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The healing power of prickly pear

  1. Originally the prickly pear grows in Mexico. The prickly pear is used in the coat of arms of that country. It is cultivated in Europe, especially in the Iberian Peninsula, in Spain and Portugal. The plant is wild in the Mediterranean and Australia. The fruit tastes nice and sweet. You can also eat the seeds. A marmalade is made from the fruit in Mexico. It is also the basis for a drink. Cacti are an important food source in arid regions because they handle the little water very efficiently. The cactus fruit is referred to as 'bread of the dry environment' in some parts of South and Central America. There are people who live almost exclusively on cactus fruits for three months during the harvest season.


  1. Cactus leaf as vegetable Cactus fruit naming Nutritional value Folk medicine: for stomach ulcers Against oxidative stress Against fatty liver Good for poisoned liver Good for the blood vessel walls

Cactus leaf as vegetable

  1. The discs or leaves of the cactus plant on which the cactus fruit grows are edible as a vegetable and are a standard part of Mexican cuisine. You must of course remove the thorns. The thorns fall out easily; sometimes the cactus disk has already lost all its thorns. The discs can be 25 to 60 centimeters in size. When a disk falls off a plant, a new cactus emerges from the leaf; in this simple way it propagates itself by cuttings.

Cactus fruit naming

  1. The Latin name of cactus fruit is Opuntia ficus-indica. In Dutch this fruit is also called desert fig or fig of Barbary. In English the fruit is also called cactus pear or prickly pear. A cactus fruit is also the name for pitaya, a specific form of cactus fruit from Asia. Furthermore, the pereskia is a cactus fruit from North America. Fig from Barbary was called the fruit because it grew in Barbary, as the place in North Africa was called where the Berbers held sway between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Nutritional value

  1. Cactus fruit has a high nutritional value, not because the percentages of the individual vitamins and minerals are very high, but because they are all in it, along with flavonoids. Scientists have recently learned that it mainly concerns the combination of vitamins and other phytonutrients; these have a synergetic or mutually reinforcing effect. 100 grams of cactus fruit still contains 24% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C; that is a high percentage. Furthermore, one ounce of this fruit contains 22% of the RDI of magnesium. Other relatively high percentages are: Potassium (6% RDA), calcium (6% AH) and vitamin B2 (4% RDA). There are also quite a few omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in this fruit. A cactus fruit has only 2% of the RDI in calories.

Folk medicine: for stomach ulcers

  1. In Sicily, the prickly pear was used in folk medicine as a means to treat stomach ulcers. In 2001 it was investigated whether this medical solution has scientific ground. Rats were indicated to develop a stomach ulcer. The researchers then fed the rats with cactus fruits. Indeed, it turned out that the stomach ulcers disappeared. Scientists believe that the mucilages in cactus fruit are mainly responsible for its medicinal efficacy in gastric ulcers.

Against oxidative stress

  1. Betalaines and vitamin C in cactus fruit show in a scientific study from 2004 that oxidative stress is counteracted. This means that these substances together are a good source of antioxidants. Free radicals, common pathogens in the body, are effectively combated so that the body remains in optimal condition.

Against fatty liver

  1. A fatty liver that is not caused by alcohol consumption is associated with various disease symptoms such as insulin resistance, obesity and oxidative stress. Cactus figs can reduce these syndromes. Research into this was already carried out in Spain in the 1960s. The study was done on rats and found that when overweight rats eat a lot of prickly pears, the liver is better able to recover. More insulin is produced, the oxidative stress decreases and the fatty liver itself decreased.

Good with poisoned liver

  1. A liver that has been poisoned with substances recovers faster if one eats cactus fruits, according to scientific research from 2005. Rats were manipulated to get a liver poisoned with HCFC, a hydrocarbon compound based on halogens . It turns out that the poisoned livers heal quickly when the rats are given prickly pear juice. The researchers believe that a mutually reinforcing effect of phenols, vitamin C, betalains, betacyanins and flavonoids such as rutin and isorhamnetin are responsible for this.

Good for the blood vessel walls

  1. Oxidative stress can, among other things, lead to blood vessel problems such as arteriosclerosis. Cactus fruits have a positive effect on the endothelium, a thin layer in the blood vessel walls that separates the blood vessel from the lymph vessels. The betalaines in cactus fruit in particular ensure that the endothelium is protected against oxidative stress. This prevents the blood vessel walls from becoming infected so that a basis for a disease is created. Antioxidants in cactus fruit prevent oxidative stress and thus serious lifestyle diseases.

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