Aloe vera is a plant that is used for its juice, meat, and even the leaves. It has been known to heal burns, calm stomach aches, and can be used in hair and skin care. However, it has to be properly prepared in order to make it as beneficial as possible.
Things to know about aloe vera
This is everything I would tell someone who was unfamiliar with aloe but was interested in using it. It is very versatile, and is not as intimidating as it may seem.
Parts of an aloe leaf and how to use them
The aloe leaf contains three main parts: the outer leaf, gel, and meat.
People (on the internet) say you can eat it, for example in salsa; I tried, and it’s not for me. It’s crunchy, a bit slimy, and has the bitter taste of aloe. Granted, I did just take a bite out of it to see what it was like, but I know for me I won’t be eating this.
This is the stringy liquid that gets strained off the meat. This can be consumed just like the meat can, but can also be used in skin and hair care. I use it as a leave-in moisturizer on my face and hair, and put it on any burn or cut that I get.
Aloe meat is the chunks that don’t strain out; this part of the plant is for consumption. Unlike the gel, this is not very useful for skin or hair care, as it is chunky and doesn’t dissolve. (basically you’ll end up with little chunks of aloe everywhere.) I use this mostly in smoothies, as it masks the bitter taste of the aloe.
Is aloe vera expensive to buy?
In my opinion, aloe is very inexpensive. At my grocery store (Woodman’s), I can buy a healthy, decently-sized aloe plant for $1.49/each. Given that each plant gives about [quantity of meat] and [quantity of gel] and lasts about a week or two, I think it is well worth the price.
What about buying a whole plant?
If you want to go the “buy the whole plant and grow it yourself” route, you can find them online for anywhere from $4.99 to $25.99. (the cost depends on how fancy of a pot you want it in, if you’re paying for shipping and handling, things like that.) However, they may not be the same kind that they sell for consumption at the grocery store and may only be for outer uses, so make sure you do thorough research before buying one.
Personally, I don’t own an aloe plant myself, so I can’t speak from experience. But here are some resources I found that may help if you’re interested:
Don’t eat just any aloe plant!
Aloe vera is just one species of aloe plant, and some sources (wikipedia) say that there are up to 500 different kinds. However, not all of these are edible. So, if you are planning to eat the aloe, make sure it’s the right kind! Many different grocery stores sell aloe by the leaf if you are not planning to care for your own plant.
Does aloe vera from the store have the same effect?
The biggest benefit to processing the aloe leaf yourself is that you have full control over what goes into it (just like all other food). Because I care about you, my dear reader, I searched the internet for aloe gel that comes in a bottle. I found one drink online, and it has the following ingredients: water, aloe vera pulp, fructose, honey, citric acid, sodium citrate, vitamin C, gellan gum, and calcium lactate. I don’t know what most of those things are, and I wouldn’t include those ingredients in something I would drink on a regular basis.
Based on what I’ve seen, this is pretty much what would be found in any aloe drink sold at a store. Granted, I didn’t search the entire world for inexpensive, fresh, preservative-free aloe, but my guess is that it would be hard to come by. My point is: you can do it yourself for a lot cheaper and know exactly what you’re getting than buying something already made.
How to process an aloe leaf
Like I said before, aloe needs to be properly prepared before using it. Here is how I extract the gel and the meat from the outer leaf.
1. Wash the entire leaf to remove dirt and debris. Cut the bottom white part off, and soak in water for a minimum of 5 minutes.
The bottom piece can be eaten to treat constipation. I would suggest also soaking this in water, then consuming it in a way similar to the meat.
2. Cut the spikes off, and cut down the middle of the leaf.
Cutting off the spikes isn’t entirely necessary, but it will save your hands some discomfort and make everything a little easier.
3. Scrape the contents into colander with a bowl underneath. Let sit until it is no longer stringy, up to one hour.
To separate it faster, mash everything with your hands, or put it all in a blender.
4. Keep in fridge and use as desired.
That’s it. Like I said above, the meat is great in smoothies, and the gel is great for skin and hair care. However, I’m sure there are other ways to use aloe vera, but this is how I do it.
Aloe vera meat is good for you, and the gel can do wonders for your skin and hair. Overall, it’s not as frightening as it may seem, and I encourage you to give it a try. Have you ever tried aloe vera from a leaf? What was your experience? Leave a comment below!