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Prickly Pear Cactus Information & Purchase

Also Known As:

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 ficus, Tuna Cardona, Westwood-Pear.
CAUTION: See separate listings for Caralluma, Cereus, and Hoodia.

Scientific Name:

Opuntia ficus-indica; Opuntia fuliginosa; Opuntia hyptiacantha; Opuntia lasciacantha; Opuntia macrocentra, synonym Opuntia violacea; Opuntia megacantha; Opuntia puberula; Opuntia streptacantha, synonym Opuntia cardona; Opuntia velutina. Family: Cactaceae.

People Use This For:

Orally, prickly pear cactus is used for diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, alcohol-induced hangover (veisalgia), and as an antiviral agent. It is also used for colitis, diarrhea, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
In foods, the prickly pear juice is used in jellies and candies.

Safety:

LIKELY SAFE ...when used orally as a food.
POSSIBLY SAFE ...when the leaves, stems, or standardized extracts from the prickly pear cactus are used orally short-term. Single doses of prickly pear cactus extract or fruit seem to be safe. There is also evidence that taking 250 grams of fresh prickly pear cactus fruit pulp twice daily for 2 weeks might be safe. ...when flowers of prickly pear cactus are used orally. Preliminary evidence suggests that powdered prickly pear cactus flowers 1500 mg/day can be safely used for up to 8 months.
PREGNANCY AND LACTATION: Insufficient reliable information available; avoid using.

Effectiveness:

POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE
Diabetes. There is some preliminary clinical evidence that prickly pear cactus used orally can decrease blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Single doses can decrease blood glucose levels by 17% to 46% in some patients. However, it is not known if extended daily use can consistently lower blood glucose levels and decrease HbA1C levels. Only the broiled stems of the specific species Opuntia streptacantha seem to be beneficial. Raw or crude stems do not seem to decrease glucose levels. Other prickly pear cactus species do not seem to significantly lower blood glucose levels either.
Hangover. There is some evidence that taking a specific prickly pear cactus fruit extract (Tex-OE, Extracts Plus, Inc.) might reduce symptoms of alcohol-induced hangover. Taking 1600 IU of the extract 5 hours prior to binge alcohol consumption seems to reduce the chance of having a severe hangover the following day by about 50%. It also seems to significantly reduce some specific symptoms of hangover such as nausea, anorexia, and dry mouth. But it does not seem to reduce other symptoms such as headache, dizziness, diarrhea, or soreness.
INSUFFICIENT RELIABLE EVIDENCE to RATE
Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Preliminary evidence suggests that some patients who take powdered prickly pear cactus flowers 500 mg 3 times daily for 2-8 months have subjective improvements in symptoms such as urgency and feelings of fullness in the bladder. More evidence is needed to rate prickly pear cactus for this use.

Mechanism of Action:

The applicable parts of prickly pear cactus are the leaves, flowers, stems, and fruit. Prickly pear cactus is often consumed as part of the diet. Ingesting 500 grams of prickly pear cactus provides 14.3 grams carbohydrate, 8.25 grams protein, 1.05 grams lipids, 18.85 grams cellulose (fibrous polysaccharide), 455.75 grams water, and 99.75 kilocalories.
Some species of prickly pear cactus can lower blood glucose and lipid levels. This effect is often attributed to the high fibrous polysaccharide content, including pectin. Fiber can slow carbohydrate absorption and decrease lipid absorption from the gut. However, some researchers suspect prickly pear might also have an insulin sensitizing effect. In experimental diabetes in animals, prickly pear cactus stem extract seems to improve glucose utilization at the cellular level, mimicking the action of insulin. The extract seems to be effective at low doses (1 mg/kg) for lowering hemoglobin A1C levels alone or in combination with insulin.
Broiled stems seem to be more effective for reducing blood glucose levels than raw stems. The reason for this difference is not known. The hypoglycemic effects of prickly pear cactus peak 3-4 hours after ingestion and can last for up to 6 hours.
There is also some evidence that the pectin component of prickly pear cactus can also alter the liver metabolism of cholesterol and affect cholesterol levels. Prickly pear cactus fruit also seems to improve platelet function in people with familial hypercholesterolemia, which may prevent initiation and progression of atherosclerosis.
Prickly pear cactus is thought to reduce symptoms of alcohol-induced hangovers by decreasing inflammation. Alcohol-induced hangovers are associated with an inflammatory response. Alcohols containing high amounts of impurities known as congeners (tequila, bourbon, scotch) are associated with increased inflammatory response and increased severity of hangover. People with an alcohol induced hangover have increase levels of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein (CRP) and cortisol. People who take a specific prickly pear cactus extract seem to have lower CRP and cortisol levels, suggesting that prickly pear cactus might have anti-inflammatory effects.
Prickly pear cactus also has antioxidant effects. Consuming prickly pear cactus fruit pulp for 2 weeks seems to decrease pro-oxidants, decrease oxidation of lipids, and improve antioxidant status. This may be due to the vitamin C and the plant pigments called betanin and indicaxanthin contained in prickly pear cactus.
There is some preliminary evidence that prickly pear cactus has antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus (HSV), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Adverse Reactions:

