Other Names: Barbary-fig Cactus, Cactus Flowers, Cactus Fruit, Cactus Pear Fruit, Gracemere-Pear, Indian-fig Prickly Pear Cactus, Nopal, Nopal Cactus, Nopales, Nopol, OPI, Oponce, Opuntia, Opuntia cardona, Opuntia ficus, Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia Fruit, Opuntia fuliginosa, Opuntia hyptiacantha, Opuntia lasciacantha, Opuntia macrocentra, Opuntia megacantha, Opuntia puberula, Opuntia streptacantha, Opuntia velutina, Opuntia violacea, Prickly Pear, Tuna Cardona, Westwood-Pear
Prickly Pear Cactus can assist in a holistic cancer treatment. Prickly Pear Cactus will not cure cancer alone but in combination with other herbs, juices and therapies, prickly pear cactus will boost cancer treatment effectiveness.
Prickly pear cacti are cultivated in Mexico and USA for their young pads, also known as nopalitos, which are consumed as a vegetable. The most prominent one among the cacti is Opuntia ficus indica (L.) Mill. Prickly pear cactus contains fiber and pectin, which can lower blood glucose by decreasing the absorption of sugar in the stomach and intestine. Some researchers think that it might also decrease cholesterol levels, and kill viruses in the body.
Prickly pear cactus is used for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, alcohol hangover, colitis, diarrhea, and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). It is also used to fight viral infections. In foods, the prickly pear juice is used in jellies and candies.
Most research on this product has been performed in Mexico by one research group.
Prickly Pear Cactus Antioxidant Effects
“Oxidative stress” induced by reactive oxygen species (ROS) has been implicated in over a hundred disease states which range from arthritis and connective tissue disorders to carcinogenesis, aging, neurodegenerative disorders, infection, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Antioxidants are helpful to scavenge these ROS and restore the physiological homeostasis. The cactus forms very good source of the natural antioxidants. Butera et al (2002) comparatively determined the antioxidant activities of the predominant betalains present in red, yellow and white cactus fruits. Amont the betalains, betanin was the most potent anti-oxidant. The very potent radical scavenging activity of betalains has been demonstrated in a wide range of assays including 2, 2-Diphenyl –1-picryl hydrazyl (DPPH) radical assay, superoxide anion radical assay, nitric oxide radical scavenging assay, arachidonate peroxyl radical assays (Sreekanth, 2007).
Prickly Pear Cactus Antiproliferative Effects of Betanin on K-562 Cells
Recently, we have demonstrated the anti-cancer effects of betanin isolated from O. ficus indica, on human chronic myeloid leukemia cell line, K562. Also, molecular mechanisms involved in betanin-induced cell death were elucidated (Sreekanth et al., 2007).
Prickly Pear Cactus Anti-inflammatory Effects
The flowers and their extracts of O. ficus indica were reported to show potential anti-inflammatory effects (Park et al., 2001). In a study carried out on patients suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), oral administration of cactus flower extract revealed improvement in symptoms of BPH, with decrease in urgency to urinate and feeling of fullness in the bladder (Palevitch et al, 1993).
Prickly Pear Cactus Hypoglycemic Effects
In a study conducted on Non-Insulin dependent Diabetes Mellitus patients, by researchers at the Department of internal medicine at Mexican Institute of Social Security, Mexico, a decrease in glycemia levels was noticed with crude and boiled blended preparations from stems of O. ficus indica (Frati et al,1990).
Prickly Pear Cactus Antilipemic Effects
Dietary fibers such as pectin isolated from O. streptacantha fruits has been shown to reduce the plasma LDL cholesterol in animal models fed with high cholesterol diet (Fernandez et al, 1990). The natural antioxidant pigments found in cactus pear namely betalains protected LDL from oxidations, which is the main cause of macrophage activation, formation of foam cells and atherosclerosis.
Prickly Pear Cactus Medical History Usage
Prickly pear has played an important role in the pharmacopoeia of native healers from Mexican and Central American tribes (Knishinsky, 2004). The sap of the pads is similar to the aloe which has been used to soothe irritated skin, wounds, burns, and sun burn. Mexican researchers explored this herb for the first time for the treatment of diabetes. Since then, cactus has been the subject of research and is under continuous investigations for its biological activity (Knishinsky, 2004)
A number of different forms of betacyanins are known to exist and co-exist in the Opuntia species. However, the concentration and type of betacyanin present in the species is dependent on factors like environment and geographical origin. Betanin,potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It was shown to prevent cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity in animal models (Sreekanth, 2007).
