Aloe vera gel, which must only be used externally, is quite simply the flesh of the leaves of Aloe barbadensis, a succulent plant that’s very easy to grow.
When applied to healthy skin the gel help soften it, it's excellent for soothing small irritations, while in the case of minor wounds it works as a disinfectant, favours the renewal of cells and encourages the wound to heal.
Making what’s commonly known as aloe gel, at home, isn’t at all difficult, and the external use of this substance doesn’t normally have any side effects.
So here’s how to go about it.
First of all choose a plant that’s at least 3 – 4 years old, the ideal stage of maturity to be able to use it. Remove a leaf from amongst the outer ones, choose one that’s healthy and feels turgid, not squashy, all over. The best way to pick the leaf isn’t to cut it, but to tear it off delicately at the base, where it’s predisposed for being detached; in this way you’ll avoid it becoming too dehydrated before you use it.
A leaf picked in this way can be used up to several hours after harvesting.
Now you need to use a kitchen knife – the kind chefs use – with a smooth blade, and cut the bottom of the leaf off with one clean, vertical incision.
Then prop the leaf up, at an angle of 45°, with the tip pointing upwards and the bottom on a chopping board, and let the liquid seep out and collect at its base.
After 15 minutes lay the leaf on a chopping board and use a knife to cut off the tip, the first 5 – 6 cm and the spiky leaf edges (roughly 5 mm on each side).
With a slight pressure of your hand on the leaf remove the outer “skin” from one side (the one resting on the chopping board) and, once you’ve turned it over, the remaining green surface.
According to the size of the leaf, which varies depending on the variety of aloe, this operation could be easier to carry out if you divide the leaf first, lengthwise, into various strips.
The end result when you’ve finished “cleaning” will be one or more strips of a gelatinous, almost transparent, substance.
Once you’ve blended it, the aloe gel is ready to be used.
It keeps for a few days, if you put it in the fridge closed in a container, or for a few months if frozen (in this latter case choose small containers to store it in).