Orally, prickly pear cactus is usually well-tolerated. However, prickly pear cactus can cause some side effects including mild diarrhea, nausea, increased stool volume, increased stool frequency, abdominal fullness, and headache. Although the prickly pear cactus reduces blood glucose levels in people with diabetes, it does not seem to cause hypoglycemia.

Interactions with Herbs & Supplements:

None known.

Interactions with Drugs:

ANTIDIABETES DRUGS Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Case reports show that combining prickly pear cactus with the antidiabetes drugs chlorpropamide, glyburide, glipizide, metformin, or a combination of these drugs, can result in additive blood glucose lowering and hypoglycemia. Theoretically, combining prickly pear cactus with other antidiabetes drugs might also increase the risk of hypoglycemia. Advise patients to monitor glucose levels closely. Dose adjustments may be necessary. Other antidiabetes drugs include glimepiride (Amaryl), tolbutamide (Orinase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and many others.
CHLORPROPAMIDE (Diabinese) Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination. A case report shows that taking chlorpropamide and prickly pear cactus together can result in additive effects on blood glucose and insulin levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. There is some concern that people taking both chlorpropamide or other hypoglycemic drugs and prickly pear cactus have an increased risk for hypoglycemia.
GLYBURIDE (Diabeta, Micronase) Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Case reports show that combining glyburide with prickly pear cactus can cause hypoglycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes. Advise patients to monitor glucose levels closely. Dose adjustments may be necessary.
METFORMIN (Glucophage) Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Case reports show that combining metformin with prickly pear cactus can cause hypoglycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes. Advise patients to monitor glucose levels closely. Dose adjustments may be necessary.

Interactions with Foods:

None known.

Interactions with Lab Tests:

BLOOD GLUCOSE: Prickly pear cactus can reduce blood glucose levels and lab tests.
CHOLESTEROL: There is some evidence that prickly pear cactus might reduce total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.

Interactions with Diseases or Conditions:

DIABETES: Prickly pear cactus can reduce blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes. Prickly pear cactus might have additive effects with diabetes medications and potentially cause hypoglycemia. Advise patients to closely monitor glucose levels after starting prickly pear cactus. Dose adjustments to diabetes medications may be necessary.
SURGERY: Prickly pear cactus might affect blood glucose levels. Theoretically, prickly pear cactus might interfere with blood glucose control during and after surgical procedures. Tell patients to discontinue prickly pear cactus at least 2 weeks before elective surgical procedures.

Dosage/Administration:

ORAL: For diabetes, broiled stems 100-500 grams daily is typically used. Doses are often divided and given three times daily.
For alcohol-induced hangover, 1600 IU of a specific prickly pear cactus extract (Tex-OE, Extracts Plus, Inc.) taken 5 hours before alcohol ingestion has been used.
For benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), dried powdered flowers of prickly pear cactus, 500 mg three times daily, has been used.

Comments:

Prickly pear cactus is primarily used in Mexican and Mexican-American cultures as a part of the diet and as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Most research on this product has been performed in Mexico by one research group. The immature form of prickly pear cactus is used. Mature stems are fibrous and tough and not appropriate for consumption.

General Certificate Of Analysis (COA) less manufacture date and batch number provided for different product strengths if the link is not available or manufacture date and batch number is required use the email us box to request Certificate Of Analysis (COA) emailed. Any questions about product or wholesale pricing for twenty five kilos or more. Please be sure to use product ID, Trade Name and Scientific Name.


SKU 766 Prickly Pear Cactus Product Purchase

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