How to harvest & use Aloe vera


Having grown up in the countryside, nature and self-sufficiency have always been big part of my life. I live and breathe nature and had the chance to delve even deeper into this interest during my studies in agricultural systems science at university.

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Aloe vera has long been known as a medicinal plant. It is popular for use on skin and hair due to its moisturising effect. Here, you will learn how to harvest and use Aloe vera leaves.

aloe vera
Those who have an Aloe vera plant at home can extract and use the gel without much effort

Aloe vera is not only a pretty, ornamental plant, it can also be used as a medicinal plant. In our main article you will find a short fact sheet and important information on how to plant and propagate Aloe vera. Here you will find all important information on how to harvest Aloe vera and its uses.

How to harvest Aloe vera

Those who want to use Aloe vera as a medicinal plant can harvest the leaves regularly. The ingredients of the gel-like plant juice have a widely proven positive effect on our skin. If you want to harvest Aloe vera, it is best to use two- to three-year-old plants and cut the leaves at the base of the stems with a clean, sharp knife. Scissors are less suitable, as they squeeze out the juice. You should always leave enough leaves on the plant to allow it to recover from pruning. For regular harvesting, it is important to harvest no more than two leaves and always wait for more leaves to grow between harvests. In the darker months, when the plant grows more slowly, harvesting should be done even more sparingly. If you want to harvest a lot of Aloe vera gel, you should cultivate several plants instead of intensively harvesting one plant. Cuts can take on an unsightly brown colour, which is why only lower leaves should be cut.

Person cutting aloe vera leaf
When harvesting aloe vera gel, use a clean and sharp knife [Photo: Kittima05/]

Harvesting Aloe vera does not require any special skills. However, further processing should be carried out with care, because the plant also contains a slightly toxic sap, which leaks from the cut and can because irritation. To collect and dispose of the juice, the leaves should be placed as upright as possible in a container. After the so-called ‘bleeding’, you can cut the leaves in half lengthwise and harvest the Aloe vera gel by scraping it out with a spoon. In addition to the use of the gel, Aloe vera is also found as an ingredient in numerous cosmetic and medical products, such as a moisturising agent in nasal sprays. Aloe vera juice is often used in food, however, we generally advise against consuming ornamental plants – because whether the Aloe vera is toxic or beneficial to you depends mainly on the way it is processed. It is better to use professionally prepared aloe vera juice produced according to food standards.

Tip: In our dedicated article, you will find an overview on different Aloe species, what they’re used for and how to use them.

Harvest aloe vera gel
Aloe vera gel can help with various skin problems [Photo: sundaemorning/]

Healing properties

Aloe vera has long been recognised as a medicinal plant. It is also widely used as a home remedy and helps with ailments such as skin problems. For this purpose, Aloe vera gel can be applied to the affected skin area and rubbed. It has a cooling effect, relieves itching and moisturises the skin. The plant’s cleansing and moisturising effect is said to help with sunburn, acne and neurodermatitis, as well as with dandruff and hair loss. However, a scientifically meaningful study on the actual healing effect in inflammatory skin diseases such as neurodermatitis and psoriasis has not yet been conducted.

Ingesting Aloe vera should be done with caution: Aloe vera juice contains the substance aloin, which can because diarrhoea, irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, and disturbances of the electrolyte balance in the event of overdose. Aloin-free gel can relieve non-specific irritation symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract, but should never be taken without medical supervision. Those who harvest Aloe vera themselves and wish to use the extracted Aloe vera gel internally must do so with care, ensuring they ‘bleed out’ the aloin-containing juice and wash it off. We do not recommend eating your own Aloe vera. Commercially purchased Aloe products are much safer: in these, the toxic Aloe vera ingredients have been removed.

Homegrown aloe vera gel in glass jar
Aloe vera gel has healing properties and is useful against a variety of issues [Photo: Songdech Kothmongkol/]

Preserving Aloe vera gel

If you want to harvest a lot, you should also preserve the Aloe vera gel afterwards. Untreated, it should only be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of two days before being consumed. The simplest option is to freeze it: For this, the Aloe vera gel can be placed in an ice cube mould in the freezer – so you will always have handy portions to fall back on. Alternatively, you can further process the Aloe vera and add natural preservatives, such as vitamin C, to the gel. To do this, 1 gram of commercial vitamin C powder from any healthcare retailer can be mixed with 100 grams of Aloe vera gel.

But you do you take care of Aloe vera plants? Let us tell you everything you need to know about the correct watering and fertilising of Aloe vera.