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PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

Other Names:

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, O...
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 Overview
 Uses
 Side Effects
 Interactions
 Dosing
Overview Information

Prickly pear cactus is a plant. It is part of the diet in Mexican and Mexican-American cultures. Only the young plant is eaten; older plants are too tough. Prickly pear cactus is also used for medicine.

Prickly pear cactus is used for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, alcohol hangover, colitis, diarrhea, and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). It is also used to fight viral infections.

In foods, the prickly pear juice is used in jellies and candies.

Most research on this product has been performed in Mexico by one research group.

How does it work?

Prickly pear cactus contains fiber and pectin, which can lower blood glucose by decreasing the absorption of sugar in the stomach and intestine. Some researchers think that it might also decrease cholesterol levels, and kill viruses in the body.

Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Possibly Effective for:

  • Diabetes. Single doses of prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar levels by 17% to 46% in some people. However, it is not known if extended daily use can consistently lower blood sugar levels. The broiled stems of one prickly pear cactus species (Opuntia streptacantha) seem to lower blood sugar levels in people who have type 2 diabetes. However, raw or crude stems of this species do not seem to work. Other prickly pear cactus species don’t seem to work either.
  • Hangover. Taking prickly pear cactus before drinking alcohol might reduce some symptoms of hangover the next day. It seems to significantly reduce nausea, anorexia, and dry mouth. However, it does not seem to reduce other hangover symptoms such as headache, dizziness, diarrhea, or soreness.

Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Enlarged prostate. Men with an enlarged prostate often feel their bladder is full, and they experience frequent, strong urges to urinate. Developing evidence suggests that taking powdered prickly pear cactus flowers may reduce these symptoms.
  • Inherited high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia). Early research shows that taking edible pulp of prickly pear cactus daily for 4 weeks, while following a diet, reduces total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels in people with inherited high cholesterol.
  • High blood cholesterol. Early research shows that taking edible pulp of prickly pear cactus daily, while following a diet, can reduce total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol levels do not seem to be affected.
  • Metabolic syndrome. Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing dehydrated leaves of prickly pear cactus (NeOpuntia) daily for 6 weeks does not affect fat levels in the blood in women with metabolic syndrome.
  • Obesity.
  • Colitis.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Treating infections caused by viruses.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of prickly pear cactus for these uses.


Side Effects & Safety

Prickly pear cactus is LIKELY SAFE when eaten as food. The leaves, stems, flowers, fruit and standardized extracts of the prickly pear cactus are POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as medicine in appropriate amounts for a short period of time.

Prickly pear cactus can cause some side effects including mild diarrhea, nausea, increased amount and frequency of stool, bloating, and headache.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking prickly pear cactus if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Diabetes: Prickly pear cactus might lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use prickly pear cactus.

Surgery: Prickly pear cactus might affect blood sugar levels, making blood sugar control difficult during and after surgery. Stop using prickly pear cactus at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Interactions What is this?

Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination

  • Chlorpropamide (Diabinese) interacts with PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

    Chlorpropamide (Diabinese) is used to decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Prickly pear cactus might also decrease blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with chlorpropamide (Diabinese) might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your chlorpropamide (Diabinese) might need to be changed.

  • Glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) interacts with PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

    Glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) is used to decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Prickly pear cactus might also decrease blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) might need to be changed.

  • Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

    Prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

    Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

  • Metformin (Glucophage) interacts with PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

    Metformin (Glucophage) is used to decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes. Prickly pear cactus might also decrease blood sugar. Taking prickly pear cactus along with metformin (Glucophage) might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your metformin (Glucophage) might need to be changed.


Dosing

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:

  • For diabetes: 100-500 grams of broiled stems of prickly pear cactus daily. Doses are often divided into three equal amounts and given throughout the day.
  • For hangover due to use of alcohol: 1600 IU of a specific prickly pear cactus extract (Tex-OE, Extracts Plus, Inc.) taken 5 hours before drinking alcohol.

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Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2009.

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