Prickly Pear Cactus Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts
- Prickly pears are an excellent source of magnesium which helps to relax the nerves and muscles, plays a part in bone health and also helps with blood circulation.
- Prickly pears also provide a good fruit source of calcium which is needed for bone health. Calcium also plays a part in blood clotting and helps support nerve and muscle functioning.
- A good source of vitamin C, prickly pears can help protect the cells and tissues from free radical damage, thereby helping to prevent cancer. Vitamin C also helps with dietary iron absorption.
- Prickly pears also contain a good amount of potassium which helps the nerves and muscles to function properly and also maintains the bodies’ acid balance. Potassium can also help lower the risk of high blood pressure.
- Prickly pears contain good amounts of fibre which supports bowel regularity and therefore helps to prevent bowel cancer. Fibre also helps to maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Amino Acids: The pads of prickly pear fruit contains a full range of amino acids, which are building blocks of protein including the 8 essential amino acids, which are not made by our body. It is very rare that a plant provides so many essential amino acids.
- Immunity Booster: The mucilage found inside the sticky pads of the stem. The mucilage contains polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are the primary active ingredients which is found in other immune system stimulating plants like aloe and oriental mushrooms.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Among thousands of botanical species of plant, nopal cactus is the only plant known which contains 24 of the known betalains, which are potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Hence, prickly pear juice benefits in chronic inflammation problems.
- Diabetes: The broiled stems of one prickly pear cactus species (Opuntia streptacantha) seem to lower blood sugar levels in people who have type 2 diabetes. Single doses can decrease blood sugar levels by 17% to 46% in some people. However, it is not known if extended daily use can consistently lower blood sugar levels. Raw or crude stems of this species do not seem to work. Other prickly pear cactus species don’t seem to work either.
- Hangover: Taking prickly pear cactus before drinking alcohol might reduce some symptoms of hangover the next day. It seems to significantly reduce nausea, anorexia, and dry mouth. But it doesn’t seem to reduce other hangover symptoms such as headache, dizziness, diarrhea, or soreness.
- One prickly pear contains around 42 calories.
Prickly Pear Cactus Dosage
For diabetes: 100-500 grams of broiled stems of prickly pear cactus daily. Doses are often divided into three equal amounts and given throughout the day.
For hangover due to use of alcohol: 1600 IU of a specific prickly pear cactus extract (Tex-OE, Extracts Plus, Inc.) taken 5 hours before drinking alcohol.
Prickly Pear Cactus Toxicity
The prickly pear fruit is not toxic. No studies have been on reported acute or chronic toxicity reactions due to consumption of cactus fruit or its products. Eating large quantities of the fresh fruit (30 to 50 fruits per day) might cause constipation due to the prevalence of the seeds. But not all people concur with this temporary side effect (Knishinsky, 2004)
Prickly Pear Cactus Safety
Prickly pear cactus is LIKELY SAFE when eaten as food. The leaves, stems, flowers, fruit and standardized extracts of the prickly pear cactus are POSSIBLY SAFE when used as medicine in appropriate amounts for a short period of time.
Prickly pear cactus can cause some side effects including mild diarrhea, nausea, increased amount and frequency of stool, bloating, and headache.
Prickly Pear Cactus Special Precautions & Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of prickly pear cactus during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: Prickly pear cactus might lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use prickly pear cactus.
Surgery: Prickly pear cactus might affect blood sugar levels, making blood sugar control difficult during and after surgery. Stop using prickly pear cactus at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Prickly Pear Cactus Interactions
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination:
Chlorpropamide (Diabinese) interacts with Prickly Pear Cactus
Chlorpropamide (Diabinese) is used to decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Prickly pear cactus might also decrease blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with chlorpropamide (Diabinese) might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your chlorpropamide (Diabinese) might need to be changed.
Glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) interacts with Prickly Pear Cactus
Glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) is used to decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Prickly pear cactus might also decrease blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) might need to be changed.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Metformin (Glucophage) interacts with Prickly Pear Cactus
Metformin (Glucophage) is used to decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Prickly pear cactus might also decrease blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with metformin (Glucophage) might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your metformin (Glucophage) might need to be changed.
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Prickly Pear Cactus Research Links
Prickly pear seed extracts with antioxidant and cancer-preventing capacity.
Phenolic composition, antioxidant capacity and in vitro cancer cell cytotoxicity of nine prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) juices.
Determination of antioxidant constituents in cactus pear fruits.
Potent virucidal effect of pheophorbide a and pyropheophorbide a on enveloped viruses.
Daily prickly pear consumption improves platelet function.