One of the most useful plants, aloe vera can be used to create everything from a soothing burn relief or skin treatment to a face mask and even in a healthy drink. While you can purchase aloe leaves for use at home, it is just as easy to cultivate your own aloe vera plant and harvest the leaves as and when you need them.
While incredibly useful, once harvested from the plant, the aloe vera leaf does not keep for very long. If kept at room temperature the aloe vera leaf typically spoils within 2 days. Luckily, learning how to store aloe vera leaf is both quick and easy. It also doesn’t require lots of expensive equipment.
If you want to learn how to harvest and store aloe vera leaf, this guide is for you. As well as highlighting some of the many benefits that can be derived from this attractive succulent, I will also teach you some of the easiest to adopt methods if you want to learn how to store aloe vera leaf.
This is a popular houseplant with many uses.
What is Aloe Vera Plant?
Before we learn how to store aloe vera leaf, I will briefly explain exactly what this plant is and how it can be used.
This is one of the oldest cultivated plants. Its long lasting popularity is largely thanks to the plant’s wide ranging medicinal properties. Both ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures used these plants to treat wounds, fevers and burns. The plant was similarly revered in Mayan culture where it was known as the “Fountain of Youth”.
Today, there are over 400 different recorded aloe varieties. Of these, the aloe vera is one of the most commonly grown. It is also one of the more useful plants you can cultivate at home.
These versatile plants have been cultivated for centuries thanks to their medicinal properties.
Wherever you grow your plant, the gel and juices inside its plump leaves are still a popular herbal remedy. You can use the gel to help:
- Heal burns,
- Treat acne,
- Moisturize skin,
- Relieve heartburn,
- Treat constipation or digestion issues,
- Relieve muscle pain and inflammation,
- Boost your bodies metabolism,
- Lower cholesterol,
- Treat sunburn,
- Soothe irritated skin,
- Fight dandruff.
The gel is also a good antibacterial treatment and can be used to promote a healthy immune system. It is also a key ingredient in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal system.
In addition to its many uses, these plants are also attractive and easy to care for succulents. With so many benefits, why wouldn’t you grow the plant at home?
Is Aloe Vera Safe to Use?
While aloe vera has many benefits, you should be careful how you use it. Some people can develop irritated or red, itchy skin, and may even suffer from allergic reactions, if they are exposed to the plant’s gel.
To know whether it is safe to use on your skin, apply a small amount to a tiny patch of healthy skin. If you suffer no ill effects, it is probably safe to use a larger amount.
Some people may suffer a reaction when using the gel.
While the gel can ease burns, you should never apply it to severe burns and deep cuts.
The latex contained in the leaves can have a mild laxative effect in some people. This should only be used in small doses. Larger amounts can be toxic.
Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised to avoid consuming this product. However, products containing the plant are still safe to use on the skin.
You should also avoid using aloe vera internally if you suffer from:
- Kidney or renal problems,
- Cardiac conditions,
- Crohn’s disease,
- Intestinal obstruction,
- Ulcerative colitis,
If you are at all unsure, consult your doctor before using the product.
How to Use the Plant
Aloe vera comes in a few different forms. The most common is the clear, slimy jelly-like substance. This comes from the center of the leaf and can be used to treat wounds or applied to the skin. It can also be blended into a juice.
This useful gel is made by the cells in the center of the leaf. Another product of the plant, latex, is produced by the cells just under the skin of the leaf. Yellow in color, the bitter latex can be taken orally to relieve digestive problems.
Be careful when using the latex, it can be toxic if used in large quantities.
There are a number of different methods that you can learn if you want to know how to store the leaves.
Harvest and Preparation
Before we get started, remember you should only ever harvest what you need. This means that you aren’t trying to store or use up a glut of leaves. The leaves keep far better attached to the plant.
However, on some occasions you may need to harvest a few leaves. Learning how to store aloe vera leaf helps to reduce waste. It also provides you with a regular supply of fresh leaves.
