How to Use Aloe and Cactus to Heal Wounds and Diabetes

I am like the dad in the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” except instead of Windex I often yell, “Put some salve on it!”  It is my go-to for everything.  My daughter and I make a fine pain salve.  It literally heals everything from nerve pain to sun burn.  I have an intense skin salve that heals irritated and damaged skin…unless the patient keeps scratching!

Doug gets some pretty wicked patches of eczema in the winter.  As if it weren’t dry enough here in Colorado, winters are filled with forced hot air from furnaces that further leave our throats parched and skin in shambles if we don’t moisturize every day (with our lotion, of course).


Here it is July and one patch on Doug’s leg is not going away.  “Did you put salve on it?” I holler from the next room.  “Yes” is always the response but I know he is not applying it as much as he needs.  And it itches, so he scratches.


It now looks like I threw a kettle of boiling water on his leg now.  (I didn’t.)  The heat was gently rising from it yesterday.  So, I took over treatment.  Thank goodness I am an herbalist.  I gave him a shot glass of infection killing herbal extract and set to work cutting two pieces of aloe open long ways.


After about ten minutes the heat was gone from his leg and the gel was saturating into the wounded skin.  I cut off the end of a sock and had him wear the tube around his leg.  He put salve on it this morning.  I will continue working on it and he should be healed in no time.



The same gel that is found in aloe vera is found in some cacti, particularly prickly pear, which is very common around these parts.  Our new farm that we are moving to has a bit of it.  I dream of prickly pear margaritas in the summer on the porch watching the sun set behind the mountains.  (It’s medicinal, folks.)  We had so much rain this year that the cacti flowered majestically and there will surely be fruit now to juice.


Nopales are found in many grocery stores.  They are the fronds of de-spiked prickly pear used in many Mexican dishes.  Succulents and cacti heal themselves by sealing the wounded end with their own gel.  That gel is what we are using to heal wounds.  The gel inside prickly pear and aloe vera is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and demulcent (meaning gelatinous and soothing).  Scrape the gel from the pods and use.  Careful with store bought aloe vera gel, it is often full of chemicals.


Aloe Vera and Prickly Pear have another super power.  That same gel helps stabilize blood sugars and offers pancreatic support.  Simply place a six inch piece cut in half into a quart jar.  (Please use gloves if you are harvesting prickly pear.  Took me a month to get all those thorns out of my hand!)  Add a cinnamon stick, 3 bay leaves, the peel of an organic orange, a 1 inch knob of ginger, and a 1/2 inch knob of turmeric.  1 Tablespoon of Ginseng will really help because it is an adaptogen (helps heal organs).  It is, however, endangered and mighty expensive.

Now fill this concoction with vodka or rum.  Sit it in the window for a week and then place in a cupboard or somewhere you won’t forget for another three weeks.  I put mine out in the full moon.  It does make a difference.  Do not strain it out.  Let it keep brewing.  The dose for diabetes is 1 teaspoon a day.  One can check their blood sugar, take a teaspoon of medicine, then check it again in 15 minutes.  It works that fast!  (I have to do the obligatory statement of I am not a doctor, stay on your medicines, talk to your doctor…yadiyadiya.) I have two more recipes for Diabetes and a miracle wound healer in my book, The Homesteader’s Pharmacy

An aloe vera plant in the window is good practice for any homesteader and a prickly pear in the yard is lucky…unless you step on it.

Aloe Vera (Its miraculous healing ability and surprising flower)


I have been around aloe vera plants my entire life.  I have always had one, my mother and grandmother always had one, my aunts always had one.  Aloe is the staple you will find in any bustling kitchen as it brings immediate and effective healing to burns, cuts, and wounds.  When the baby touched the wood stove on accident a piece of aloe was quickly dispatched, opened, and wrapped on the wound.  It didn’t even blister.


My aloe vera plant is something else.  I have never seen such a huge specimen in my life.  All of my previous aloes and those of my family fit nicely in a kitchen window.  Mine oddly thinks it lives in the desert.  It outgrows its pot every year and this year is no exception.  I sell its baby shoots at farmer’s markets so others can have the beautiful plants in their windows too.


This year my aloe did something I have never seen before.  It shot up a flower.  I have been waiting to see what it would look life when it was in full bloom.  It is beautiful and interesting.  What a fabulous plant!


Aloe vera is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiyeast, and is demulcent.  Which means you can use it on black heads on the skin, on warts, as a personal lubricant for yeast infections or herpes outbreaks, to remedy stomach ailments, to sooth inflamed skin, to fill a wound instead of stitches, to prevent infection in a cut, or to heal a burn quickly should you touch the wood stove!

The Medicine in Grandma’s Window


Long before I knew how to make herbal anti-biotics and pain relievers,  long before I could develop diabetes and thyroid medicines, and much longer before I knew that plants had any medicine at all, there was a plant that I knew could heal.  And it was in Grandma’s window.

Grandma’s house held such a fascination for me as a child.  It was the quintessential Grandma’s house (and still is) with coffee ever ready in little child sized white cups and cookies in the cookie jar.  The house smelled of cigarette smoke, soil, coffee, and perfume; an unforgettable combination that will forever remind me of sitting in her dining room looking at the bay window.  Her house was in Washington Park and was a tiny house when they moved in some fifty-seven years ago from this date shortly after my father was born.  They lived there for forty years before moving to their smaller house that my children now refer to as Grandma’s house.  Grandpa had added on rooms, and a loft, and the bay window, and a garage that was the hubbub of the men’s activity, full of every tool available and my Grandpa’s invention, the Brick Cleaning Machine.  The yard was full of roses and the back porch was perfect for listening to the overhead speakers playing Willie Nelson, drinking a cup of coffee, taking in the beauty of the roses, and pretending like I was grown up.  Grandma taught me to sew on a machine, how to crochet, how to cook an omelet, and how to be a fabulous Grandma that I will put to use this year.  I don’t want to leave Grandpa out, he is the perfect, most lovable Grandpa in the world.  Always ready to design us a house, or take us for a drive (the scenic route), or tell us stories of glory from his rodeo days.

Back to the window.  Her bay window was filled with plants of every sort (much like my indoor garden now, isn’t it?) and a terrarium that looked like a pig.  The cactus-like plant that was my first to know, for my mother kept one in the window as well, was the aloe vera plant.  Every time we would have a scrape or a burn a piece of the plant was broken off, its sticky interior dripping along, and placed on the wound.  Nearly immediately do wounds and burns heal up.  It is amazing.  The other night I misdirected my thumb into the grate in the oven at a rousing 450 degrees and promptly watched the skin bubble up in white fury.  I went to the aloe plant in my window and placed a piece on it.  It instantly cools and heals.

As an herbalist I understand the properties now: anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, specific to wounds and healing skin.  I hope that you have an Aloe Vera plant in your window too!