Saturday, March 12, 2011

Planting with Benefits: Aloe Vera and Pandan

Here's my problem. I've been battling with hair loss for quite some time now and worried sick about how many hair strands I lose everyday after hair wash, combing or tying my hair up and other stuff. Once upon a time, I was known for having a very thick black luscious hair in my family and everybody envied me. Here I am now, with long straight hair getting thinner day by day as I age. I occasionally blame this issue over my hair length, lack of nutrition/poor diet (i.e. less fruits and veggies consumption), stress level, chemical overdose on my hair and scalp (coloring, straightening, etc), too much chemicals in my body (the medicines that I take since I've been sick quite often) and God knows what else.

For my hair fall control regime, I have poured bottles of baby hair lotion onto my scalp after hair wash. Nowadays, I always wash my hair with special hair fall control shampoo and put on hair tonic - these two have 'very effective' label on it, eat mung bean soup which is said to help promote hair growth and trim my hair regularly. I have excluded hair treatment programs in salons since I've been keeping all these in modest budget, especially when I lived in Singapore, salon treatments would have been too costly for my pocket. In summary, all these things didn't help me much yet. I still lose hair.

My current special hair control shampoo and tonic. 
This should be my 4th bottle of hair tonic with this particular brand.

I plan to add in home-made aloe vera care by rubbing real aloe vera gel onto my scalp. It's very traditional and I remember my Mom did this on me and my sister quite often when we were small. Aloe vera is known as natural remedy for healthier and thicker hair. To do this, I would need fresh aloe vera and to kick off, since I can't find this sold in local supermarkets, I need to plant and grow this succulent plant first at home. This needs patience and going to take a long time.

My husband tried to find me some aloe vera and pandan (for my baking purpose) plants from local garden shops and supermarkets but the shops didn't open yesterday and supermarkets don't sell this either. He came up with a very adventurous idea of just plucking these wild plants around the neighborhood. Worst case, we planned to just ask random neighbors who happen to have lots of this plant in front of their house and share us one. He was keen on this idea and I supported him.

About five o'clock in the evening, we drove around the neighborhood many times with sharp eyes looking for aloe vera and pandan plants. We both were like predators looking for preys. We're looking for those which grow in some 'grey areas' around the neighborhood. This means those plants live in somewhat unused land or 'public' area around the blocks. In this case, we'd have the license to just pluck the plant without nobody's permission yet ain't breaking the law either.

Finally we found one baby aloe vera plant living unnoticed in a bush behind our house. Waiting no more, we found it safe to be brought home and plucked the whole thing. The price for this baby plant was blood. The bush was full of mosquitoes armada. The colony was just  scary. We both could catch and kill some mosquitoes without aiming. Once we got it, we rushed back to the car and still saw few of these blood suckers followed us to the inside of car. They were just that many. Bloody, bloody aloe vera.

Wild aloe vera in the original habitat: The mosquito nest.

Next target was to find pandan plants since I would probably need this very often for my baking attempts. My husband finds it very convenient to have one plant at home so I can just take the leaves as and when I need them. We lurked around the neighborhood but didn't find the wild ones. All belonged to somebody's house and were planted in front of somebody's house. Should we get caught, we didn't want the police to arrest us for being pandan leaf thieves. The title and the crime would be too disgraceful for both of us to hold. So my husband braved himself to approach an Indian woman who happened to be in front of her house doing something with her tree and has lots of pandan bushes too in her garden. He asked for a pandan plant from her.

Husband was approaching the pandan lady.
The woman in yellow behind the tree was our savior. 

She was generous enough and gave me two of small pandan bushes. Before I went away, in Bahasa Melayu, she told me to clean the plants' roots first, clear the dried leaves on them and start planting. Thank you, Madam.

A basket of pandan bushes.

My patients: 2 pandan bushes and 1 baby aloe vera plant.

Cleaning the dried leaves from the root.

Cleaned plants ready to be put in the new home.

Putting stones to block the holes in the pot.

Temporary home for the baby plants.
 At least until I got a new pot and more soil to grow.

I can't wait to see my aloe vera grow real big and meaty so I can start enjoying the fresh gel and grow my hair too! Hopefully, it won't take that long to fully grow. I'm so excited to do some planting again. Finally, after all this time!

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