Archive for the ‘Aloe Vera’ Category

Why You Should Grow Your Own Aloe Vera

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Beauty products contain aloe vera, but aloe vera in your smoothie? Aloe vera has many health and beauty benefits for the whole body, beyond just the commonly known ones. Place a plant on your windowsill and you’ll have your own first aid kit, beauty solution, and health food all in one. Here are a couple uses of fresh aloe vera:

1. Spread it on your skin. Break off the tip of an aloe leaf and spread the clear gel all over. The gel is great for soothing cuts and scrapes and sunburned skin. It can also be used to calm the burning and itching from poison ivy and other rashes. While you can get aloe vera gel in a tube, nothing compares to the gel straight from the leaf when it comes to freshness and potency. Aloe vera has also long been used as a beauty solution. It can also be used against ultraviolet radiation and as a preventive measure against acne.

2. Put it in your drink. Aloe vera has long been known for its health benefits for the digestive system and is sometimes eaten cooked in Asian countries or mixed into beverages. It has been reported to soothe irritable bowel syndrome as well as helping ease other digestive inconsistencies. One easy way to try it is to put a chunk of the raw, clear gel into a glass of fruit juice. This can be orange juice, grape juice, or any other juice you prefer. Cheers to good health! You might have heard of aloe vera being a laxative, but it is only the yellow inner lining of the leaf that contains laxative properties. Eating the clear gel from the inside should not have negative effects.

3. Eat it. In some Asian countries, aloe vera is eaten cooked as a vegetable. It has many vitamins and is good for your health. You can try cooked aloe vera yourself by taking several large leaves and peeling off all the skin until only the clear gel remains. Chop the gel into bite-sized segments and sauté gently with a little oil. Season it to your taste.

4. Grow for decoration. Once you get it going under the right conditions, aloe vera will grow and grow and just keep growing. Keep it indoors if you live in a climate with harsh winters, and it will thrive and expand into a giant ornamental beauty. As long as you give it a big enough pot, the plant will continue to grow. It flowers, too, but the main show is the long, fleshy arms that can grow several feet long!

No need to buy a big plant. You can start with a small one, and before you know it you’ll have more aloe vera than you can eat and use!

Why Aloe Vera is My Favorite Frugal Houseplant

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

I love Aloe plants. They’re cheap, they’re easy to grow and propagate, and they’re useful! To be truthful, I generally don’t have good luck with house plants. Even the hardiest of indoor plants has been known to die in my care. Even so, I’ve had great luck with Aloe plants. There are many types of Aloes, but I stick with Aloe Vera, because its the once most commonly used for medicinal purposes, and the easiest type to find. They really appeal to my frugal nature. The ones I had didn’t cost me a cent, they were babies from a friend’s plant. I use the gel often, and even grow the babies as gifts.

I have a bunch aloe plants right now, sunning themselves out on the deck. I have a couple of larger plants, then some babies I’m growing to a decent size for gift giving. Aloe plants make great gifts for a cook (the gel is great on kitchen burns), and good small housewarming or hostess gifts. I can almost always find cute decorative pots for the babies for a quarter or so at yard sales.

I’ve only had a few years of experience with Aloe plants (although my Grandparents always had one in their kitchen). Some people have plants that are 20 years old or more. The father of a friend of mine has a potted Aloe, with lots of babies, that must be three feet wide. I hope mine will do as well! I’m still an Aloe novice, but that’s kind of my point here.. even people without green thumbs or much gardening knowledge do well with an Aloe plant!

A lady at a farmer’s market once told me that Aloes grow better in terra cotta pots. So, the next year when I was replanting the babies (or “pups”, as some people call them), I put a few in terra cotta, and a few in hard ceramic or plastic posts. She was right- the plants in terra cotta pots definitely did better. I usually let the baby plants grow until they are crowding the pot, and then I’ll separate and re-pot them (usually in spring). I’ve heard that you should leave the babies out of a pot for a couple of weeks before re-planting. I don’t do this- but would perhaps have more success if I did. As it is, I just re-plant the babies I separate off the main plant, and hope for the best.

I think one of the reasons I do well with Aloes and other succulents is that the watering schedule is easy. Water the heck out of them when they’re dry, then let the soil dry out before you water then again. Too much water can definitely hurt them, as they are prone to rot. With Aloe plants, too little water is much better than too much water.

The only other issues I’ve had are plants that want to tip over. This usually occurs because the lower leaves on the plant fall off, and the plant becomes top heavy. I’ve had some luck with re potting these plants deeper into their pots. Make sure your container is large enough to not topple over from the weight of the plant. I’ve had several Aloes in too-small pots do “headers” off of my porch for this very reason. Aloes don’t seem to have as much of an issue with being pot bound as other plants.

