An easy-to-grow perennial succulent, the vase-shaped aloe vera plant features spiny-edged, light-green leaves that emerge from the center of the plant. Originating in Africa, aloe vera grows very slowly and requires little maintenance. The plant provides a variety of benefits including medicinal use as well as making a beautiful garden specimen sure to grab attention.
Burns and Frostbite
As far back as 1500 B.C., people in ancient Egypt used the gooey liquid from the aloe plant’s leaves to treat burns. A review of medical literature by the University of Texas concluded that aloe gel helps promote healing of wounds while preventing progressive skin damage caused by burns and frostbite. The gel works by penetrating the injured tissue while relieving pain in the area. It also reduces inflammation and helps increase blood flow to the injured area.
The gel from the aloe plant’s leaves makes a good moisturizer for the skin. A variety of commercially sold moisturizers and cosmetics contain aloe as one of their key moisturizing ingredients. Some companies claim aloe helps deter skin aging, but it more accurately helps diminish blemishes as it moisturizes them.
Aloe works great as a ground cover or as a specimen in a rock garden. The plant also makes a showy, although small, accent plant. Aloe looks great in a border. Group a bunch of the plants together for a tropical-looking mass planting. Aloe looks a bit like a cactus or tropical flower, and when the plant’s showy, reddish blooms appear, it grabs attention. The plants thrive in hardiness zones 9 to 11 where it grows up to 2 feet in height with a spread as wide as 3 feet. Aloe prefers well-drained soil with full to partial sun.
Aloe grows well in containers, allowing gardeners to put the plant outside in warm weather and bring it inside in cold conditions. The plant cannot tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees F, so some people grow aloe as an indoor plant on their windowsill, breaking off a leaf when they need the liquid for medicinal purposes. Whether grown inside or outside, the plant requires indirect sunlight with well-drained and porous, sandy potting soil. Avoid over-watering the soil.
Many people rely on aloe vera juice for its help in relieving gastrointestinal problems. The juice consists of diluted aloe vera gel mixed with water and citric acid or other preservatives. Sometimes it’s mixed with herbal extracts or juice from other fruits. Just a teaspoonful of the juice helps; take more, and you may find it also works as a bothersome laxative.