The aloe vera plant (Aloe barbadenis) is such a multipurpose plant. It has been used for centuries for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The Egyptians used it in 1500 B.C. to treat burns, infections, and parasites. Aloe is still used the same way today. It is said to cleanse the body and act as a digestive agent.
Aloe vera doesn’t grow well in cold climates long-term, but it can tolerate cold for short periods. In my zone 9b, in Southwest Florida, it grows great. I’ve never covered it and it has survived many continuous hard freezes. My aloe garden turns a little yellowish and sometimes burns at the tips after the cold, but it always turns really green again when it warms up. Aloe prefers good drainage. Although, I’ve noticed that aloe isn’t that picky about where it grows and likes to grow in pots. It’s an easy plant to grow and every household should have one. It’s recommended for growing in zones 8-11, but if you grow it in a pot you could bring it in the house for the winter.
It has beautiful flowers that grow on a stalk and flower profusely. Our hummingbirds love these flowers. When the flowers are finished blooming, cut off the stalks and discard them. The lizards love to hide in it.
The leaves of the aloe vera plant are the most incredible remedy for burns, especially sunburns. You just take a knife and cut a leaf off the plant. Hold the leaf tightly because it is mucilaginous inside and will get slippery. Slice the edges off the leaf with the knife. It will cut through the leaf easily, like you are cutting through butter. Next, slice the leaf in half and rub it all over your sunburn and let it dry. It’s even better if you let it cool in the refrigerator before rubbing it on. Aloe is also a miraculous remedy for scratches, rashes, cuts, insect bites and bee stings, especially on kids. An important note is to never use aloe on a staph infection. It seals the bacteria which creates an environment to allow the staph to multiply. It is also important to avoid the inedible, green-yellow part of the plant at the base of the plant’s stalk.
My absolute favorite way to use aloe vera is to drink it. I slice it up into long sections and then just scrape the gel off the leaf with my knife right into my blender. I use about two leaves. I fill my blender container with mostly water and a little grape juice. I scrape some aloe gel in and I add lots of honey to sweeten it. Some people like to use orange juice instead of grape juice, but I love the grape juice. I remember being told a long time ago to always cut the aloe under water because it removes the aloin (sticky brown liquid). However, I’ve never bothered to do this.
A wonderful and unique recipe I found for aloe is from Gloria Williams of Bath, St. Thomas, Jamaica. She made aloe vera wine for the judges at the 2008 Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s Festival of Foods. She left with a gold medal. It’s made with 5 stalks of aloe vera, 2 pounds of granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of raisins, 8 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of yeast, and the juice of one orange. Peel the aloe and cut it into cubes and add it to a container with the raisins, orange, and sugar. Next, boil the water and pour over the aloe vera mixture. Then, dissolve the yeast in luke warm water and pour the yeast into the cooled aloe vera mixture. Cover and let it remain for 21 days, stirring occasionally. Strain and put the wine into a sterilized bottle. I haven’t made this wine yet, but I definitely plan on it.
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