In addition to their medical use, cacti are known for their nutritional worth. Both cactus pads and cactus fruit have anti-infective properties that can assist with everything from hangovers to high cholesterol problems.
The following are a few of the cactus’ health advantages:
The cactus fruit and pad are both rich in fiber, which can reduce blood cholesterol levels. According to a study, eating cactus can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat. Your chance of developing conditions including stroke, coronary heart disease, and peripheral vascular illnesses can be lowered by include cactus fruits in your diet.
Iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and more are all found in cacti. This extensive spectrum of nutrients and others can aid in lowering inflammatory levels in the body. According to research, taking cactus extract after consuming five to seven alcoholic beverages helped reduce the severity of hangover symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, or dry mouth). The body’s inflammation, which is frequently related to alcohol consumption, was also decreased by the cactus extract.
A number of diseases, including diabetes, a stroke, and heart disease, can all be indicated by high blood sugar levels in the body. A Mexican study compared the diets of those who regularly ate cactus pads to those who didn’t, and it found that those who did had significantly lower blood sugar levels than those who didn’t. According to the study, eating cactus may be a cheap approach for those with diabetes to lower their blood sugar levels.
Particularly cactus fruits are a great source of vitamin C, one of the finest immune enhancers. White blood cell production is boosted by regular vitamin C intake, which can lower your risk of infection and help your body fight off viruses if you become infected.
What negative affects might eating a cactus cause?
Whole prickly pear cactus is consumed (boiled or grilled). Jams and juice are also produced with it. If you want to try prickly pear cactus, think about starting slowly. Some persons may have moderate diarrhea, nausea, increased bowel frequency, increased bowel volume, and abdominal fullness as side effects.
Cactus: a superfood or not?
Upon hearing the word “When we think of cactus, the desert or that weird, prickly plant in our living room come to mind. Although the iconic thorny desert cactus can be scary, research advises us to tuck into its slender, delicious stems. Vitamins and nutrients abound in cacti, demonstrating their deserving of the name “superfood.
The inexpensive cuisine is a staple of Latin American meals, but it’s becoming more well-known in the United States, where you can get it in Mexican grocers, produce stands, and farmer’s markets. Because the genus Opuntia contains more than 200 species, there are numerous kinds of cacti. People avoid the plant because of its spikes and bristles, although it can treat conditions ranging from high cholesterol to various cancers.
Cacti can they be eaten?
Cacti are fleshy and appear to be suitable as vegetables. It’s crucial to understand that there are edible and deadly cacti varieties before you start eating them.
All authentic cactus fruit is safe to consume. After the spines are removed, some varieties of cactus, including cholla, dragon fruit, and prickly pear, can be used as vegetables. Other cactus species, such as peyote, Bolivian, and San Pedro, are poisonous and should not be consumed.
Cacti of many types are frequently planted as indoor and outdoor ornamental plants. Check to see if the cactus variety is poisonous or suitable for people or pets to eat before choosing it for your garden.
Can you eat cactus and have healthy skin?
Consider first how cacti survive in such harsh, arid, and unbearably hot environments. You should also be reminded to hydrate by drinking some water at this time.
Any grooming company would want to imitate the cactus’ superior ability to store and retain moisture in its products. When cactus-infused cosmetics are applied to the skin, they rely on the vitamins and minerals included in the plant’s oils and extracts to provide the same proactive but protective effects.
Take a look at the vitamins and minerals the prickly pear cactus contains. When used in skincare, they support its moisturizing, toxin-blocking, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties:
Vitamin A: An antioxidant that protects skin from pollution and pollutants, as well as an anti-inflammatory that prevents breakouts. Excellent hydrator and aids with skin brightness.
Vitamin D: Boosts metabolism and cellular turnover, resulting in a more radiant, healthier complexion. offers antioxidant properties as well to protect against skin-aging aggressors.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is found in cactus in extremely high concentrations, which gives skin a ton of the vitamin’s exceptional skin-nourishing, firming, healing, anti-aging, moisturizing, and toxin-fighting benefits.
Any group of minerals, in this example potassium and magnesium, that maintain the skin’s moisture barrier functions and so increase the effectiveness of other nourishing compounds are known as electrolytes (like the aforementioned vitamins).
