The ancient Egyptians referred to the aloe vera plant as ‘the plant of immortality’ because it can live and even bloom without soil. Aloe is probably well known to you if you’re interested in natural health remedies, organic beauty products or if you’ve ever suffered from a nasty sunburn!
Aloe vera is one of the few herbal medicines commonly used in western society because it is thought to have many health benefits. It is often used to treat sunburn, promote healthy skin and maintain dental health, among other purposes.
Although aloe vera may bear the name of immortality, once the plant has been harvested, like most things, it will only stay fresh for so long.
So whether you’re dealing with store-bought aloe vera gel or fresh aloe vera leaf, it’s important to know how to store the plant correctly to get the most out of it.
How to Store Off The Shelf Aloe Vera Gel
If you’ve bought your aloe vera gel from the store as opposed to extracting it from your own aloe vera plant, you have two main options when it comes to storing it correctly.
Store in a Cool, Dry Place
Generally, it’s always good to keep your store-bought aloe vera gel in a cool, dry place, and away from direct sunlight. Anywhere in your pantry, if you have one, or a spare drawer in your kitchen would be a perfect place to keep your store-bought aloe vera gel.
Just place the gel in your chosen spot in its original container, and you’re good to go. You should always keep the container airtight after each use to prevent any air or water from getting in.
According to NASM Certified Nutrition Coach Elliot Reimers, the gel should last for 2-3 years using this method of storage.
Keep it in Your Refrigerator/Freezer
But if you plan to keep your gel for even longer than this, can you freeze aloe vera? Mr. Reimers actually suggested that ‘refrigerating or freezing aloe vera products’ is the most effective way to maximize their shelf-life.
If you do plan to do this, just place your gel inside your refrigerator or freezer in its original container, and it should be good for at least five years.
How to Store Aloe Vera Leaf
Keeping store-bought aloe vera gel fresh is one thing, with the commonly added preservatives doing most of the work for you. But if you’re planning to obtain your gel by harvesting your own aloe vera plant, keeping the gel fresh can be more of a challenge.
Here’s how you can do it.
Storing Whole Leaves
Once you have removed an aloe leaf or two from your houseplant, opinions differ on how long your fresh aloe vera cuttings are likely to last at room temperature. But, generally, the aloe leaves will probably start to go bad after 1-2 days. You can make them last longer by storing the whole aloe leaves in your refrigerator or freezer.
Store Whole Aloe Vera Leaves in Your Refrigerator
To store your aloe leaves in your refrigerator, nutritionist Vasundhara Agrawal, who has worked as a dietician/nutritionist for top hospitals in India — as well as providing nutrition training to companies like Goldman Sachs, Hewlett Packard and Accenture among others — suggested that you should ‘store your aloe leaf in a damp towel in the refrigerator’ to keep it moist and succulent.
You should also make sure that the towel is covering the cut end of the plant, as this will help to prevent the exposed section of the plant from drying out.
Mrs. Agrawal says the aloe leaves should last up to a week using this method.
Store Whole Aloe Vera Leaves in Your Freezer
If you want to keep your whole aloe vera leaves for long-term use, you can also store them in the freezer. Just take your aloe leaves, place them into a freezer bag, and put them in your freezer. Stored this way, the leaves should be good for up to eight months.
When the time comes to defrost the aloe leaves, just take them out of the freezer and leave them on the counter. They should come back to room temperature in roughly 2-3 hours. Never defrost frozen aloe vera leaves in the microwave, as this will alter their consistency and reduce their nutritional value.
Extracting the Gel
If you’re feeling super adventurous and you want to really get the most out of your aloe vera plant, you can extract the aloe vera gel from the leaf yourself before storing it.
To do this you should first rinse your aloe vera leaf under cold water, and then trim off the top and bottom parts of the leaf on a cutting board using a sharp knife. You should then use the knife to cut away the spiked edges that run down each side of the leaf. With the spiky sides removed, you can then use a vegetable peeler to peel away the thin green exterior of the leaf, much like you would peel a carrot or a potato.
Once all the green exterior has been removed, you should be left with the sticky, slimy, succulent gel. At room temperature, this freshly extracted aloe vera gel will only last for about 24 hours, but nutritionist Vasundhara Agrawal recommends various ways you can store this gel to keep it fresh for longer.
Fresh Aloe Vera Gel in the Refrigerator
Depending on whether you’re planning to use your aloe vera gel in drinks and smoothies, or as a soothing addition to your homemade moisturizer or shampoo, you can cut the gel up into appropriate shapes and sizes for your desired usage. Then store it in the fridge.
Small cubes tend to be good for adding to drinks. Larger chunks might make more sense if you want to blend the aloe vera gel into your homemade beauty products or use it as a sunburn treatment.
Whichever form you choose, just place the gel in an airtight container and leave it in the fridge. It should stay fresh for about 10 days using this method.
Fresh Aloe Vera Gel in the Freezer
To freeze aloe vera gel, Mrs. Agrawal suggested you “blend the aloe vera gel and strain it in a bowl,” and then “transfer the liquid into a silicone ice tray so that it’s easier to take it out later.” You should then place the ice tray in the freezer. Once frozen, Mrs. Agrawal recommended you ‘transfer the aloe vera cubes into an airtight container’ and leave in the freezer for later use.
This way your aloe vera gel should be good for up to eight months. Again, when defrosting the gel, do not use a microwave! Just leave it on the counter until it returns to room temperature.
Mixing with Honey
You can also mix your aloe vera gel with honey to extend its shelf life, as honey is a self-preserving substance that never goes bad.
After blending your aloe vera gel in a blender, Agrawal said you should “use one tbsp of honey for one tbsp of aloe vera gel, mix them well and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.”
Amazingly, this mixture should last for up to three years!
Blending With Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another preservative that can be mixed with aloe vera gel to make it last longer.
If you’re using this method, place your aloe vera gel in the blender and crush a vitamin C tablet on top of it before blending. Then blend the mixture on high for a few seconds to create a super nutritious juice.
Agrawal advised that “for every one liter of aloe vera gel, you should be using eight grams of vitamin C powder.” This ratio works out as roughly 0.0088 fluid ounces of vitamin C for every fluid ounce of aloe vera gel.
Once blended, transfer the mix to an airtight container and store in your refrigerator. Thanks to the preservative powers of the vitamin C, it should be good there for a whole month!
How Long Does Aloe Vera Gel Last?
As we have seen, the amount of time aloe vera gel is likely to stay fresh depends on the particular type of aloe vera gel in question, and the chosen method of storage. So learning how to store aloe vera effectively is essential if you want to get the most out of it.
Store-bought aloe vera gel will last for 2-3 years when kept at room temperature in its original container, and up to five years when refrigerated or frozen. Whole aloe vera leaves will stay fresh for only 1-2 days at room temperature, but should last for up to a week in the refrigerator, and eight months if frozen. And by extracting fresh aloe vera gel from your houseplant, you can make it last anywhere from ten days to three years depending on how you choose to preserve it.
By learning how to preserve aloe vera, whatever form you have it in, you’ll be able to significantly extend its shelf life and really maximize its usefulness. And the longer it lasts, the longer you can reap all of its ‘immortal’ benefits!
But remember, aloe vera gel itself is not immortal, and it does expire. Agrawal warned that “it is not recommended to use expired aloe vera products as it might result in skin rashes and irritation, especially if you have extremely sensitive skin.”
If you want to make sure your aloe vera gel is still good to use, it’s also important to know if your aloe vera gel has expired.
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