How to Use Aloe Vera During Radiation Treatment

Simple steps on caring for, growing, and preparing your aloe plant.


 

Summary

  • Try aloe vera to reduce redness, rashes, and other radiation-induced skin irritation.

  • Learn how to properly care for, propagate, and harvest aloe vera.

  • Follow our simple 3 step process to prepare the soothing aloe vera gel.

 

About:


The aloe vera plant (or aloe, as commonly referred to in our islands) has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties.

Aloe contains amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins A, B12, C, E, and choline—all packed into this low maintenance plant.

It is a wonderful addition to any garden or windowsill. With the right amount of sunlight and water, aloe can work its healing magic!



Uses:


The gelatinous substance taken from the aloe stems can be used to soothe and calm various skin-related issues such as burns, swelling, itchiness, and redness. For cancer patients, aloe vera can be used to treat skin redness, rashes, and itchiness caused by radiation therapy. Aloe has been used safely for centuries. However, we advise talking with your healthcare provider before trying something new.*


Caring:


Aloe is a very easy plant to care for, propagate, and harvest. Aloe thrives in bright, direct sunlight and soil with plenty of drainage. It needs water, but it is a slow-growing succulent. Too much water will cause it to rot. The amount of sunlight your aloe plant gets will determine the amount of water it should receive. For example, an indoor aloe plant should get substantially less water than an outdoor aloe plant due to the difference in sun exposure and heat.


Aloe does not need to be fertilized. To propagate your aloe, notice that as your aloe grows it will send up new shoots or offsets from the mother root, gently cut the new shoot from the mother root to separate it. Allow the shoot to sit out of the soil for several days; this allows it to form a callous over the cut. Then, place the shoot in a pot and gradually begin to water the plant again.



Harvesting:


Find a plump stem on your plant and use a knife to make a clean cut close to the base. The “wound” on the plant will heal over and the plant will produce another stem over time. Harvest your aloe on an as-needed basis, but be sure to leave some stems on the plant!

Harvesting the aloe

Preparation:


Step 1: Take your harvested stems and place them in a bowl with the cut side down to drain the aloin (a yellow-brown liquid that drips out of the skin) for 30 minutes.

Step 1: Drain liquid

Step 2: After the aloin drains, rinse your stems and lay them out.


Step 3: Use a sharp or serrated knife to slice lengthwise––this will expose the gel and allow you to scoop it out. We recommend using a spoon for the best results. If you have any aloin residue on the gel, you can scrape it off and rinse the gel.

Step 3: Slice and scoop out gel

Applying:


Now your hard work has paid off! Use your aloe vera by either mashing it up or using a food processor to create a spreadable and soothing gel. Apply anywhere that needs some TLC. The aloe gel will absorb when used sparingly but don’t be afraid to add more. Store your aloe for up to 2 weeks in the fridge in an air-tight container (air exposure can cause bacteria growth).


Saving the Aloe for later use


Note: Many sources will speak to the benefit of ingesting aloe. For cancer patients, we strongly advise not ingesting aloe. Please consult a medical/medicinal professional if you would like to utilize it for such a purpose.



*Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for general information purposes only. This information is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any health conditions. Any questions regarding your own health should always be addressed with your healthcare provider. Use all information at your own risk.



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Wrenna Delgado is an Accounting and Finance intern at Breast Cancer Hawaii. She is pursuing a bachelor's in accounting at Shidler College of Business at UH Manoa. Wrenna also works as an Audit Intern at Accuity LLP and hopes to become a CPA in the future.