Prickly Pear Cactus: benefits, uses, tips and side effects

Prickly Pear Cactus: benefits, uses, tips and side effects

The prickly pear, perhaps one of the most emblematic fruits of Mexico. It has enormous health benefits: it can be used as a natural alternative to antacids, to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and other therapeutic uses detailed in this article.

Important data of the prickly pear

what is prickly pear?

Scientific name of the prickly pear: Opuntia ficus-indica. It belongs to the family Cactaceae. The prickly pear is native to the American continent.

Place of production of the fig of barbarism

The countries producing fig of barbarism are:

  • Peru.
  • Mexico.
  • Bolivia.
  • Uruguay.
  • Venezuela.
  • Chili.
  • Spain.
  • Colombia.
  • Argentina.

Types of Prickly Pear by Country

Peru: In Peru, there are three types of prickly pears:

  • The green or white barbaric fig.
  • The red barbaric fig or cherry.
  • The yellow or orange barbaric fig.

Mexico: Mexico has the largest variant of prickly pears that are:

  • The barbaric fig cardona.
  • The fig of barbarism Camuesa.
  • The barbaric fig Mansa.
  • The fig of barbarism Leonera.
  • The yellow barbaric fig.
  • The fig of barbarism will ranchera.
  • The fig of barbarism palmita.
  • The prickly pear Pachona.
  • The fig of barbarism Chaveña.
  • The prickly pear Duraznilla.
  • The prickly pear pintadera and xoconostle.

History and mythology

The prickly pear plant is native to tropical and subtropical America. Nowadays, it is cultivated in every continent of our planet.

Cópil is the name of bremboge fig wine. In Nahuatl mythology, Copil, son of Coyolxauhqui, god Huitzilopochtli fought to avenge the death of his mother. Huitzilopochtli beheaded Copil and then he thrust his knife into the belly of the victim, introduced his hand and pulled out his beating heart, looked towards the setting sun and threw the heart in that direction. The heart flew into the air, becoming a fire projectile, which fell sharply to the bottom of the lake, killing a huge frog had been sleeping for about 400 years guarding an entrance to the underworld.

The huge dead frog was slowly floating on the surface of the lake and the contact with the air of his body was transformed into a stone island and the heart of Copil became in turn a prickly pear which sprouted a huge cactus.

Nutritional value of prickly pear

The prickly pear has a nutritional value that distinguishes it from other fruits. It is rich in calcium, potassium and phosphorus and contains other minerals; It provides significant amounts of vitamin C and small amounts of several B vitamins. It contains about 15% of good quality carbohydrates. It is alkalinizing. The crust of the prickly pear represents 40 to 50% of the fruit, the pulp 40 to 50% and the seeds 5 to 10%.

Nutritional value per 100 gr:

  • Water: 87.55 gr.
  • Energy: 41 kcal.
  • Proteins: 0.73 gr.
  • Fat: 0.51 gr.
  • Carbohydrates: 9.57 gr.
  • Fibers: 3.60 gr.
  • Calcium: 56 mg.
  • Magnesium: 85 mg.
  • Phosphorus: 24 mg.
  • Potassium: 220 mg.
  • Sodium: 5 mg.
  • Zinc: 0.12 mg.
  • Copper: 0.08 mg.
  • Selenium: 0.60 mg.
  • Vitamin C: 14 mg.
  • Tiamine: 0.014 mg.
  • Vitamin B2: 0.06 mg.
  • Niacin: 0.460 mg.
  • Vitamin B6: 0.06 mg.
  • Folate: 6 mg.
  • VIitamin A: 51 mg.
  • Vitamin E: 0.01 gr.
  • Saturated fat: 0.067 gr.
  • Mono-saturated fats: 0.075 gr.
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.210 gr.

Properties of the prickly pear

Everyone relies on the benefits of prickly pear because it has excellent properties, for example being rich in amino acids, fiber, minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats and carbohydrates, being a food more than complete.

At the same time, it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, laxative properties and the most recent discoveries: restorative properties. It contains betalin, which is considered an excellent aid to cancer prevention and stress reduction in addition to the most basic properties: to effectively fight the flu.

Benefits of Prickly Pear

Health Benefits of Prickly Pear

It is said that for more than 12000 years, the prickly pear has been used in medicine to treat diseases. But over the years, experiments have been made to certify the true benefits of prickly pear.

Digestive benefits

Probably one of the main needs 12,000 years ago was to find a way to soothe digestive pain. Prickly pear contains properties that improve digestion, treat constipation. It is also low in calories and improves the flow of urine by regulating digestion.

