Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) is one of the most valuable plants we have on the Ridge and is one of the simplest to grow and look after. A succulent, it will grow equally well in pots, rockeries or garden beds and as long as it has sufficient light and water, will serve you well with very little ongoing maintenance. It’s not just its simplicity of care that endears the saw-toothed aloe plant but also the multiplicity of health-giving properties it possesses that really make it a great all-rounder.
While now commonly used in commercial beauty products, cosmetics and nutritional supplements, aloe has always been one of Grandma’s standby remedies. With a recorded medicinal history of at least 6,000 years, the ancient Egyptians knew Aloe Vera as the “plant of immortality.” If I do live forever, I’ll be sure to let you know whether this herbal succulent was responsible, but for now I’m just grateful for it’s extremely effective first aid properties.
Applied quickly to burns, cuts and stings, the thick gel inside the plump leaves immediately lessens irritation. And if applied continuously it will reduce (if not altogether eliminate) any scarring that would have otherwise have resulted from minor injuries.
It is best to use an outer leaf of the plant as these are the oldest and will have the most potent amount of beneficial properties. Cut the leaf off with a sharp knife and then make a thin slice along each side to remove the small spines. Although you don’t need to do this to use the leaf, it does make it a little easier to handle. Once the spines are removed, slice one side of the green skin off and discard. Holding the remaining green side will give you more purchase on the slippery gel and you can then lay the whole piece (gel side down) over the area to be treated.
This is an easy way to apply aloe, especially if using for sunburn or treating a larger area of the body (i.e.: a rash). If you can get a handle on it, you can also cut away a small amount of the gel and place it on a small cut or sting and hold it in place with a sticking plaster. If left undisturbed (e.g.: overnight), the body will absorb the moisture (along with it’s constituent nutrients) and on removal, all you will find is a thin, dried piece of aloe flesh.
Not only are Aloe Vera’s rapid-healing and pain-reducing properties extremely effective, the plant produces at least six natural antiseptics; which have been shown to kill mold, bacteria, funguses and viruses. Aloe is quite a handy plant to have dotted around the property for easy access and provides a very gentle way to administer first aid to children. The cool, soothing gooeyness of the gel inside the leaves can be an interesting distraction from their pain. While I would administer first aid with aloe in a blink, it is still necessary to seek medical advice for serious or ongoing issues.