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Harvesting Fresh Aloe Vera Gel

Harvesting Fresh Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera is a fabulous healer for 1st degree burns, scrapes and cuts. Many people grow aloe plants in their homes as houseplants. It’s no wonder that they do. With the right amount of sun and a minimum amount of attention, aloe thrives.

The real problem for housebound aloes is that they gets too big for their pots and fall over. Keeping aloes properly pruned is essential for good plant health. Using the aloe gel from within the leaves, is essential to good human health. Don’t wait for burns. Aloe can be used inside and out. Just be sure to try a small amount of gel on the inside of your arm first then check the site later to see if you have a reaction. It is rare but some people are allergic to aloe vera.

Aloe has phytonutrients (also called “actives”) that increase production of collagen which is a key protein that our bodies use for wound healing. As handy as these phytonutrients are, they do degrade quickly and are difficult to stabilize. Refrigeration slows the break up of these important chemicals but when it comes down to it, fresh is best.

Contrary to some claims on the internet, most of the healing properties of aloe gel are produced by the rind. At last count, close to 85% of the desired phytonutrients are right next to the rind of the leaf. This is why using a sharp knife to scrape the gel from the inner leaf results in a superior product.

scrape aloe vera gel

A novice herbalist will cut off or break off an aloe vera leaf and squeeze out the gel. This certainly results in harvesting gel but only the gooey bits. We want the most potent wound healing part of the plant close to the rind.
Avoid this yellow sap by cutting off more of the end.

Avoid this yellow sap by cutting off more of the end.

Keep in mind that like other plants, aloe has tools to defend itself. It has lined with a surprisingly sharp spines on the edge of the leaf and it produces a yellowish-orange sap which, if taken internally, causes impressive diarrhea. This sap is produced near the stalk. When cutting the leaf from the stalk, be sure to leave about 1/2 inch of space from the stalk. If your leaf starts oozing yellow sap, just cut off more of the end.

Equipment

  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Collection Bowl or Jar

Instructions

  1. Cut leaf from stalk with a knife.
  2. Cut off the end of the leaf up to 1/2 inch from the stalk to avoid the yellow sap.
  3. Rinse leaf.
  4. Pat the leaf dry.
  5. aloe vera leaves

    Cut the spines off for easier aloe harvest.

    Cut the spines off the sides of the leaf.

  6. Using the knife, slit the leaf lengthwise into 2 pieces.
  7. Lay the leaves rind side down on the cutting board.
  8. Scrape the gel carefully off the rind. If a bit of leaf rind comes away with it, it’s ok. It is easier to apply without leaf rind.
  9. Scoop the gel into a collection bowl or jar and repeat step 8 with the other half of the leaf.
  10. Discard remaining stalk and rind.

Storage

Aloe vera can be preserved in the refrigerator but keep in mind that it does degrade. Some people add ascorbic acid to it as a preservative. We suggest adding any leftover gel not applied to wounds into smoothies or whisked into juice.

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.

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