Only ever harvest plump, healthy leaves. These are the ones that are the most beneficial. Leaves turning brown or looking unhealthy can be a sign of a more serious problem. If you notice the leaves of your plant turning brown, there are a number of solutions that you can implement to revive the plant.
To harvest the leaves,use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the leaves cleanly away from the aloe vera plant.
There are a few different ways that you can learn how to store aloe vera leaf. Each method has its own benefits and is best chosen depending on what you want to use the leaves for.
Drain away the aloin before storing the leaves.
Before attempting to store the leaves you must first learn how to drain out the yellow aloin sap. This is easily done by placing the aloe vera leaf cut side down in a jar or cup for 15 to 30 minutes. Wipe away or rinse off any remaining yellow aloin sap before storing.
When draining the sap, you should wear protective gloves. While the gel contained in the leaves can be used to soothe irritated skin, the yellow aloin sap can act as an irritant. If consumed, aloin can also cause stomach problems.
Learn How to Store a Whole Aloe Vera Leaf
The easiest way to store a whole aloe leaf is to place it in the refrigerator.
After harvesting, wrap the leaf in Plastic Food Cling Wrap. Take extra care to cover the cut end of the leaf, this is the point that previously connected the aloe vera leaf to the plant. If you don’t have any plastic wrap, you can wrap the aloe vera leaf in a damp paper towel.
While they are best used within a week, wrapped, whole leaves keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Before storing, use a permanent marker to write the date on the plastic wrap. Helping to reduce waste, this is particularly useful if you store a few leaves over a period of time.
When you are ready to use the aloe vera leaf, simply unwrap it and start to extract the gel.
Healthy leaves can be stored for a short period of time.
How to Freeze Aloe Vera Leaf
For longer term storage, you can learn how to store aloe vera leaf in the freezer.
After harvesting the leaves from the plant, simply place it in a plastic freezer bag, such as a Hefty Slider Freezer Bag and put it in the freezer. If you want to ensure that the leaves are fully protected you can first wrap them individually in a plastic wrap before placing them in the freezer bag.
Frozen leaves are best used within 8 months.
If you want your harvested leaves to maintain consistency and flavor, this is particularly important if you are going to eat the leaves, then freezing is the best option. Just make sure that you use the leaves within the 8 month window.
When you are ready to use your frozen leaves they can be defrosted by placing them on a kitchen counter at room temperature. It can take larger leaves up to 3 hours to defrost.
You can remove the gel after defrosting.
Don’t be tempted to speed up the process in the microwave. Attempting to defrost leaves in the microwave can change the consistency of the leaves. It also negatively impacts on the plant’s much prized health benefits.
How to Harvest and Store Aloe Vera Leaf Gel
If you don’t want to store the leaves, or don’t have the space to do so, you can also learn how to store just the gel. This method can also be used to store leaves purchased from your local store.
Storing just the gel takes up less room.
Remember that leaves harvested from plants growing at home must first be placed upright, with the cut end facing down in a glass or jar. This allows the aloin to drain away.
After draining the aloin, rinse the leaves in cool water, washing away any dirt and sticky residue. Lay the leaves out flat to air dry.
Once clean and dry, use a sharp knife or scissors to trim away the top and bottom quarter of the leaf. These sections typically don’t contain much usable gel.
Be careful when handling and preparing the leaves. The spikes that run along the side of the leaf can cut your hand. A good pair of work gloves not only protects your hands from cuts and scratches, they also protect your skin from exposure to potentially irritating substances.
Next, place the clean leaves flat on a cutting board or work surface, such as a clean potting bench. Run the knife along the length of the leaf, removing the spiked sides. Take your time when removing the spikes. This can be a tricky process.
Be careful not to cut your hands on the spiky sides of the leaf.
Try to remove as little of the actual leaf as possible. When trimming my leaves, I find that a smaller, sharp knife gives me more control than a larger knife.
