Aloe Vera - Widely known for its healing powers

We’ve all seen “Aloe Vera” on a product before.
So what exactly is Aloe Vera and what can it be used for?

Aloe is probably the most well known Medicinal plant for a reason, it takes almost zero effort to break off a piece of a leaf and apply the gel of the leaf directly to a cut, burn, sunburn or insect bite.
Aside from having a million and one uses, I’ll try to cover Aloe Vera as a plant in the garden as well, because it’s a must have in any nearly garden. Aloe Vera is super easy to grow and many people don’t know how beautiful it can be when it’s blooming.
The only downside? It has sharp spines on the edges of the thick gel-filled leaves… At least if you happen to fall into a patch of Aloe Vera you’ll have some Aloe to rub onto your wounds…

Another somewhat noteworthy attribute of Aloe is they bloom in the winter time. (assuming they are in a place with mild winters where they won’t freeze to death) So having a few Aloe plants around might help you liven up your garden in the winter time like few other plants could.

Specifications:

  • Sun: Full Sun to Partial Shade.
  • Soil: Well drained. You can purchase Cactus Mix Potting soil at many garden centers. Or you can make your own Cactus mix soil by mixing what you would regularly use as the soil with sand, granite grit and/or Perlite (a volcanic rock). Although I’ve never had any issue keeping Aloe Vera in just about any soil.
  • Water: Low use. Soak soil once in awhile then don’t water it for awhile.
  • Height: 1 foot for the plant, 2-3 feet for the flowers.
  • Hardiness: Very hardy except against frost.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Grows in or out of containers. Will outgrow its container and need to be split into multiple pots.

Potential Uses:

Gel from leaves applied directly to skin:

  • Burns
  • Sunburns
  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Bruises
  • Insect bites
  • Help to heal frostbite
  • Rashes
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Eczema
  • Rosacea
  • Warts
  • Stretch marks
  • Psoriasis
  • Help stop Acne
  • Moisturize skin

If you’d rather not grow the plant yourself they sell Aloe Vera Gel online and in stores. Below is an affordable example.
Amazon.com – 100% Aloe Vera Gel, 24 oz ~$10

Drinking Aloe Vera juice: (They sell this in stores)

  • Laxative effects
  • Reduces bloating
  • Reduce Heartburn and indigestion
  • Help urinary tract infections
  • Lower blood-sugar levels
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Detoxify the body
  • Aloe Vera is also thought to be useful for oral health

Aloe Vera Juice can also be purchased online:
Amazon.com – Aloe Vera Supplement, 32oz ~$9

Varieties:

Aloe Vera is the only plant you’ll want to use for burns and other medicinal uses, but you would be surprised the forms an Aloe plant can take. There is even an Aloe Tree!
I try not to get to much into scientific names, because there are about 450 different types of Aloe.
Hopefully this condensed guide will help you know whats out there.

Aloe Vera: The Medicinal Form

Aloe-Vera-Common

The Aloe we usually think of. Note that the “Vera” is the title for this specific species, and we all have to watch ourselves and not call the other Aloe species “Aloe Vera” as well.

Used for cuts, burns, sunburns, insect bites, skin and hair moisturizing, even sometimes eaten for health benefits. This plant is the most potent for healing of all the Aloes, and many people will tell you to use only this variety for healing purposes to be on the safe side.

Common Aloe has tall red cones of yellow to red flowers somewhat like the cover photo.

Aloe Vera reproduces quite rapidly by sending off new plants all around the parent plant. If you have an Aloe Vera in a pot for any length of time expect it to crowd itself out of the pot with baby Aloe Vera plants

Very hardy and drought tolerant, one thing I found out is they do not handle harsh winters that well.

Identifying “Medicinal” Aloe Vera VS other Aloe Species or other Succulents:

White dots or lines are usually a good indication that it is truly “Aloe Vera” and not another species of Aloe.

Aloe-Vera-Wide

Aloe Vera with wide, spaced leaves

Aloe Flat

“Flat” Aloe Vera. Leaves one on top of the other.

 

NonMedicinal forms of Aloe:

Spiral Leaved Aloe:

Aloe-Vera-houseplant

Sought after by collectors for its relative rarity and spellbinding spiral shape, this is one of the only “endangered species” you’ll commonly find for sale in the United States and elsewhere, although it is usually very expensive.

This type of Aloe is quite a bit rarer largely due to one reason:
it doesn’t shoot out small plants all around itself like common aloe.
On top of that it is much more picky about its habitat than its more common counterpart. Still, it makes for a better potted plant than common Aloe Vera.

Spiral leaved aloe is even considered endangered in its native Africa due to over collecting and the decline of the bird that pollinates it.

All data I have seen points to this species not having healing benefits.

Tall Aloe:

Noble Aloe

There are several species of Tall Aloe, far more than I would like to get into detail about.

Call it a tree or don’t call it a tree, either way its a really big Aloe.

Probably the biggest con of “Tree Aloe” is how slowly they grow.

These Aloe grow upwards very slowly, taking several years to resemble a tree. (up to 15 years to even start to show a trunk.) They start out looking much like a normal aloe, but when they grow they just keep going up and forming a trunk like a tree.

Being a desert plant it could have a variety of applications for people planting low water use plants in their yards.

Like the Spiral Aloe, this species does not seem to have healing properties to match common aloe, but still makes a bold statement nonetheless.

Now that's an Aloe Tree

Now that’s an Aloe Tree

Here’s a real Aloe Tree so you know I didn’t lie about them being trees.

How old this tree must be…

 

 

 

This is far from a complete list, just a few different kinds of Aloe you may find interesting.

Its unfortunate they don’t all have the same medicinal benefits, and some species of Aloe are even known to be slightly poisonous!
So as with any plant  its vital to know what your looking at before you go rubbing it in open wounds.

Want this plant in your own garden?

I’ve seen them for sale at many department stores, and they are usually propagated via small plants growing up from the roots and not seeds, but here’s a link to some cheap seeds on Amazon if you’d like to go that route.

Amazon.com – Mixed varieties of Aloe Vera, 20 Seeds ~$5

Rather skip the seeds?

Amazon.com – Aloe Vera Plant in a 4″ pot ~$8