It’s safe to say that there are many species of cactus plants. Some are species that you’re aware of, while others are species that only exist in your books and pictures.
There has been an unrelenting rise in the popularity of cactus plants. They are aesthetically pleasing, which is why you will find that many people want to buy them and keep them as house plants.
Cactus plants look pretty wherever you keep them, and they’re also present in several sizes. They can fit into every nook and cranny of your room and in your home.
All of the above factors have much to do with the popularity of a cactus plant.
However, it’s also important to note that most scientists are curious about their medicinal uses rather than anything else when it comes to most plants.
The research done on cactus plants informs us that there are indeed a lot of medicinal uses of cactus plants. These plants have a wide variety, and all of them offer different fruits and benefits.
However, the medicinal uses of these cactus plants are wide and varied. The medicinal uses are why so many people are why people are continuously wondering whether cactus pads are edible.
In the article below, we’ll discuss some of the medicinal uses of cactus plants and how these can help in our daily lives.
Cactus is succulent. It has thick, fleshy stems with spines and needles. Cactus plants can have many vibrantly colored plants, and they can also bear fruits. Cactus plants generally don’t have leaves.
These plants also have special adaptations to help them survive in the hardy conditions of a desert.
Cacti tend to stand out because of the adaptations they have. These plants are xerophytes which means that they’re adapted for hardy conditions where they don’t receive the ideal conditions for growth.
There are many varieties of cactus plants, and each variety comes with its own set of medicinal uses.
The two main varieties we will discuss today are the nopal cactus and the prickly pear cactus.
Medicinal Uses of a Cactus
Both the cactus pads and the cactus fruits can help fight infections and come with other medicinal values.
There are many medicinal uses of a cactus plant. We have listed some of these health benefits below.
It Helps With Cholesterol Management
Cholesterol is one of the major killers in the world today. High cholesterol can lead to the production of a thrombus in the heart, which can eventually lead to a heart attack.
Cholesterol also makes the blood vessels constrict due to the buildup of a substance called plaque that occurs due to the hardening of cholesterol.
Both the cactus pad and the cactus fruit are fiber-rich. Fiber can help with lowering the cholesterol level in the blood.
The study states that it can do so by excreting a greater amount of cholesterol in the fecal matter of a human being.
A study also found that eating cactus plants or fruits helps reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and fat.
Cholesterol can cause heart attacks and strokes. Thus, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you may consider incorporating some heavy fiber like cactus plants into your diet.
Cactus plants have nutrients and minerals that are beneficial to health. Cactus plants have vitamins A, C, and E and minerals like iron, calcium, and more.
They are very nutritious and help alleviate some of your troubles with hangovers. Hangovers occur when you’re cells are extremely dehydrated due to a massive intake of alcohol.
The wide range of nutrients in cactus plants also helps treat inflammation. Inflammation is when your body starts to fight something that tries to harm it.
When something damages your cells, the body conducts the process of inflammation to restore order.
With alcohols, the body is trying to replenish its stream of water and nutrients, and cactus plants provide both.
Research has found that by taking the cactus extract, you may find yourself less prone to a hangover in the morning case you’ve had one too many drinks.
Research also states that you can take cactus extract before a night of heavy drinking, and you’ll find that you’re less likely to face a hangover the next morning.
It Helps With Blood Sugar
Cactus plants also help in controlling blood sugar. High blood sugar can be an obvious symptom of a great degree of illness.
Conversely, having a greater blood sugar level also means that you’re more likely to be diabetic and more prone to having a heart condition.
Most often, high blood sugar is present due to the lack of insulin production. A Mexican study aimed to understand the effect of eating and ingesting cactus plants on the blood sugar levels in individuals.
It was concluded that people who have cactus plants in their regular diets would have lower blood sugar levels even after a meal rich in carbohydrates and sugars.
With the peaking prices of insulin, many people are looking for natural alternatives to lower their blood sugar, so they don’t have to spend a fortune to live.
