The aloe plant is a wonderful healing tool. If you are interested in growing herbs at home, Aloe vera is a great plant for beginners. Even when neglected, it’s virtually impossible to kill. Plus, its leaves produce an aromatic juice with a multitude of health benefits—particularly skin-soothing benefits. Keep a potted aloe plant near a windowsill on your kitchen counter, that way it’s close by to immediately treat burns or other skin irritations.
1. SOOTHE BURNED SKIN: Various studies have shown that aloe is useful in treating wounds and burns. It’s particularly great at soothing sun burns. Scoop aloe gel into an ice cube tray and freeze for several hours until hardened. To use, apply an ice cube to the affected area for about one minute, until your skin starts to feel numb and the ice cube begins to melt.
3. TREAT TEETH: Naturally antifungal and antibacterial, aloe can actually treat bad breath. Thanks to the anti-inflammatory b-sitosterol, which soothes acid indigestion—a common cause of bad breath—it can help kill bad bacteria as well as fight tooth decay and gum disease. Dissolve 1/4 cup aloe gel in 1/2 cup water and drink the solution down to improve your breath and oral health.
4. HEAL ATHLETE’S FOOT: Athlete’s foot, a common fungal infection, is another condition that antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory aloe can help tackle. Mix aloe gel with a few drops of tea tree essential oil, another powerful antibacterial, to create a soothing ointment. Apply onto the affected area twice a day until the infection starts to disappear.
5. SANITIZE HANDS: Fight germs (a battle that seems especially necessary during cold and flu season) with a homemade aloe-infused hand sanitizer. In a spray bottle, combine 2 teaspoons aloe gel with 1 tablespoon witch hazel and 2 teaspoons vitamin E oil. Next, add 10 drops each lavender and tea tree essential oil, as well as enough filtered water to almost fill your spray bottle. Shake before use.
6. MAKEUP REMOVER: Gently remove your makeup with aloe gel. It’s a great alternative to oil-based removers, and is great for the delicate skin around your eyes. Soak cooled aloe gel in cotton balls to use. Alternatively, you can combine 1 cup aloe water with 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and use the same way you would a standard makeup remover.
7. SHAVING CREAM: Combined with olive oil, aloe vera makes a great shaving gel. Mix one part olive oil with three parts aloe gel. Optionally, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance. Mix well and use. Store the remaining mixture in a container with a tight-lid.
8. FACE WASH: Use aloe to create a gentle face cleanser. Mix 1/4 cup aloe gel with 2 tablespoons sweet almond (or olive) oil and 1 tablespoon castile soap. To finish, add about 20 drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance, then use as you would a normal face cleanser.
9. LIP GLOSS: Use aloe to protect and moisturize your lips. Its high moisture content is very soothing, and it feels especially great on cold sores. Keep your lips kissable with this homemade solution: Mix 1 teaspoon fresh aloe gel with 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil and 1/8 teaspoon vitamin E oil. Pour into a small, clean container and use up!
10. SKIN EXFOLIANT: Light homemade scrubs can reduce the appearance of blemishes and blackheads by sloughing away dead skin cells that clog pores. Use moisturizing aloe to make a homemade exfoliating scrub: Combine 1 tablespoon aloe gel with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. To apply, rub a dime-size amount of the mixture to your skin in upward, circular motions. Rinse and pat dry.
11. WRINKLE REPAIR: A study of women in their 40s discovered that aloe gel can significantly improve wrinkles and elasticity in photoaged human skin. Apply pure aloe gel to the affected area, or apply a mixture of aloe gel with a few drops of vitamin E oil and lavender essential oil. You can even allow the solution to soak into your face overnight, washing it off with cool water the following morning.
12. HAIR MASK: Aloe can also benefit your tresses. To hydrate your hair, mix 5 tablespoons aloe gel with 3 tablespoons coconut oil and 2 tablespoons raw honey. Apply the mixture onto your hair, from root to tip. Keep it on for about 20 minutes then wash it out with a gentle shampoo.
13. DIGESTIVE AID: Apart from treating wounds, skin and hair, aloe can also boost overall wellness. Rich in a number of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids, aloe may soothe and cleanse the digestive tract. You can find aloe juice drinks for sale at your local health-food store to aid digestion.
14. IMMUNITY BOOSTER: The polysaccharides in aloe juice stimulate white blood cell activity, which fights against viruses. Drink aloe juice to also boost your immune function.
15. SUPER SMOOTHIE: Instead of buying store-bought aloe juice, use aloe to make a delicious health-benefiting smoothie. It may not be the tastiest plant on the planet, but surrounded by an array of sweet-tasting fruits it can make a delicious treat. (And with a laundry list of health benefits, it makes sense to take advantage of it via food!) Try this recipe from Healthy Smoothie Headquarters, which, in addition to aloe juice, uses almond milk, blueberries, mango, coconut oil, basil and a little bit of honey.
Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.