The aloe vera plant is an attractive, evergreen succulent that is bang on trend for your indoor jungle.
Aloe vera plants are useful to have around the home or office, as the gel from their leaves can be used to relieve pain from scrapes and burns when applied topically. Keep an aloe vera plant near a kitchen window for use as a self-regenerating, first-aid kit.
It is widely known that aloe vera gel can be used on sunburn with cooling properties similar to menthol, but a team of plastic surgeons trialled aloe vera gel in the treatment of second-degree burn wounds. They reported in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, that the burn wounds among the patients treated with aloe vera healed significantly quicker, and patients experienced significantly more and earlier, pain relief than those in the control group.
It is thought that aloe vera gel be used in everything from banishing black and blue bruises to taking the sting out of an insect bite, from fighting athlete’s foot to shrinking warts, and from helping with digestive health to providing an alternative to mouthwash. Little wonder that the Ancient Egyptians called aloe vera, the plant of immortality.
Aloe vera produces at least six natural antiseptics, and researchers are just beginning to unlock the benefits of this universal plant and its many by-products. As with all natural remedies, do your own research before applying topically or ingesting orally. Aloe vera is an alternative treatment so there are no approved guidelines about strength or dosage.
The aloe vera plant is native to North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Canary Islands. To survive harsh, dry conditions, the leaves, like all succulents, store water. So what do you need to know to keep your aloe vera plant in top condition, indoors, in Scotland?
Keep your aloe plant near a sunny window where it will receive plenty of indirect sunlight. Too much bright, direct sunlight can brown the leaves of an aloe. A few feet from a south or west-facing window is ideal. Rotate the pot weekly so that all sides of the aloe receive equal lighting.
Aloe veras do best indoors in temperatures between 12-27°C (55- 80°F). From June to September, you can bring your plant outdoors if you wish, but do bring it back inside in the evening if nights are cold.
Aloe vera plants store water in their leaves so it is important not to overwater them. Water the plants deeply, but infrequently, around every 2-3 weeks, and even more sparingly during the winter. Allow the top few centimetres of compost to dry out between waterings, remember this is a desert plant.
Make sure you let the water drain away fully – do not let the plant stand in water as this may cause the roots to rot.
The most common way to kill the plant is to over-water it: you will know you have done this with an aloe vera as the leaves will go mushy and will droop.
A potting mix made for cacti and succulents is always a great choice. Aloes grow really slowly but will need to be repotted once the plant becomes too top-heavy, has spawned too many pups, or once the potting mix has degraded and broken down.
Plants for Free
Aloe plants produce offsets, known as pups, as part of their growth cycle. Dividing these little pups from the parent produces a whole new aloe to pot up and enjoy, which is another joy of having an aloe at home or in the office.
Using Aloe Gel
The leaves of an aloe vera plant are packed with a soft clear gel that has been praised for its hydrating effect and other medicinal benefits.
To use the aloe vera plant’s soothing gel, remove a mature leaf from the plant and cut it lengthwise. Squeeze the gel out of the leaf and apply it to your burn, or simply lay the opened leaf gel side down on top of the affected area.
Do not ingest the gel, as it can cause nausea and other unpleasant symptoms.
The leaves that have been cut will not regenerate, but the plant will continue to grow new baby leaves that will take the place of the cut leaves.
Aloe vera is a pretty low maintenance houseguest who brings the added benefits of helping to clear formaldehyde and benzene from your home, whilst standing by with luscious leaves full of gorgeous aloe vera gel should you need them to treat a burn or sunburn.