Does cactus benefit the kidneys?
Nopal is a big prickly pear cactus that is indigenous to dry regions of South and North America. It is traditionally consumed by Mexicans as food and used medicinally as a laxative, anti-inflammatory, and to treat high blood sugar and alcohol hangovers.
Nopal has a blood sugar-lowering function, but the precise mechanism is unknown, despite the fact that it contains significant levels of soluble fiber and pectin, which may impact how well glucose is absorbed. Although earlier research disputes fiber’s significance in lowering blood glucose levels in animal trials, it does not propose a substitute mechanism. 34 Opuntia extract (1 mg/kg body weight) used for 7 weeks in conjunction with insulin and then Opuntia extract alone allowed blood sugar levels to quickly revert to those of non-diabetic rats. In a recent animal experiment, diabetic rats treated with streptozotocin (STZ) were given liquid and filtered extracts of Opuntia streptacantha to see how they would react. 35 The extracts weren’t able to lower blood sugar levels. But when administered before an OGTT, it had an antihyperglycemic effect, indicating a potential mechanism involving inhibiting hepatic glucose outflow.
A mild to moderately positive effect on people with T2DM has been confirmed by a number of small (N = 732) published clinical trials (all carried out by the same research group) utilizing various forms and doses of Opuntia species.
The broiled stem of Opuntia streptacantha, which was administered as a dose of 100–500 g per day, was the most popular type of nopal utilized in the experiments.
Nopal should not be consumed by those who are nursing, pregnant, or have kidney problems. Bloating in the stomach area, diarrhea, and nausea are possible side effects. In people using antidiabetic drugs, it should be used cautiously (one case report). 40
In a 3-month clinical study, cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) fiber was found to encourage weight loss. In vitro studies have shown that cactus fiber binds to dietary fat, reducing absorption, which in turn reduces energy absorption and, eventually, reduces body weight.
Subjects and Methods
For about 45 days, healthy volunteers participated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study for this clinical investigation. Twenty healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to receive 2 tablets of cactus fiber or a placebo with each of their three main meals. During the research period, all subjects received meals (with the exception of washout) in accordance with a predefined meal plan, with fat making up 35% of the daily energy requirement. Both the baseline and treatment periods saw the collection of two 24-hour feces samples for the evaluation of the fat content.
Does cactus benefit the liver?
Fresh nopal juice has the potential to decrease cholesterol, heal wounds, and lower blood sugar.
Studies on the nopal cactus’ potential to treat or prevent disease in humans are scarce. Opuntia dillenii, the plant’s family, was reviewed in 2019, and the findings indicated that it has numerous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Additional research results indicate that nopal may reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system, and shield the liver.
Due to these factors, traditional healers have employed both nopal plant portions to cure and prevent a variety of diseases and symptoms, such as:
When should cacti be consumed?
You can either leave the pads whole, cut them into strips, or chop them into cubes, depending on how you intend to use this vegetable. Cacti that are edible can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be grilled, sautéed, boiled, simmered, or deep-fried. Their ideal serving texture is soft and crispy. The texture of overcooked pads will be slimy. Combine them with various ingredients to create a range of wholesome, nutrient-rich recipes. Here are some recommendations:
You might need to switch the water you’re using to boil the pads and re-boil them. It’s possible that the sap coming from the pad is thick. As a general rule, the sap will be thicker the thicker the pad. After draining, the pads are washed in cold water. Why not prepare a traditional Mexican salad with diced tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos, onions, and lime juice? Salt and pepper are other good additions.
Season the pads well with salt and pepper if grilling them. When the pads are somewhat brown in color and soft to the touch, they are prepared. Additionally, you may season them with a dash of salt, a squeeze of lime juice, and a little olive oil.
Cactus pads can be added to various meals, either raw or cooked, to create flavorful, nutritious foods. They can be blended into a smoothie, or they can be diced and added as a topping to yogurt or cereal. Why not attempt incorporating them into stews, casseroles, and eggs. They make a delicious addition to quesadillas and salsa. You can choose to consume this adaptable, healthy vegetable alone, in a robust vegetable soup, in a fruit or vegetable salad, or even simply by itself! It can also be prepared into a jelly. Cactus pads can also be pickled and used to other meals as a condiment.
