This miracle plant, originally from Africa, is one of the most popular plants around the world, not only because of its hundreds of uses but also because it is so beautiful and easy to care for. Adopt one of these little guys in your home and let it work its magic on you.
The magic of aloe vera
There are over 250 species of aloe, but the best known is the Aloe Barbadensis, or Aloe Vera variety, whose gel is featured in hundreds of personal care products. This plant is a succulent, with evergreen leaves that can reach a wingspan of up to 50 centimetres in length. In fact, if you plant Aloe in the ground or in a very large pot, it can grow to over a metre.
Inside each of these fleshy leaves is the aloe gel, which contains most of the biocompounds that have these magical quasi-miraculous properties. In fact, its use has been found to extend throughout human history, with even the ancient Egyptians incorporating it into their health and beauty treatments.
You can learn how to extract the gel in this video, although it is recommended to do so only when the plant has reached maturity, that is, when it is at least 3 years old. Aloe Vera gel has antioxidant properties due to its high content of polyphenols, which can inhibit the number of certain infectious bacteria, as this study shows.
It is also perfect for the treatment of burns, as proven by this research. It is also used to treat cold sores and similar mouth ulcers, and has been found to be effective in stimulating collagen production in mature skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Another important medical use is that it can help to lower blood glucose levels, making it an excellent support for the treatment of diabetes. In any case, before using any natural supplement, it is advisable to consult a doctor, as it is not completely harmless just because it is natural.
How to care for Aloe Vera
One of the most wonderful things about Aloe Vera is how easy it is to care for this plant, even a beginner could do it successfully. When someone asks me about the care of aloe, I always tell them that in some places in Latin America, in order to absorb negative energies, an aloe plant is hung with a red ribbon over the lintel of the entrance door, without a pot or anything else, and it can live for many years, feeding on the humidity and the light.
Due to the climatic and environmental conditions of the country, it is not possible to do the same with the plant without a substrate, but it is still possible to offer it the minimum conditions for it to grow radiant and happy.
Aloe requires a lot of light to grow strong and happy, but as with most succulents, direct sunlight will burn and discolour the leaves, so it is best to keep it indoors, but in well-lit rooms. It prefers a temperature between 17 and 27 degrees, so keep it under cover in winter and be very careful of frost.
Aloe needs very little water, so be careful with excesses. Avoid watering all the time, do it only when you see the leaves a bit wrinkled or the soil looks really dry and if in doubt, wait a couple of days more. You can even manage with a drip irrigation system. Avoid waterlogging the plant or leaving water in the bottom plate of the plant. If you see the leaves are too soft, it is because it has too much water. In summer you can water every 2 or 3 weeks and in winter once a month.
As with other succulent plants, drainage is essential, as aloe is very sensitive to excess water. For this reason it is best to use a specialised substrate for cacti and succulents, in which materials such as clay, sand or others are present. Never forget to put a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot to facilitate the drainage of excess water. As for fertilisation, a handful of earthworm hummus in the substrate twice a year (at the end of summer and in spring) will be enough to prepare it for the winter and to keep it growing.
It is recommended that the pot for the aloe be wide and not too deep, as this will give it room to spread its roots and expand. As for reproduction, you will see small seedling sprouts around the mother plant.
Wait until they grow at least 15 centimetres before removing them and placing them in a suitable growing medium. If you don't want to grow them, you should remove them from the plant so that they don't absorb the nutrients and choke the plant.