Could supplements really boost your heart health? They might.
Research shows that some supplements -- in addition to lifestyle changes and medical treatment if you need it -- may help lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and reduce other risk factors for heart disease. It's unclear if supplements actually help prevent heart disease.
In people with type 2 diabetes, supplements made from one type of broiled prickly pear cactus stem may lower blood sugar levels. Early research shows that the supplements may lower blood sugar by 17% to 46% in some people. Only one species -- opuntia streptacantha -- had this effect.
More research is needed to see if this effect would continue with repeated doses.
Diabetes is a very serious condition. Don't ever try to treat it on your own with supplements.
Prickly pear cactus may also help prevent hangovers by reducing swelling. One study shows that taking prickly pear cactus supplement five hours before heavy drinking cuts hangover symptoms by 50%. People were less likely to have upset stomach and dry mouth. Binge drinking, however, is never safe or advised.
Prickly pear cactus is a folk remedy for many other conditions, ranging from sunburn to ulcers to preventing mosquito bites. Some people use it on the skin to soothe big bites. However, we don't know if these uses actually work.
There's no standard dose for prickly pear cactus for any condition. Quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it very hard to set a standard dose. Ask your doctor for advice.
Can you get prickly pear cactus naturally from foods?
People eat prickly pear cactus in sautés, omelets, salads, and many other dishes. Raw, it tastes like watermelon. People also make it into:
As a food, it's very common in Mexico.
What are the risks?
Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.
Side effects. It's not known whether the supplement causes side effects.