Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis)
Aloe Vera is a type of Succulent originating in the dry regions of Southern Africa. This architectural plant, with its striking freckled foliage, is now a popular houseplant in countries with cooler climates.
It has long been valued for its medicinal properties, with the Ancient Egyptians using it to treat catarrh. Its succulent leaves contain a gel (obtained simply by breaking off a leaf and cutting open) which can be spread directly on cuts and minor burns where it both soothes and stimulates the healing process. It is still valued medicinally, with the gel from its leaves being harvested and sold fresh or evaporated for use in creams, lotions, pills and tinctures.
Studies have shown that Aloe Vera gel might be effective in treating psoriasis, seborrhea, dandruff, and minor burns and skin abrasions, as well as radiation-induced skin injuries. Aloe gel also seems helpful in treating the sores caused by genital herpes in men.
There are many other proposed medicinal uses of Aloe Vera but none are supported by hard evidence. Although topical use of Aloe is considered safe drinking or eating Aloe Vera without some kind of processing is not recommended as it has been linked to sever diarrhea and even cancer.
How to Grow Aloe Vera in NJ
As a house plant Aloe Vera is very easy to grow and thrive on neglect. They can go for long periods without water and will quickly rot if the soil is not well-drained or watered too often.
A mix made with ½ potting soil and ½ course sand is recommended for keeping succulents happy. Allow the soil to dry off completely between waterings. Fertilize lightly with an all-purpose slow-release plant food once a year, allowing plants to rest in the winter.
They can be planted outdoors in summer in semi-shade but need to be brought indoors in winter. As they have fragile, shallow roots that are easy to damage, so be very careful when digging or removing from containers for transplanting.
As they grow and become bigger they will also become heavier and will need to be re-potted into a bigger pot. As you do this, make sure to keep the plants at the same level they were growing at in their nursery pots—don’t bury them deeper than they were already growing.