With over three hundred species of aloe, the one simply called Aloe vera, meaning “true aloe,” is the most common. Aloe is a perennial plant with succulent leaves that can grow up to two feet long from a center base. If you are lucky, it will produce a spike of yellow or orange flowers. As a houseplant, it is commonly kept in the kitchen for first aid treatment of burns; just break off the end of a leaf and apply a little of the translucent gel. A yellow sap known as bitter aloe is exuded at the base of the leaves. Bitter aloe should never be used on the skin or ingested.

Well known for healing burns, aloe gel is also good for cuts, insect stings, acne, and other skin ailments. When used on burns and scalds, it helps prevent blisters and scarring. Also called medicine plant and healing plant, aloe has a long history of use that dates back thousands of years. It is believed to be the plant mentioned on a Sumerian tablet.

Certain documentation comes from 16th century BCE in the Ebers papyrus, the oldest written record on the use of medicinal plants in Egypt. In addition to healing, it was included in preparations to beautify the skin and protect it from the harsh, damaging desert climate. Aloe’s use in the embalming process earned it the name plant of immortality. Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-90 CE) and naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) both extolled its merits in their writings.

Of course, like most medicinal plants, aloe was also used for magical purposes. In Mesopotamia and throughout the Middle East, it was believed to provide protection. Leaves were hung over doorways for this purpose and to ward off evil spirits. Aloe was also used for protection from accidents and a charm to bring good luck.

Position an aloe plant on a windowsill at the front of your house to dispel negative energy and attract good luck. If you live in a place where aloe can grow outside, plant it near your front door or set a potted plant outside for the summer. For protection, break off the end of a leaf and dab a little of the gel over each exterior doorway. For healing spells, place a little of the gel at the base of a green candle. For your esbat ritual, use the gel on a white candle or put the plant on your altar to draw on the power and wisdom of Luna.

How to Harvest the Healing Gel
When treating a skin problem or any time you need more than one application, you may want to harvest the gel. To get enough, you will need a leaf at least a foot long or several smaller ones. If you don’t have a big plant, aloe leaves are sometimes available in the produce section of supermarkets. You will need a sharp paring knife, a couple of bowls, and newspaper to cover your work surface.

Start by cutting off the bottoms and tops of the leaves, and then prop them upright for a few minutes to drain the bitter aloe. Lay a leaf on a flat surface and cut off the top, bottom, and spiny sides. Cut the leaf into strips about an inch wide. To remove the skin or rind, carefully slide the knife underneath it. You will be left with a block of gel. Cut it into small chunks and use a blender to make a puree. If it froths while blending, give it a minute to subside.

Aloe and Lavender Healing Gel
2 tablespoons aloe vera gel
10 drops lavender essential oil
Mix well and store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The gel will last for about a week in the fridge.