Aloe vera is a medicinal plant that’s been used to treat various health conditions for thousands of years. It’s usually safe to use also vera directly from the plant or you can buy it in gel form.

Aloe vera creams, gels, and ointments contain the clear gel found in aloe veraleaves. These products can be applied topically to treat various skin conditions. Aloe is sold in capsule or liquid form to take internally to promote health and well-being.

Read on to learn how to use aloe vera and the potential benefits and risks.

It’s relatively simple to harvest an aloe plant for gel and juice. You’ll need a mature plant that’s at least a few years old. This ensures a higher concentration of the active ingredients.

You’ll also want to wait a few weeks before cutting leaves from the same plant. You may want to have a few plants on rotation if you plan to harvest aloe often.

To harvest your aloe plant for gel and juice:

  1. Remove 3-4 leaves at a time, choosing thick leaves from the outer sections of the plant.
  2. Ensure the leaves are healthy and free of any mold or damage.
  3. Cut them close to the stem. Most of the beneficial nutrients are found at the base of the leaves.
  4. Avoid the roots.
  5. Wash and dry the leaves.
  6. Trim the prickly edges with a knife.
  7. Using a knife or your fingers, separate the interior gel from the outside of the leaf. The interior gel is the part of the aloe that you’ll use.
  8. Allow the yellow sap to drain from the leaf. This is the aloe vera latex. If you plan to use the latex, you can catch this in a container. If you’re not planning to use the latex, you can dispose of it.
  9. Cut the aloe gel into slices or cubes.

If you want smooth aloe gel, after separating the aloe from the exterior part of the leaf, you can put the aloe into a blender and then strain the substance to remove the pulp.

How to use fresh aloe gel

You can apply fresh aloe gel directly to your skin or follow a recipe to make a homemade beauty product. It can also be added to food, smoothies, and drinks.

To make aloe juice, use 1 cup of liquid for every 2 tablespoons of aloe gel. Include any other ingredients, like fruit, and use a blender or food processor to mix up your drink.

If you’re planning to consume the fresh slices of aloe gel, it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but its best to consume it as quickly as possible. You can always store aloe vera gel in the freezer if you’re not ready to use it right away.

There are plenty of ways you can use aloe vera, both topically and internally.

1. Heals burns

Due to its soothing, moisturizing, and cooling properties, aloe vera is often used to treat burns.

A with 50 participants found that people who used aloe vera gel to treat superficial and partial thickness burns showed better results than the group that used a 1 percent silver sulfadiazine cream.

The aloe vera group showed earlier wound healing and pain relief. Plus, aloe vera had the benefit of being inexpensive.

More research is needed, but the suggests that aloe gel can be beneficial for burn wound healing.

If you have a sunburn or another mild burn, apply aloe vera a few times a day to the area. If you have a severe burn, seek medical help before applying aloe.

2. Improves digestive health

Consuming aloe vera may benefit your digestive tract and help to soothe and cure stomach ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

A 2018 review looked at three studies with 151 people. Results from the studies showed that aloe vera significantly improved symptoms of IBS when compared to a placebo. No adverse effects were reported, though more research is needed using a larger study size.

Additionally, aloe vera may help inhibit the growth of H. pylori bacteria, which is found in your digestive tract and can lead to ulcers.

3. Promotes oral health

Aloe vera toothpaste and mouthwash are natural options for improving oral hygiene and reducing plaque.

Results of a found that people who used an aloe vera toothpaste showed significant improvements to their oral health.

The study included 40 adolescents who were divided into two groups. Each group used either an aloe vera toothpaste or a traditional toothpaste containing triclosan twice daily.

After 30 days, the aloe toothpaste was found to be more effective than the triclosan toothpaste in lowering levels of candida, plaque, and gingivitis.

People who used the aloe vera toothpaste showed better overall oral health without experiencing any adverse effects.

4. Clears acne

Using fresh aloe on your face may help clear up acne. You can also purchase aloe products designed for acne, including cleansers, toners, and creams. These may have the extra benefit of containing other effective ingredients, too.

Acne products made with aloe may be less irritating to the skin than traditional acne treatments.

A small 2014 study found that a cream combining conventional acne medication with aloe vera gel was significantly more effective than acne medication alone or a placebo in treating mild to moderate acne.

In this study, improvements were seen in lower levels of inflammation and fewer lesions in the group who used the combination cream over a period of eight weeks.

5. Relieves anal fissures

If you have anal fissures, applying an aloe vera cream to the affected area several times throughout the day may help promote healing.

A found that using a cream containing aloe vera juice powder was effective in treating chronic anal fissures. People used the aloe cream three times a day for six weeks.

Improvements were shown in pain, hemorrhaging upon defection, and wound healing. These results were significantly different from those of the control group. While this research is promising, further studies are needed to expand upon this research.

It’s safe for most people to use aloe vera topically for minor skin care concerns. Generally, it’s well tolerated, though skin irritations and allergic reactions are possible. Never use aloe vera or any severe cuts or burns.

Pay attention to how your body reacts to aloe. Notice if you experience any sensitivities or adverse reactions. Don’t use aloe if you’re allergic to garlic, onions, or tulips. Avoid taking aloe vera within two weeks of any scheduled surgery.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children under the age of 12, should avoid the oral use of aloe vera.

Carefully follow the dosage information when taking aloe vera gel or latex internally. Limit your use to small periods of time. After a few weeks of use, take a break for at least one week. Always buy from a reputable brand to ensure safety and quality.

The laxative effect of aloe vera latex has the potential to cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps. These effects could inhibit the absorption of oral drugs and reduce their effectiveness.

Do not take aloe vera internally if you have the following conditions:

Possible side effects of aloe vera include:

  • kidney issues
  • blood in the urine
  • low potassium
  • muscle weakness
  • diarrhea
  • nausea or stomach pain
  • electrolyte imbalances

Talk to your doctor before using aloe vera if you are also taking the following medications, because aloe vera may interact with them:

  • water pills(diuretics)
  • herbs and supplements
  • corticosteroids
  • digoxin (Lanoxin)
  • warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
  • sevoflurane (Ultane)
  • stimulant laxatives
  • diabetes medications
  • anticoagulants

You can find aloe plants at garden centers, floral shops, and even online. They are usually fairly easy to grow provided they have enough sunlight and warmth.

Aloe plants need about six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Younger plants need less direct sunlight than more mature plants. Typically, aloe plants are grown in warmer climates, but they can be grown indoors during colder months.

Water your aloe plant when the soil is dry for about two inches below the surface. You can use your finger to determine how dry the soil is.

Depending on your climate, you may need to water once a week or even less. Always err on the side of less to avoid overwatering, which can cause the tips of the aloe leaves to brown.

Make sure your plant pot has drain holes on the bottom to allow any excess water to run out.

Keep your eye on your plant’s health so you can notice any issues that arise and treat them accordingly.

Aloe vera plants are relatively easy to care for and process, and there are many possible uses for the plant.

Aloe is generally safe for most people, but if you have an underlying health condition or take medicines or use herbs, talk to your doctor before using aloe as it could react with other medications and substances.