I use the gel inside the leaves on burns, scrapes, bug bites, sunburn, etc. Last summer, I used the gel a few times a week on a scar. It seemed to help make the scar less noticeable -although it was far from a scientific experiment. It’s made bug bites stop itching almost instantly. If you run the bug bitten area under the hottest water you can comfortably stand, then apply the Aloe- it seems to work best. The hot water makes the itch intensify for a second, but then will dull it, along with the Aloe. I think Aloe sometimes has a placebo effect- but that’s OK with me. If it works, it works.

Sometimes, a whole leaf will break off at the bottom of a plant from the trunk. If this happens, I cut the leaf into pieces, then freeze the pieces in a plastic container. I can take out a small piece when needed, let it thaw awhile, and then squeeze the gel out to use it.

I haven’t noticed much difference between the quality of the frozen gel and fresh aloe Vera gel. The consistency is a little different, but they work the same. In fact, I was surprised at how well the leaf pieces will freeze. I don’t like the way an aloe leaf looks when it is healing- so I will often pull off the whole leaf, use the gel I need, then freeze the rest of the pieces. This has saved us some money on things like after bite cream, aloe gel for sunburns, etc. It’s very handy when you burn yourself in the kitchen to have an Aloe plant nearby for relief. I’ve even used aloe gel on poison ivy and on zits. Kids especially seem to like to have a piece of leaf to dab gel on their bug bites, etc. It’s also good on diaper rash and dry skin. I know some people drink a form of Aloe Vera juice, but I’ve also heard some types can be poisonous when ingested. I’d stick to external uses only to be safe, or talk to your doctor.

You can likely obtain an Aloe plant for free if you have a friend who has one. Just ask nicely for one of the babies next time they re-pot the plant. If you need to buy one, they are inexpensive. A plant that’s just a few inches tall will probably run you three dollars or less. Some warmer areas even have wild Aloe growing.

An indoor Aloe plant will not only help to beautify an area, it will provide healing gel, as well as helping to purify your indoor air. Pieces of Aloe leaf can also be fed to some birds as a treat. (talk to your vet first!) I’ve used aloe gel (with my vet’s approval) on various types of scrapes and external wounds on dogs and cats as well.

I’ve even seen a frugal tip about using Aloe gel as a hair gel. I’ve never tried it, but can imagine it would work OK in a pinch! The gel itself is marvelous. It’s got a light, pleasant smell, its not sticky, and has healing and antibacterial qualities I don’t even begin to understand. I’ve read that older plants contain more of the “healing” ingredients, but in my experience, the gel from young plants works just as well as from my older plants. My older plants are only a few years old themselves though, so that might change as the plants mature.

This may seem obvious, but I also like that the gel is “all natural”. I looked at a tube of Aloe Vera burn gel, and was shocked at all of the ingredients it contained. I like using Aloe gel, because it has no chemicals, by-products etc. It also helps me be more environmentally conscious, as it cuts down on the number of tubes of sunburn cream, bug bite spray, diaper rash creme, etc. that I have to buy, and all the packaging, transportation, etc. required to get those products to me.

Aloe plants make a great classroom project. Wait until you have plants with enough babies that each student can have one. Have them help you replant the babies (cardboard milk containers, plastic cups, etc. work fine for small plants) a few months before Mother’s day. Line the windowsills with the babies, and let your students care for them and watch them grow until it is time to take them home as gifts. Let them decorate the pots before planting. Be sure to pot some extras for the babies that don’t make it! I also keep a larger aloe plant in my classroom at all times for small ones.

If you have lots of Aloe plant babies, and have run out of friends and family to give them to, consider selling your extras at a plant or yard sale. I’ve seen several yard sales offering plant babies and cuttings for sale cheaply. Use tin cans, plastic cups, and other “free” pot sources to keep your profit margin up. You’ll probably only get a dollar or two each for small plants, but if you’re having a yard sale anyway, they can be a great addition. An aloe plant can also make a good gift for a person in a nursing home, since the plants don’t require much care. Take one in a pretty pot to your child’s teacher, or as a small “thank you” to anyone who does something nice for you. Aloe plants are generally very well received as small gifts. They’re a nice “just because” gift, small enough that they don’t make the recipient feel guilty about not getting you something in return.

Aloe truly is a frugal plant. It can be obtained for free and it does not require much time or effort to grow. It’ll help clean your air or soothe a burn, and it looks pretty too. It reproduces itself, allowing you to give the babies as gifts. What more could you ask for from a simple houseplant?

