Last Updated on August 30, 2020
Filling your home with plants can benefit your health in so many ways, improving mood, indoor air quality, and more. As you’re selecting houseplants, be sure to include the multitasking aloe vera! There are so many incredible uses for aloe vera plant!
Aloe vera has it all: In addition to being among the best plants for cleaning indoor air, the aloe vera plant has numerous uses in your skincare routine and is a go-to remedy for sunburn and other owies. You’ve probably heard of putting aloe on sunburn, but that’s just the tip of the aloe iceberg. Check out these fantastic uses for aloe vera plant!
Uses for Aloe Vera Plant
You know I’ve added multitasking plants all over my yard — yarrow, wild violets, and lemon balm, as well as all the nutritious weeds you can eat I leave as groundcovers and harvest for salads. Of course, when I started choosing plants for inside the house, I wanted ones that could perform multiple functions as well.
My aloe plants totally fit the bill! The uses for aloe vera are numerous, and I’m thrilled to have this beneficial plant pulling nasty compounds out of my air while standing by as an easy remedy and bodycare ingredient. Some people even eat aloe vera, which it turns out is very nutritious.
And for other overly-busy people without the extra time and energy for plant care, aloe vera plant is one of those delightful houseplants that tolerate neglect really well. Who could ask for more, right?
Some of the many amazing uses for aloe vera:
- Removes formaldehyde, a common indoor air contaminant
- Soothes bug bites and stings
- Heals sun burn or other minor burns
- Removes makeup
- Combats acne
- Conditions hair
- Helps dandruff
- Can be made into a natural mouth wash
- Speeds healing of cold sores
According to this review, aloe vera has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antiseptic, and anti-fungal properties.
It’s also edible, and apparently chock-full of healthy compounds like minerals and antioxidants, though there are some precautions worth noting before chowing down on your aloe plant — see below.
It is not recommended to ingest aloe regularly or use it topically long-term, according to WebMD. Pregnant women should also avoid it altogether. The Mayo Clinic advises against ingesting aloe because of concerns about kidney damage and an increased cancer risk.
When using topically, check you don’t have an allergic reaction to aloe vera before applying it extensively. Reactions are more likely if you’re allergic to onions, or tulips. Put a tiny amount on your skin and wait a couple hours to test for senstitivity.
Aloe is not recommended for severe burns or deep cuts.
How to Use Aloe Vera
The gooey gel inside is used most commonly, but the part surrounding it, which is yellow and more fibrous, is called the latex and is used primarily for its laxative properties. Given those warnings about ingestion, we’re going to stick with external uses, and they’re all about the gel.
If you don’t want to grow your own aloe vera plant, you can purchase aloe gel, but skip the neon-green stuff at the drugstore. Be sure your aloe vera gel doesn’t contain unnecessary chemicals. Here are some options from Amazon.
But if you’re looking to avoid plastic, growing your own is the way to go! It’s likely that the unprocessed plant gel (rather than something mechanically extracted and heated for commercial use) will have more biologically active compounds as well.
To extract your own aloe vera gel from your aloe vera plant, use a sharp knife to cut off a leaf at the bottom of the plant. People planning to use the gel internally recommend standing the leaf up for 15 minutes or so to let the latex drain.
Slice the leaf down the center and scrape out the contents with a spoon. You can also peel the skin off completely if you’d rather. You can put your aloe gel in the blender for a smoother consistency if you like.
If that yields more than you need, you can freeze some of the gel for later use.
Another option is to chop a chunk of aloe leaf and put the rest in the refrigerator. It should keep for a few days.
Here’s more on harvesting and freezing aloe.
Note: Aloe is toxic to pets. Keep your plant where your furry friends can’t get them!
Aloe Vera Plant Uses for Skin
Use aloe vera to treat sunburn: Slice open a leaf and gently apply gel to sunburn. You can also try incorporating aloe vera into an after sun spray. Here are additional suggestions for natural sunburn relief and natural tips for healing sunburns.
Some report success using aloe’s antibacterial properties as a spot treatment for acne. To use, dab on affected areas and leave overnight.
Use aloe vera to soothe minor skin irritation and insect bites: Dab aloe gel on the affected area as needed.
You can also use aloe for daily nourishment of your skin, either applying it directly to skin or adding it to a lotion. I find that by itself, it can’t replace a moisturizer, so I put lotion on top of it. If you want to make your own lotion, here’s a recipe for DIY body lotion that uses aloe vera.
For extra moisturizing, you can infuse oil with aloe. Here’s how to make aloe oil from Oh the Things We’ll Make.
Some sources suggest aloe vera may help reduce wrinkles. You can try applying aloe alone, or try this frankincense whipped face cream from Happy Mothering.
Aloe Vera Plant Uses for Hair
Aloe vera may help get rid of or prevent dandruff: To use, apply gel to scalp and leave for 30 minutes before shampooing as usual. Try every other day until the condition improves.
Aloe vera is a natural conditioner. I’m a huge fan of shampoo bars, and I love the premise of a no-waste conditioner! I tried following these instructions for aloe conditioner from Our Permaculture Life, but I found it a bit messy, and the aloe taken from a fresh leaf on the chunky side.
It also wasn’t quite up to the task of conditioning my dry hair in our dry winter. Plus you would need a lot of aloe plants if you were going to use aloe as a conditioner daily. I’m still on the lookout for a no-waste conditioner, so let me know if you have one! Here’s more information on using aloe as a conditioner if you want to try.
Or try homemade hair gel using aloe vera.
How to Care for Your Aloe Plant
Yet another awesome thing about aloe? It’s one of those easily-divided plants you can get for free from a friend. Just ask around or put out a call on Freecycle, and you will probably find several people happy to dig up a little baby aloe for you to start you off.
You’ll also see aloe plants for sale at florists and supermarkets, or you can even order your starter plants on Amazon!
If you’re planning on using a good deal of aloe, best to get one of the larger types. Those teeny ones are cute, but won’t provide much in the way of useful aloe gel. If you just want to have it on hand for sunburn, a smaller plant might do, especially if you keep propagating the babies that spawn over time.
If you live in a warm climate (zones 8-11), you can also grow aloe outdoors. These are tough, drought-tolerant plants, so they’re a great choice for xeriscaping if you live in a dry region.
If you’re planning on ingesting any of your aloe, be sure you’re getting aloe vera, and not one of the other subspecies of aloe.
If you’re one of those people who forget to water your houseplants, aloe is the plant for you! It needs just a little water each week or two, and less in the winter months, when its growth naturally slows down.
Let the soil dry completely between waterings. It’s a desert plant, and wants good draining, light soil. It also prefers bright light, though mine have managed with the less-than-ideal light in my house. More growing information here.
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Photo credits: Free-Photos, Hans, casellesingold
Disclaimer: I’m a health enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.