Keep the aloe vera leaf flat on the work surface. Use a vegetable peeler to peel away the exterior skin. Carefully work your way down from the top of the leaf. Once you have removed the skin from one side of the leaf, flip the leaf over and remove the skin from the other side.
After peeling, if you notice any small green streaks, cut these away with a small, sharp knife.
Peeling away the skin reveals the opaque gel at the center. This feels sticky and possibly slightly slimy.
As you peel, try to keep your hands as dry as possible. Dry hands are less likely to lose their grip on the knife or peeler, damaging the leaf or your hand.
Use your knife to cut the raw gel into small, equally-sized cubes. Again, be careful not to lose control of the knife and cut your fingers.
Small cubes are a good size for using in drinks such as smoothies. The cubes can also be used in beauty products or to treat skin issues such as sunburn.
After dicing the gel cubes can be placed in a clean, airtight container and stored in the refrigerator. Here they keep for up to 7 days. If you still have a glut of cubes after 5 or 6 days, the excess can be frozen.
Adding acidity to the gel can help it to keep fresh for a little longer. To do this, add a little lemon juice to the gel, blending them together until they are liquified. The gel can then be stored in small, sealable pots or Ziploc Food Storage Freezer Bags.
To freeze the cubs, place them in small, resealable bags. Storing small amounts of cubes in lots of small bags can be easier to use than a large bag of cubes.
Sometimes the gel loses its color when frozen. Adding some vitamin E to the gel helps it to keep its color.
Alternatively, you can gently blend the diced cubes for 30 seconds. The liquid can then be poured into ice cube molds for freezing.
Remember to date and label the bags before storing. Frozen gel keeps for up to 8 months.
Cutting the gel into cubes makes it easier to store and use.
If you are freeing lots of bags, be careful not to squeeze them into a small space. You should also be careful when freezing the cubes not to place other items on top of them. This can push the cubes out of shape. Once the cubes are frozen they are more solid and unlikely to lose their shape.
To defrost the cubes, place them on a kitchen counter for a few hours. You can also use the cubes in their frozen form. Do not attempt to defrost the cubes in the microwave. This changes the consistency of the gel, decreasing the medical benefits.
Whether you defrost them or not depends on what you want to use the cubes for. Frozen cubes can be rubbed over sore skin while defrosted cubes can be mixed with coconut oil or honey to make facial masks.
How to Store Aloe Vera Leaf by Mixing With Honey
This combination is another reliable storage method. Peeled, cubed aloe vera freshly harvested from a leaf can be mixed with honey to create an easy to use product that can be stored for a long period of time.
After preparing and cubing the leaves using the method described above, pulse the gel cubes in a blender until they achieve a smooth consistency. While blending is not strictly necessary it does make it easier to combine the gel with the honey.
Next, measure out how much liquid you have.
After measuring, place the liquid in a clean mixing bowl. Combine with an equal amount of 100% natural raw honey. This can be purchased at local grocery stores as well as health food stores. Use a spoon to mix the liquid gel and honey together until you achieve a smooth consistency.
Combine the gel with natural honey.
After mixing, the liquid can be stored in an airtight glass jar such as a Mason Jar with a hinged lid. Placed in a cool, dry place this solution keeps for up to 3 years. Remember to clean and dry the container before adding your mixture.
Alternatively, you can divide the mixture into several small, glass jars to give out to friends and family as presents.
This mixture can be used as a moisturizing skin or hair mask. It can also be used to sweeten hot drinks.
Can I Store Bought Aloe Vera Leaf Gel?
Most gel products sold commercially or in stores have preservatives added to them. This means that the product can be kept on a shelf in a store, or your home, for a long period of time. Store purchased gels are best kept in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard. Here they can keep for up to 3 years.
Gels can be stored for an extended period.
Learning how to store aloe vera leaf is a quick and easy process. Depending on which method you chose, you can keep an aloe vera leaf fresh and ready to use for anything from 2 weeks to 8 months.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.