Travelers Herbal First Aid Kit

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Whether you are traveling across the country or going for a day hike, a first aid kit can be a life saver. These are essential herbs and items I always keep on hand when I travel or go off camping. All of these items can, also be easily be found at a basic health food store and drugstore.

Basic essential for a first aid kit: ACE bandage, adhesive bandages in several different sizes, including butterfly bandages (for deeper cut wounds), cotton, gauze, medical tape, small scissor, thermometer, tweezers and Q-tips

Arnica oil – Effective at stopping pain and healing bruises quickly, arnica can be rubbed directly on a bruise, effected muscle or injury. Do not apply to open wounds.

Aloe vera – Aloe vera is great to cool, soothe and heal sunburns and minor skin burns. Keep a small container of aloe vera gel in your first aid kit and apply to burned skin.

Citronella – One of the most used natural bug repellants, citronella, is very good at keeping away mosquitos. Add it to some plain lotion or mix several drops to witch hazel or oil, to make a prepared insect repellant for your trip.

Cayenne – I never leave home without cayenne. It is an essential cure all. It is easiest to carry it in capsule form, you can just break open the capsule to use the powder as needed. Taking capsule internally or sprinkling some in your socks can help you warm up in very cold locations. Sprinkle a capsule on a wound to stop the bleeding and pain and increase healing.

Clove oil – An unexpected toothache can ruin any travel plans. To stop the pain and not your trip, put a couple of drops of clove oil on a q-tip and rub it around the gums of the effected tooth and apply it to the tooth. Clove oil is aso an good antiseptic to use to wash your hands with.

Electrolyte replacement – Electrolyte supplements can be very useful, whether hiking or just traveling. I, personally like to take Emergen C packets with me. They are very light and pack very well, not taking up much room. Plus, they come in a choice of many different flavors. They are backed with vitamin C, too, great to keep your immune system boosted.

Ginger – Ginger is an age old remedy for motion sickness, nausea and an upset stomach. It can be taken in pill, tea, tincture and even crystallized form. All forms are effective and travel very well.

Goldenseal – A natural antibiotic, goldenseal, is great for travelers diarrhea. It is also good to take to keep your immune system up, for long distance travel that can cause stress on your body.

Tea tree oil – If a super bug founds its way onto your skin, despite any repellant, apply tea tree oil to ease the itching and help heal the bite. Tea tree oil can also be used to treat and heal abcess’ and other wounds.

Once you have all the remedies you need, put them together in a plastic container with compartments or a make-up case/pouch. I use a little soft zippered pouch and find it best for fitting in my backpack and luggage, without it taking up too much room.

Top Five Aloe Vera Uses

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

There are so many uses for aloe vera but these are the top five aloe vera uses. Aloe Vera has been used for medical treatments since prehistoric times. Aloe Vera has amazing medicinal qualities. The most important qualities found is its Antiviral, Anti fungal, Anti parasitic and Antibiotic qualities. There are hundred of uses for aloe Vera but there are five uses for aloe Vera that should be talked about. The aloe Vera found in stores will do but nothing is better than the real thing. Growing your own aloe plant in easy and can take a lot of abuse. They are easy to grow and is a must for any household. Here are the top five uses for aloe Vera.

Minor Burns

Aloe Vera can be used on minor burns. Sunburn is one of the most common uses for aloe Vera. Just rub some aloe Vera gel into the skin that has sunburn for some good relief. Other burns aloe Vera is good for is razor burn, and heat rash. The best way to get relief is to mix now cup of aloe gel in with a bath of warm water. Just soak in the tub for some nice soothing relief.

Cuts and Scraps

For minor cuts, blisters, and scraps aloe Vera is a perfect choice. A small amount of fresh aloe gel applied over the cut, blister, or scrap will dry and create its own natural band-aids. Only use this on minor cuts and scraps. Major wounds can actually take longer to heal if they are not treated properly by a medical professional.

Psoriasis

This chronic skin condition is a painful and itchy skin condition. Psoriasis is a hereditary skin disease which causes the skin to get dry and scaly. The Aloe Vera gel softens and soothes the skin scales. Just apply the gel directly on the skin three times a day for about a month. Studies show an almost 85 percent effective rate of this disease.

Acne

Acne can be annoying and painful. By applying Aloe Vera directly on the outbreak you can cure your acne due to its antibacterial properties. Studies show that 90 percent of people who use aloe Vera on their acne almost completely clear up in five days. That is great compared to the only six percent that other medical creams do.

