Barbary Fig, Cactus decumanus, Cactus ficus-indica, Cactus Flowers, Cactus Fruit, Cactus Pear Fruit, Figue d'Inde, Figuier de Barbarie, Fruit du Cactus, Fruit de l'Oponce, Indian Fig, Indian Fig Prickly Pear, Indien Figue, Nopal, Nopal Cactus, Nopales, Nopol, OPI, Oponce, Opuntia, Opuntia albicarpa, Opuntia amyclaea, Opuntia cordobensis, Opuntia decumana, Opuntia ficus, Opuntia ficus-barbarica, Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia gymnocarpa, Opuntia hispanica, Opuntia joconostle, Opuntia maxima, Opuntia megacantha, Opuntia paraguayensis, Prickly Pear, Spineless Cactus, Tuna Cactus.


Overview Information

Prickly pear cactus is a plant. It is part of the diet in Mexican and Mexican-American cultures and is also used for medicine.

Prickly pear cactus is most commonly used for diabetes.

How does it work?

Prickly pear cactus might lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels by decreasing the absorption of sugar and cholesterol in the stomach and intestine.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Diabetes. Single doses of prickly pear cactus can decrease blood sugar levels by 17% to 48% in some people. It is not known if extended daily use can consistently lower blood sugar levels.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). Early research shows that taking powdered prickly pear cactus flowers may reduce symptoms of enlarged prostate such as urges to urinate or feeling like the bladder is full.
  • Inherited tendency towards high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia). Early research shows that taking edible pulp of prickly pear cactus daily for 4 weeks while following a recommended diet reduces total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol levels in people with inherited high cholesterol.
  • Hangover. Taking prickly pear cactus extract before drinking alcohol might reduce some symptoms of hangover the next day. It seems to reduce symptoms such as nausea, anorexia, and dry mouth. However, it does not seem to reduce symptoms such as headache, dizziness, diarrhea, or soreness.
  • High cholesterol. Early research shows that taking 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 shows that taking a specific product derived from prickly pear cactus pads for 6 weeks does not reduce blood fats in women with metabolic syndrome.
  • Obesity. Research shows that prickly pear cactus does not reduce body weight in patients who are normal weight or overweight.
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative 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

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Prickly pear cactus is LIKELY SAFE when eaten as food. The pads, flowers, and fruit are POSSIBLY SAFE when taken as medicine in appropriate amounts for a short period of time. In some people, prickly pear cactus can cause some minor side effects including diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and headache. In rare cases, eating large amounts of prickly pear cactus fruits can cause a blockage in the lower intestines.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if prickly pear cactus is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

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.



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.



The following doses have been studied in scientific research:



  • For diabetes: 300 grams of steamed prickly pear cactus pad or 500 grams of broiled pads of prickly pear cactus have been taken as a single dose.

View References


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