Does cactus consumption help with diabetes?
Consumed often in Mexico, prickly pear cactus pads can cut blood sugar spikes after meals by almost half and may aid in managing diabetes.
Since I live in the Southwest, I am particularly interested in the plants because of its culinary and therapeutic uses. The prickly pear cactus, also known as nopal in Spanish, is one plant that looks to have several highly advantageous traits. This plant, which is originally from Mexico and the American Southwest, is now widely planted across the world, particularly in the Mediterranean areas. I endorse prickly pear extract as a supplement to help those with diabetes or pre-diabetes manage their blood sugar levels, and so does Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., one of my mentors and a fellow desert dweller who is a recognized authority on integrative medicine, dietary supplements, and women’s health. Prickly pears are frequently suggested to patients by Dr. Low Dog as food, supplements, or juice with lots of pulp. Additionally, she instructs fellows at the University of Arizona’s Integrative Medicine Program on how to make straightforward recipes with delicious cactus leaves (pads).
Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a specialist in herbal medicine, demonstrates the correct methods for cutting, preparing, and cooking prickly pears.
When consumed with typical Mexican dishes like burritos and quesadillas, prickly pear cactus had a negative impact on blood sugar levels, according to a 2007 study published in Diabetes Care. The study’s objectives included determining the glycemic index of three popular Mexican breakfast dishes and determining the impact of cactus pads on type 2 diabetes individuals’ postprandial glucose response. A supper of scrambled eggs and tomato burritos, chilaquiles (cheese, beans, and tomato sauce with corn 1/2 tortillas), or quesadillas with avocados and pinto beans, with or without 85 grams of prickly pear cactus pads, was given to the 36 type-2 diabetic participants following an 18-hour fast. According to the study, when prickly pear cactus was ingested concurrently with all meal types, as opposed to when it was not supplemented, blood sugar levels were decreased. The percentage of reductions varied based on the meal, with prickly pear cactus with quesadillas being linked to a 48 percent reduction, prickly pear cactus plus chilaquiles to a 30% reduction, and prickly pear cactus plus burritos to a 20% reduction.
Cactus pears have previously been connected to improvements in diabetes-related health. The metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and abnormal glucose and insulin metabolism, demonstrated significant benefits in a previous trial using a prickly pear cactus extract. Increased type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks have been related to the condition.
Prickly pear is also well-liked in Mexico for reducing hangovers; a Tulane University study that was published in the June 28, 2004 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine supported the efficacy of this traditional treatment. Researchers discovered that taking a prickly pear extract five hours before ingesting five to seven alcoholic drinks resulted in considerably lower levels of nausea, dry mouth, and appetite loss the next day in participants than did taking a placebo. However, the extract did not stop the headaches and lightheadedness that come with a hangover. The benefits, according to the researchers, were associated with the potent anti-inflammatory properties of prickly pear. The juice contains betalains, an unique class of antioxidants that gives beets and red Swiss chard their vibrant color. Additionally, prickly pear juice is rich in vitamin C.
According to certain studies, prickly pear may also aid in lowering cholesterol. A tiny Italian study from 2003 found that prickly pear extract may lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels but had no impact on HDL (“good”) or triglyceride levels (only 10 patients participated). The Nuclear Medicine Review of Central and Eastern Europe published the study’s findings. Another small study at the University of Vienna in Austria with 24 participants discovered that prickly pear decreased total cholesterol (by 12%), LDL (by 15%), triglycerides (by 12%), blood sugar (by 11%), insulin (by 11%), and uric acid (by 10%), but had no effect on HDL or other lipid measurements.
Who consumes cacti?
Can animals eat cacti, which are succulent plants? It makes sense for animals to eat the fruits, but they also consume the spines in addition to the sweet fruit. Many different species of animals eat the pieces of cacti.
Camels, Galapagos land iguanas, jackrabbits, woodrats, Gila woodpeckers, tortoises, squirrels, javelinas, and prairie dogs are some examples of creatures that eat cactus.
- Cactus with prickly fruit
- Calypso saguaro
- Container cactus
- Peruvian cactus Cereus
The most popular type of cactus for animals to consume is typically the prickly pear cactus. The fact that their pads do not have as many spines or thorns as those of other cacti plants may be the primary factor.