Against diabetes

One of the main benefits of the prickly pears, result in a reduction of blood sugar. It is recommended to consume from people with excess cholesterol or diabetics because it increases the ability to use insulin. It is confirmed that consumption of 250 grams a day reduces cholesterol levels and increases glucose production.

Cardiovascular illnesses

Another important benefit of the prized fig of barbarism is the prevention of cardiovascular disease. This is because of the presence of an alkaloid called Cantina that helps in this important task.

Losing weight

Prickly pear has a set of compounds that can help lose weight.

First, the fibers can make the whole body feel and reduce the level of ghrelin (hunger hormone), which helps reduce overeating.

On the other hand, this plant has very little cholesterol and saturated fat, but it stimulates the proper functioning of the body without increasing the weight. Being rich in vitamin B6, riboflavin and thiamine, it also improves metabolic function and maximizes fat burning and food processing.

Prevent cancer

Phytochemicals, vitamin C, flavonoid compounds and several antioxidants found in prickly pears make them very beneficial to the immune system.

Antioxidants look for free radicals in the body and neutralize them before they can mutate healthy cells (their DNA) and turn them into cancer cells.

A byproduct of cellular metabolism is free radicals, which can cause different diseases through excessive build-up, including cancer. The presence of flavonoids and vitamin A in the prickly pear cactus has also been associated with a reduction in cancers of the skin, mouth and lungs.

Strengthen the bones

The prickly pear includes calcium in its composition, which is fundamental in building strong bones and repairing bones after being damaged.

Improve metabolic activity

One of the main benefits of prickly pears for health is the vitamins and minerals it contains. Prickly pears contain riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6 and niacin, which are vital components of metabolism and the controlled and adequate functioning of enzymes throughout the body.

If the organ system and hormonal balance are optimized, the body works more efficiently, which helps to lose more weight, increase muscle growth and tone the body.

Improve sleep

The prickly pear contains magnesium, which is a useful mineral to induce sleep in those who suffer from insomnia and improves chronic anxiety or anxiety. It causes an increase in serotonin, which leads to an increase in melatonin. It also has a mildly sedative effect, which reduces nerve function and soothes the body, helping to sleep.

Gastric ulcers

Prickly pear is commonly used as a remedy for gastric ulcers. Recently, studies have verified these effects. Apparently, mucilage and fibrous material found in prickly pears inhibit the development of gastric ulcers and those caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. People who regularly suffer from this problem are advised to add this powerful plant to the diet to improve their quality of life.

Reduce inflammation

Juice extracted from prickly pear leaves has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, including those associated with wounds, arthritis, muscle and joint surge. It is possible to apply the fig of barbarism topically on the affected area, in addition to consuming the plant itself to enjoy the effects as well.

Improve the skin

The phytochemical and antioxidant characteristics of prickly pears make them an excellent ally against premature aging. It eliminates stains and wrinkles. Free radicals can seriously affect the skin and eating prickly pears can keep skin healthy, young and fresh.

Scientific research on the prickly pear

researches on the prickly pear

Scientific research has drawn attention to a type of pigments called betalaines, present in prickly pears, whose antioxidant effect has been demonstrated. They identified two types of betalaines: yellow-orange betaxanthin (part of a compound called indicaxanthin) and purple-colored betacyanin (it should be noted that the white prickly pear also contains these substances). They also identified another set of barbaric fig compounds that contribute to the improvement of its antioxidant effects, namely: phenolic compounds, flavonoids and vitamin C. Several studies have demonstrated an anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effect. cancer marked by barbaric fig compounds. In study in test tubes, carried out in the department of biotechnology and food engineering of Monterrey, it has been observed that the fig juice of barbarism inhibits the development of cancer cells of the colon and the prostate. A neuroprotective effect has also been demonstrated and it has been observed that the prickly pear favors the secretion of bicarbonate at the gastric level, thus offering an antacid and protective effect of the gastric mucosa.

Betalaines, is higher in red and purple varieties than the yellow-orange and white varieties. It also varies according to the conditions of culture and the degree of maturity of the fig of barbarism.

Together, these studies have shown that consumption of prickly pears improves anti-oxidation in the body of healthy people, reduces the oxidation of fats in the blood (cholesterol and triglycerides), and increases the neutralization of free radicals.

