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Photo: Andreana Bitsis

Everything You Need To Know About Aloe

This month’s theme of The Alchemist honors plants whose medicinal properties are almost magical. Among the oldest and most potent of these curative plants is Aloe, a genus of succulent that encompasses over 500 species (the most famous species being aloe vera).

For kids, aloe is a fun texture. Its smooth leaves have a strange consistency, at once solid and soft, and the quivering jello-like gel inside is halfway between a solid and liquid. Though aloe has small spines along its edges, they are typically too dull to inflict much harm and can be gently snipped off with a pair of scissors or even a nail clipper. For teens and college students, aloe is a one stop shop for first aid, skin treatments, and hair care– plus, as far as house plants go, they are easy to maintain. Below, we’ve gathered our favorite uses for aloe that are fun at any age.

Aloe

Andreana Bitsis

The aloe plant was first used by Ancient Egyptians, who revered it as a “plant of immortality” and would present it to deceased pharaohs at burials. In every day life, Ancient Egyptians would apply aloe to wounds and use it to soothe a number of skin ailments. Today, aloe is used as a natural folk remedy for diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, psoriasis, and osteoarthritis. It is believed that aloe improves many skin ailments by inhibiting inflammationencouraging circulation in surface blood vessels, and killing bacteria and fungi by way of preventing infection.

aloe-2

Andreana Bitsis

Making your own aloe gel from fresh aloe leaves is actually quite simple and is a life skill worth learning (especially for kids). Aloe leaves can typically be found at international grocery stores among the rest of the produce.

If you own an aloe plant, cut the leaf from the plant as close to the base as possible when harvesting. Rinse the leaf thoroughly, and slice a thin layer off the bottom, so that the gel is visible. Next, slice the spiked edges off of the leaf. The gel should now be sandwiched between two layers of the aloe peel. You can use your fingers to pull one side of the peel off, or you can slide the back of a spoon between the gel and peel before scooping it out. Blend the raw gel in a food processor or blender until smooth. You can add coconut oil or a squeeze of lemon. Keep your aloe in the fridge until you need it!

The multitude of uses for aloe make it a fun ingredient for kids (and teens!). As an easy first aid, aloe gel can be applied directly to minor burns and scrapes to help mend the skin. To make an aloe-based lip balm, mix 1 tsp. fresh aloe gel with 1/2 tsp. coconut oil or beeswax, and add a few drops of vanilla, raspberry, or almond oil to make a flavored balm. Aloe is also a protective hair conditioner, great for calming frizzy ends. (Apply 3 Tbsp. aloe gel and 1 Tbsp. of coconut to the roots, and massage into the ends. Leave the aloe in your hair for approximately 15 minutes and then rinse.) To make a restorative face mask, mix 2 Tbsp. aloe gel with 1 Tbsp. honey and leave on for 15 minutes. All of these recipes are flexible, and kids can customize them to their liking. Just be sure to leave plenty of time to clean up!

When trying something new, always test for allergies beforehand. Apply a small amount to the skin and wait to see if a reaction occurs.

Aloe

Andreana Bitsis

Sprouts Science

  • What are succulents?

Succulents and cacti are often confused. While all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti. Succulents are characterized by how they store moisture in their leaves to survive drought (succulents, unlike cacti, grow throughout much of the world and have adapted to different climates accordingly). Within the category of succulents, only cacti contain areoles, from where spines and flowers grow. These areoles are a kind of specialized branch and are a cacti’s means of self defense.

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