Shingles

Shingles which is the adult version of chickenpox, usually occurs in adults with a low immune system. Aloe Vera can be used on painful shingles caused by the herpes virus. By applying aloe directly on the open sores it dilates the blood vessels, which aids in healing the wounds.

As you can see Aloe Vera has many uses. It has been used for thousands of years and will continue to be used for thousands more. Next time you see an aloe plant at the store, get one. It will become the best and most used plant you ever owned. So next time you need aloe remember these are the top five aloe vera uses today.

Tips for Growing Aloe Vera Plants

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Aloe Vera plants are so useful. From the well known healing powers for burns, to the lesser known help they give with digestion and allergies. But Growing an Aloe Vera plant requires a bit different care then your typical plant. Here are some tips Ive found help greatly.

Aloe Vera plants can be bought at most any garden center store. It can also be found in the wild. When choosing your aloe Vera plant, look for one that is large with good green leaves. However a smaller plant, even one with brownish or Gray leaves can be grown without problems. If you find a less then pleasing specimen, know that it is probably improper care that is causing the downfall, and a bit of love will perk it right up. If its leaves are brownish or grayish, it has been exposed to too much light, when you bring it home, place it in a area that receives no direct light and the leaves will perk back upright and turn green. My kitchen is a perfect area. The bathroom is a generally good area for aloe as well.

Aloe Vera grows great inside and out. Like most plants, it will grow better outside in indirect light. Inside it grows slower and must stay out of indirect light. It must be potted in well draining soil, preferably mixed with a bark or moss or even sand that helps promote proper draining. Aloe Vera’s are succulents, they store water and as such they need less water then typical plants. Much like cactus’s. Allowing the soil to dry between waterings can help promote growth. Proper drainage is essential or you can get root rot. Adding ammonium nitrate as a fertilizer once a year can be beneficial if the plant looks to be faltering or wilting.

Like many plants that one grows both indoors and out, it has different care tips. If your Aloe is outside, it needs to be in shade, as much as possible, under a tree works well. With well draining soil. It must be protected from freezing in the winter. Grows best in a southern area but it can be wintered in more northern areas if its mulched properly. However if it freezes, it will die. Outside, they grow nearly twice as fast as inside, so be prepared for a larger outdoors plant. It can grow up to two or three feet tall in optimal conditions. Perhaps bigger, but i haven’t seen it larger then that.

Propagation from an Aloe plant is done by offshoots. The mother plant will send up baby shoots, or pups near the base. When they get to be several inches tall and have a small root system of their own, cut the root from the mother plant and place it in its own pot. Water well then allow the plant to sit for a few weeks. This way the plant will establish good roots. If it looks to be wilting too much, some is to be expected, water it a small amount. It can flower and produce seeds,. which in turn can be planted however it is rare inside as conditions are rarely optimal for flowering. If yours does flower however, feel free to plant the seeds in a seedling pot and grow your second generation Aloe plants.The plant will need to be re-potted when it becomes root-bound. Unlike plants such as spider plants and Ivy’s which do well wen root-bound, the aloe can wilt or produce many pups when it runs low on root space. Using a larger pot with well draining soil will stop the mother plant from producing babies and continue its own growth.

There aren’t too many problems with Aloe plants. Most plants are easy to grow. No direct light, water once a week or less often if the conditions require and keeping the plant in a pot which allows room for the roots to breathe and grow the plant larger. However problems do occur. If your leaves are brown or grayish, the plant is getting too much light. Put it in a room with no direct sunlight, a kitchen often works well. If the leaves fall over or lay flat it is because of insufficient light. Move to a better lit area. IF the leaves are very thin, not the usual succulent thick and soft feeling, its because the plant is not getting enough water and is using up its own storage. Not very conductive if you want to use the aloe for its medicinal qualities.

To harvest your aloe leaves. clip or cut the leave as close to the base as possible. Using the leaves farthest outside because they are the oldest and therefore the strongest of the leaves. Cut it from the mother plant, then slice it in half width wise. Scrape out the clear goo and you are ready to use it. Store the goo in a glass container with a lid or use immediately. You must do this all in one step as the Aloe plant begins to heal itself very quickly by forming a scab over the cut end of the branch. If you wish to save the branch and take it with you. store in a sealed bag and re-cut when you are needed. This works well for taking the plant with you to say a game in the sun, a lake or beach or other summer activity that occurs outside and a sunburn might pop up.

Armed with a few basic ideas you should be able to grow a nice healthy aloe plant that has many wonderful qualities outside of being a lovely houseplant.