Cited as an example, a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Palermo in Italy found that:

  • The aqueous extract of prickly pear had a high antioxidant action.
  • Prickly pear protects against the oxidation of fatty compounds in cell membranes of red blood cells.
  • The prickly pear reduces the oxidation of cholesterol.

To corroborate these results in vivo, they conducted a study of 18 healthy people. The participants were divided into two groups that received 2 times a day for 2 weeks, either 250 gr of prickly pears or 75 mg of vitamin C (amount equivalent to that provided by 500g of prickly pear per day). A 6-week period was allowed in which the intake of both elements was interrupted and then the experiment was repeated but the groups were reversed: those who had ingested vitamin C were now consuming the prickly pear and vice versa.

Blood samples were analyzed at the beginning of the study and at the end of each two-week period.

The results obtained strongly encourage regular consumption of figs of barbarism during the season: indeed, the daily consumption of prickly pears produces:

  • An increase in vitamin C and vitamin E levels in the blood.
  • Markers of oxidation of blood fats were greatly reduced (by a factor of 4).
  • Glutathione is the most powerful intracellular antioxidant (helps eliminate toxins, to reactivate other antioxidants, and decrease inflammation and the risk of cancer cells), the consumption of fig of barbarism has been translated by an increase in levels of glutathione.
  • The oxidation of low density cholesterol decreases significantly, which implies a significant protection of the blood vessels.
  • Similarly, the oxidation of blood fats was significantly reduced.
  • There was an improvement in antioxidant capacity in red blood cells.

In the last commentary of their article, the authors underline several points:

  1. They underline the fact that the consumption of 500 gr per day of prickly pear, during two weeks, has clearly improved the levels of several parameters of the general state of the antioxidant protection of the organism. As everyone knows, the vast majority of diseases are associated with a decrease in antioxidant defense in the body.
  2. The measurement of low density cholesterol oxidation talks about the level of oxidation in the walls of the blood vessels, one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease. The study showed a marked decrease in oxidation with the daily consumption of prickly pear.
  3. The administered dose of vitamin C in this study (equivalent to providing 500 grams of barbaric fig) did not produce the results observed with the consumption of the latter, which may claim to be characteristic of this fruit. Betalaines, the compounds responsible for this effect are also not present in the polyphenols that explain the antioxidant effects of other fruits.

Practical advice

A practical and tasty way to consume prickly pears is to make juices, here are some suggestions:

  • For the prostate and as a diuretic: liquefy 3 or 4 figs of barbarism in ½ glass of water and filter, re-liquefy with 5 sprigs of parsley and 1 tablespoon of raw and peeled pumpkin seeds.
  • To lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels: liquefy 3 or 4 prickly pears and 1/2 pomegranate grains with water and filter.
  • As an anti-inflammatory for musculoskeletal diseases and pain: Mix 3 or 4 prickly pears in ½ cup of water, liquefy again with a slice of pineapple paste a piece of 10 cm of aloe and a piece of about 3 cm of ginger.
  • As antacid to fight against gastritis and colitis: liquefy 3 or 4 fig of barbarism in ½ glass with water and filter, mix again with 3 stalks of celery and half an apple.
  • To nourish and strengthen the nervous system: liquefy 3 or 4 figs of barbarism in ½ cup of water, filter and liquefy again with ½ apple, 5 soaked peeled almonds and 1 tablespoon of liquid or powdered soy lecithin.
  • For the liver: liquefy 3 or 4 figs of barbarism in ½ glass of water, filter and liquefy again with 1 tablespoon of pollen and 1 tablespoon of yeast.

Contraindications of prickly pear

  • Because of its ability to regulate and influence blood sugar levels, prickly pears consumed in excess can cause hypoglycemia, diabetics should take this into consideration.
  • It should not be consumed excessively before an operation because it makes it difficult to control glucose levels and other nutrients
  • Avoid eating prickly pears by pregnant and lactating women.


[1] : Cactus pear: a natural product in cancer chemoprevention
[2] : 8 Surprising Prickly Pear Benefits
[3] : 31 Top Benefits Of Prickly Pear (Nagfani) For Skin, Hair & Health
[4] : Prickly Pear Health Benefits

Posted on 05/22/2018 by Naziha Hadden Benefits of Vegetables and... 1 124408

1 commentaire

  • CarOze

    CarOze 09/27/2021

    J‘ai eu des grosses convulsions après consommation de ma confiture , pourtant sans graines de Barbarie mais avec agar-agar et avec graines de cardamom. Est-ce une réaction chimique qui s‘est produite?

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