Some cacti species generate milk that is poisonous. Never, under any circumstances, try to consume a cactus by yourself. Even if you are certain that the cactus is edible, it is advised to avoid taking a chance unless you have confirmation from a reliable source.
Camels prefer to consume jumping cholla and prickly pear cacti as succulents. All cacti parts—from pads to spines—are consumed by camels. These cactus are heavy in fiber, yet camels can digest these high fiber plants quite well because they are ruminants.
Unlike humans, camels don’t have the same kind of oral structures. Although papillae are also present in humans, they are significantly more brittle in camels.
Camels’ strong palates enable them to easily break down the jagged thorns without experiencing any pain. Isn’t that fantastic? Additionally, they modify the function of their upper lips during eating.
Camel upper lips are divided into two halves. They feel the thorns with their lips while eating and use that information to guide their inner mouth movement.
It’s fascinating to watch these amazing rabbits eat cacti while fluttering their long ears.
Jackrabbits can be seen primarily devouring the cacti’s surface. They are quite discerning and clever when consuming cacti plants, therefore they stay away from the areas with the most thorns.
Jackrabbits consume the fruits and seeds of cacti in addition to the base. The seeds are quickly sent out during defecation since they are easily digested by them.
Jackrabbits may be particularly susceptible to the thorns of cacti due to their soft jaws. As a result, they move down the cactus from top to bottom. Before taking more bites, take a few nibbles and thoroughly chew them.
Galapagos Land Iguanas
The Galapagos land iguanas consume flowers and the pads of cacti. They don’t have any trouble with the thorns, but they use their feet to break up the larger cacti’s spines.
They consume both flowers and pads. They carefully remove the spines because they don’t consume them.
The land iguanas of the Galapagos are exceedingly sharp. It is quite familiar with its surroundings and always removes huge cactus spines with the aid of its front feet! In a matter of minutes, it consumes the entire cactus in a few gulps!
Fruit, flowers, and pads are all edible to turtles. Nevertheless, the majority of the time they eat pads.
Even while cactus can be consumed by tortoises complete with their spines, it is preferable to remove the larger ones. The Opuntia species is the ideal food for feeding a tortoise if you have one at home. Tortoises may easily eat the pads since they are not overly prickly.
Tortoises may find it challenging to eat cacti with huge spines since they are less adaptable when eating cacti than camels. But they expedite and simplify the process for themselves. They use their jaws to take enormous bites. They can quickly and easily split a cactus pad in half. They thoroughly chew the cactus juice while tasting it with their tongues.
The Gila Woodpecker
All varieties of cacti fruits are a favorite food of Gila woodpeckers. In addition, these beautiful birds adore eating off the saguaro cactus’ branches.
The method they employ while pecking into wood is the same! They begin poking holes in the saguaro cactus’ sides with their pointed beaks. Instead of using these locations for food, they occasionally use them to seek safety and protection from predators and extreme heat.
Desert-dwelling woodrats consume cacti plants, avoiding the sections with spines.
Packrats and trade rats are other names for woodrats. They differ from conventional rats by having long tails and relatively larger eyes.
Thorns and spines are avoided. They eat the pads of cacti, primarily those of the prickly pear cactus, which also serves as a water reservoir for them.
Woodrats navigate amid the spines of cacti using their keen sense of direction and small size. But they also utilise the thorns in a useful way. These thorns serve as a fence around their homes to keep off predators.
Javelinas, also referred to as collared peccaries, rip apart cacti with their tusks and consume every part of it.
All cacti parts, including the fruit and spines, are consumed by javelinas. These animals can consume nearly every variety of cactus that gets in their way, but they often prefer to eat Saguaro and Prickly Pear cacti.
Javelinas have pointed tusks that resemble elephant tusks. They are able to destroy the cacti plants despite having teeth that look to be weaker and smaller than those of an elephant. Additionally, they can determine which parts of the cactus are edible by using their snouts.
The most prevalent desert dwellers are black-tailed prairie dogs, which are more prone to eat cactus if there are no other food sources nearby.
American desert regions are home to prairie dogs. These lovely, adorable rodents are found in nearly five species. However, all varieties of prairie dogs share a fondness of eating plants because they are herbivorous.