Glass Creatures

How To Juice An Aloe Leaf

Process Aloe Vera Plants At Home

Aloe has many uses & benefits. It...

  • helps heal minor burns, cuts & rashes
  • helps alleviate the pain of sunburn while speeding healing
  • works as a skin moisturizer
  • has anti-inflammatory properties

...and much more. Aloe is also easy to grow and to care for.

Most people use aloe simply by cutting off a piece of leaf and squeezing the liquid onto their skin. This works, but it wastes the inner gel, which is the most potent part of the plant. To use the gel, you'll need to "fillet" the leaves rather than merely squeezing them. The filleting process also reaps much more aloe gel/juice. When properly prepared and refrigerated, this final product can last a year or more!

First, a little terminology. Starting from the outside of the leaf and working inwards, we have the "rind", the "sap", the "mucilage" and lastly, the central core of "gel", also known as the "gel fillet".

For home uses, the rind is only good for composting. The yellow sap (also called "aloin" or latex) should be avoided when possible. It's used as an ingredient in laxatives, and can cause diarrhea and other problems if taken internally. The mucilage and gel are the most important parts of the plant for home medicinal use. Aloe should be processed within a couple of hours of harvest so as to prevent oxidation.

the process

Begin by selecting a large, healthy outer leaf that's close to the ground. These are the oldest and most potent. (If none of the leaves are close to the ground, the plant may be too immature to harvest.) Cut close to the base of the plant at a slight angle.

Stand your leaf upright in a slightly tilted container for roughly 10 minutes. This allows much of the sap to drain out. You may not see the sap in smaller leaves. To make your task less messy, wear latex gloves like the professionals do.

Lay the leaf down flat on a cutting board. Carefully use a sharp knife to cut off the leaf's tip and its serrated edges all the way down both sides. Slice the inside of the leaf lengthwise so that the front and back can be separated.

Use a spoon or (for larger leaves) a butter knife to scoop out the mucilage (the slimy stuff) and the gel (the clear, solid "fillet"). Press down firmly, but lightly. Too much force may scrape out sap, which you want to avoid.

internal use

We advise against using your fresh aloe juice internally. It's difficult to remove all of the sap, and this can have negative health consequences, particularly for pregnant women, seniors and young children. Aloe can be useful internally for specific ailments, but we recommend that you consult with a naturopathic physician before undertaking this treatment.

If you've consulted with a naturopath and want to use your juice internally, process only the clear gel fillet. Rinse it in a mild vinegar solution (vinegar mixed with water) to remove more of the sap's residue. Eat or drink the amount prescribed as soon as possible for maximum benefit. You may want to flavor it with something tart, salty or sweet (such as fruit juice). Save excess gel by freezing it.

external use

For external use, you can mix the gel and mucilage together to create your "juice". The gel can be difficult to liquify. Some people puree it using the base of a blender and replacing the standard container with a mason jar.

Aloe juice that hasn't been commercially processed tends to have an unpleasant odor. This is normal and won't affect its properties.

storage

Don't forget to store your aloe juice in the refrigerator. Use a glass or food-safe plastic container. Brown or dark green glass is best to block out excess light. Even a small amount of aloe juice can go a long way. To make it last even longer and to prevent discoloration (your juice will eventually turn brown), add a drop of vitamin E and a drop of grapefruit seed extract, or mix in some citric acid powder. Remember, however, that aloe is best when fresh.

whole leaf vs fillet processing

There's an ongoing debate between commercial aloe producers as to whether or not "whole leaf" processing yields a superior product to the traditional "fillet" method. Whole leaf processing usually involves grinding up the entire aloe leaf, removing the rind by pouring the ground leaf through filters, and then removing the aloin (sap) by running everything through a charcoal filter.

Even among whole leaf processors, there's a debate as to whether or not charcoal filters and most other latex sap removal techniques decrease the aloe's positive affects. Home whole leaf processing is difficult, but if you're a devotee of this method, it is possible.

Regardless of which method you use, we wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. Here's to your health!