The nopal, or prickly-pear cactus, is one of the major national symbols of Mexico and appears on the Mexican flag.
This cactus has a long history of use as food and medicine. Its fleshy, leaf-like stems (cladodes), especially when young, are eaten as vegetables. The fruit is eaten raw, fermented into a beer, or turned into a cheese-like food. Medicinally, nopal fruit, stems, and flowers have been used to treat diabetes, stomach problems, fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising, prostate enlargement, and liver disease. Nopal is also a significant source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
What Is Nopal Used for Today?
Neither the optimum dosage nor the most active species of nopal cactus has been established. The one double-blind study noted above used a special extract made from the skin of the fruit of Opuntia ficus indica.
As a widely eaten food, nopal is presumed safe. However, safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or individuals with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -