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Prickly Pear Cactus


What other names is Prickly Pear Cactus known by?

Barbary-fig Cactus, Cactus Flowers, Cactus Fruit, Cactus Pear Fruit, Figue d'Inde, Figuier de Barbarie, Fruit du Cactus, Fruit de l'Oponce, Gracemere-Pear, Indian-fig Prickly Pear Cactus, Indien-Figue, 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.

What is Prickly Pear Cactus?

Prickly pear cactus is a plant. It is part of the diet in Mexican and Mexican-American cultures. Only the young plant is eaten; older plants are too tough. Prickly pear cactus is also used for medicine.

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.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Diabetes. Single doses of prickly pear cactus 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. The broiled stems of one prickly pear cactus species (Opuntia streptacantha) seem to lower blood sugar levels in people who have type 2 diabetes. However, 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. However, it does not seem to reduce other hangover symptoms such as headache, dizziness, diarrhea, or soreness.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Enlarged prostate. Men with an enlarged prostate often feel their bladder is full, and they experience frequent, strong urges to urinate. Developing evidence suggests that taking powdered prickly pear cactus flowers may reduce these symptoms.
  • Inherited high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia). Early research shows that taking edible pulp of prickly pear cactus daily for 4 weeks, while following a diet, reduces total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol levels in people with inherited high cholesterol.
  • High blood cholesterol. Early research shows that taking edible pulp of prickly pear cactus daily, while following a diet, can reduce total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol levels do not seem to be affected.
  • Metabolic syndrome. Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing dehydrated leaves of prickly pear cactus (NeOpuntia) daily for 6 weeks does not affect fat levels in the blood in women with metabolic syndrome.
  • Obesity.
  • Colitis.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Treating infections caused by viruses.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of prickly pear cactus for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Therapeutic Research Faculty copyright

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