In terms of the most useful plant on Earth, the number one contender must be the nopal cactus also known as the prickly pear cactus. Found all over the world in various climates, this plant has been used for over 6,000 years by native peoples for everything from hangovers to rheumatism to wound healing. Current research is also showing it to be extremely beneficial in controlling diabetes and in lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Native peoples in the American Southwest, including Mexico, have long utilized the prickly pear or nopal cactus as a food source. For many centuries, native desert dwellers lived off the plant, fruit, and flowers of the prickly pear, along with other native plants, quite successfully.
In modern times, Indian populations such as the Pima and Tohono O’odahm tribes have succumbed to modern diseases like obesity, high cholesterol, arthritis and diabetes. A main reason for this may be abandoning traditional foods for modern fare.
Nopal pads, called nopales in Spanish, are extremely nutritious and include necessary minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. They also include the antioxidant vitamins A (as beta-carotene) and C. Antioxidants are important to reduce the deleterious effects of oxidation in the body.
Protein content is high in nopal cactus, providing the eight essential amino acids that are not produced in the human body, making prickly pear cactus an excellent addition to the diet of vegetarians.
Found in various shades from red to purple, prickly pear fruits are no less nutritious, including not only the minerals found in the pads, but also providing immunity-boosting cofactors, along with a high content of flavonoids. Found in our most colorful foods, flavonoids are antioxidants that can protect and reverse arterial damage, and even possibly prevent cancer.
Vitamins A and C are also found in the sweet tasting nopal cactus fruits. Pectin, a gelatinous substance found in many fruits but in greater quantity and quality in the prickly pear fruits, has been shown to have a profound effect on cholesterol metabolism, reducing low-density lipoproteins, or LDL cholesterol. Research also suggests that this pectin modulates the body’s glucose response, maintaining evenness in glucose levels.
The flowers of the nopal, appearing in bright red, yellow or orange are nutritious as well, with a high content of flavonoids. Recent research has begun to verify their use in BPH, or benign prostate hypertrophy; the flowers have long been used for urinary problems and as a diuretic.
The abandonment of the prickly pear as a staple of Native American diets in favor of modern, western foods, may explain the rise in disease conditions. Long adjusted to the beneficial effects of native foods, tribal peoples’ consumption of meat and high carbohydrate foods may have caused diabetes and high cholesterol to skyrocket. Eating more prickly pear could help.
The value of the prickly pear goes far beyond that of simple nutrition, however. Its value in almost every area of human ailment is unparalleled, especially in topical application. Similar to aloe vera, prickly pear cactus is unsurpassed in its astringent, emollient capacities, and has been used to alleviate pain and promote healing in burns and other wounds.
Poultices, made from the pulp scraped out of the nopal cactus pads, have been used to treat the following:
Arthritis and abscesses, among other ailments.
This is because of a particular ability of the prickly pear to reduce inflammation, which is how the juice, taken internally, works to moderate the effects of hangovers. Cactus pad flesh, applied over the liver and over the abdomen, actually halts diarrhea, and reduces intestinal inflammation.
There are so many more valuable uses of the nopal prickly pear cactus that a company has created a health juice in its name. There is a wellness health drink that has been produced by the company TriVita called Nopalea.
Nopalea is a great wellness drink of the nopal cactus which helps in the following wonderful ways:
Rreducing swelling in the joints by detoxifying the body and protecting your body against premature aging, etc.
Nopalea is a dietary supplement wellness drink, that is derived of a whole scope of natural health-boosters, from many different fruits, vegetables, enzymes, and concentrates. The primary ingredient used in it comes from the nopal cactus prickly pear plant.
The prickly pear fruit from the nopal plant serves as a virtual well of wellness, providing all 24 Betalains, as well as other healing properties beneficial to your health. Betalains are in fact packed with anti-oxidants which help ward off harmful free radicals in the body.
Radicals are toxins in the body which can cause inflammation in the body such as arthritis. Free radicals harbor the body ensued by physical, emotional or environmental stress. The betalains in nopal cactus go to work in helping to difuse free radicals in the body.