of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is one of the oldest plants on record to be noted for healing properties. This plant is native to eastern and southern Africa – even Cleopatra and Nefertiti used the plant to help maintain their youthful appearance. It has since been cultivated around the world due to its highly adaptable nature.
Aloe Vera Plant Care: How to Grow Aloe Vera
Aloe vera, a succulent with thick, gray-green leaves that have serrated edges, is very easy to grow. Simply treat it like you would any indoor succulent or cactus, except that it is much more forgiving of low-light conditions.
To keep your aloe very happy, plant it in well-draining soil that is preferably equal parts potting soil and sand. The plant likes tight spaces and has shallow roots, so plant it in a pot that’s just big enough not to tip over from the weight of the plant.
Aloe plants prefer bright, indirect light. Keeping them in sustained direct light can cause the leaves to dry out too much and turn yellow.
As for water, aloe likes to have a good, thorough drink every couple of weeks with their soil drying thoroughly in between waterings.
If you tend to keep the soil moist and begin to notice brown or limp leaves, your aloe may have root rot. Simply back off the watering a little and let its soil dry out before watering again.
Aloe Vera Benefits and Side Effects
In addition to its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties, aloe vera is also used as a powerful laxative. However, as a laxative, it can be too effective. Aloe vera can cause intestinal cramping and griping if you take too much of it, so be conservative.
Additional internal benefits of using aloe include:
- Aiding indigestion
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent and reduce the size of kidney stones
Externally, aloe can be used to help alleviate sunburns, wounds, frostbite, dermatitis, skin disorders, and burns from radiation therapy.
Different Uses For Aloe Vera
Aloe vera truly is a super plant! Here are a few powerful ways to use it.
Aloe Vera for Sunburn: Soothes and Helps Heal
Perhaps the most widely known use for aloe vera, this plant helps cool the skin and speeds up healing. It can also help reverse sunburn blisters if applied before they develop. Keep reading on to find out more.
Relieves the Itch From Bug Bites
The plant’s anti-inflammatory properties not only help relieve sunburns but also relieve the itching, swelling, and redness from bug bites.
Helps to Cleanse and Speed up Healing of Wounds
Aloe is anti-bacterial and contains antiseptics which help clean cuts and wounds by killing bacterial and fungi. Aloe also helps promote quicker healing of wounds.
Cleanse and Moisturize Skin
Aloe’s pH level closely matches our skin, enabling it to gently (but thoroughly) cleanse our face while also closing pores and tone skin. Its anti-inflammatory qualities can also help prevent breakouts.
Helps Reduce Visibility of Wrinkles, Stretch Marks, and Scars
Aloe was called the “plant of immortality” by the Ancient Egyptians and helps promote skin tissue repair and healing.
How to Use Aloe Vera For a Sunburn
The healing power of plants cannot be denied, especially when something as simple as an aloe vera plant can provide great relief to something so painful: sunburned skin. A classic use of aloe (and probably one of the most common aloe vera benefits), this sunburn remedy is one that I have been using for as many years as I can remember.
To use aloe vera gel on a sunburn is simple.
Cut a piece of aloe vera off of the plant with a sharp knife. Cut the tip off of one of the leaves; it can be as large as the whole leaf or as small as just part of the tip.
Place the cut piece on paper towel and let sit from 10 minutes to allow the dark yellow latex to drain. After 10 minutes, you can wipe the sides of the cut which will remove the latex from the inner filet. The latex can stain skin and clothes and can cause skin reactions in sensitive people.
Pro Tip: If you cut a section of a leaf off at an angle (and don’t cut the whole leaf off), the end of the leaf will seal up from the latex (that’s what it’s for!) and it will be available for cutting again another time.
Then take a paring knife and split the leaf in half so that the gel inside has the most surface area. Take the leaf and rub it directly on the burn*.
Note: Be sure to test a small patch of skin before applying it en masse. Some people have allergies to aloe vera straight from the plant and you don’t want to cause a worse reaction!
Caution: Do not use aloe vera on deep wounds.
You can also put the leaves in the fridge and use them as a cold gel to soothe the burn. It will feel good but will not add any additional healing properties so this isn’t an essential step.
Compost the leaves when you’re finished applying the gel to your skin and repeat every six hours if you’re still looking for relief from a nasty sunburn. Please note that this is for a typical sunburn. Serious burns with blisters, a headache, or severe pain should be seen by a doctor.
Luckily, now that I am older and wiser, I no longer burn. Not because my skin has changed, but because I know the secret tips to keep my skin healthy:
- Staying out of the sun between 11:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. on hot days
- Wearing long-sleeved clothing and a wide-brim sun hat
- Always wearing sunscreen on exposed skin (even if it’s cloudy out).
I hope that this information about aloe vera and my instructions on using it for sunburns help you as much as they have helped me for all the years that I got sunburned. Know that you know some aloe vera benefits, I hope you’ll try growing one of your own (it’s great for green thumbs and black thumbs, alike!).
More Summer Sun Recipes from the Garden
- Protect Your Lips with an All-Natural Sunscreen Lip Balm Recipe.
- If you’ve sunburned your lips and need something to soothe them, whip up this healing after-sun lip balm.
- Even if you don’t have a sunburn, this after-sun salve recipe is a summer necessity to re-hydrate and soothe sun-kissed skin.
- Re-hydrate your body from the inside with Sun Tea!
- Preserve the beauty of the garden with cyanotype Sun Print Cards.
- Heat-Tolerant Plants that love the sun.
- Plants some of these Best Perennials for Sun.