Cactus plants can create a significant difference for people with blood sugar levels on the borderline.
Including cactus in their diets for these people could be the difference between taking medication for blood sugar and not taking any medication.
The study conducted suggested that ingesting cactus plants could be a cost-efficient method to dealing with diabetes.
It Makes Your Immune System Stronger
Cactus fruits have a great amount of vitamin C. Many doctors of traditional medicine believe that cactus plants can supplement a healthy diet.
However, they shouldn’t be termed as a superfood of any kind. One person can’t survive on a diet of cactus plants.
Thus, it’s important to have the right facts when you’re thinking about eating a portion of new food.
However, Cactus plants are rich in antioxidants and carotenoids, which means that they’re good for your immune system.
Cactus plants have a high percentage of vitamin C which is imperative for improving your immune system. Taking vitamin C regularly increases white blood cell production.
White Blood cells are the protectors of your body. These cells are activated every time there’s a foreign object in your body or your blood.
For this reason, white blood cells are imperative for your health. They keep you healthy and help you fight all infections and diseases.
You may find that you’re less likely to contract illnesses and viruses when you have a steady intake of Vitamin C-rich foods like cactus plants.
This particular medicinal value of cactus plants can be particularly beneficial in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
We saw firsthand how health management systems failed under the immense pressure of COVID-19. During this time, many people chose to isolate themselves at home, and many patients were trying to avoid the disease.
During these times, many people were trying to increase their immunity by taking vitamins and healthy food. For people trying to save themselves from a viral outbreak, eating cactus plants may be beneficial.
It may also be wise for people who are immune compromised to include some vitamin C in their diets in the form of cactus plants.
They Offer a Massive Amount of Nutrition
We have discussed before that cactus plants and fruits are rich in all kinds of vitamins and nutrients. They have anti-inflammatory properties and help decrease the risk of severe health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Cactus plants are also rich in Vitamins A, C, and E and minerals like Potassium, Calcium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, and Omega 3.
All of these minerals give the cactus plant a great amount of nutrition. When someone ingests a cactus plant, all these nutrients make their way into the bloodstream.
Minerals like potassium and calcium are electrolytes necessary for providing energy to your body. These minerals are important for action potentials which is how you replenish energy in your body.
Having massive amounts of minerals and vitamins in your body makes you more active so that you can face life with all of its challenges.
For people who have lost a lot of electrolytes, ingesting cactus may serve a great purpose.
It Helps You Lose Weight
For people trying to develop a healthier lifestyle, cactus plants may be helpful. Cactus plants are succulents which means they mostly contain water.
Due to the cactus plants mostly containing water, they also have low calories. You can prepare a whole pad of cactus and ingest it, and you’ll likely only be intaking 70 calories.
The calories in a cactus plant are less compared to the portion size. Thus, they help you healthily lose weight.
However, you have to consult a doctor before you start consuming cactus plants regularly as they may not be suitable for everyone.
What Are Some Risks and Considerations Attached to the Cactus Plants?
Cactus plants have great medicinal use. However, you need to consider that they may not be suitable for everyone. Firstly, you may be allergic to cactus plants.
If you eat them and have a reaction, you must refrain from eating them again.
For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding their children, there is no significant data available regarding the ingestion of cactus plants.
Thus, it’s a better alternative than completely avoiding eating cactus plants.
People with diabetes can benefit from prickly pear cactus extract to significantly decrease their blood sugar levels.
It might lead to hypoglycemia. When taking this extract, you will have to track your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes.
For people who have surgery scheduled in two weeks or less, the intake of cactus plants may change their blood sugar levels significantly.
For these reasons, they should stop ingesting cactus plants two weeks before and after surgery.
You should also note that if you’re buying nopal cactus juice, manufacturers will often mix this juice with other juices like pineapple juice and grapefruit.
Mixing these juices means that the juice may contain a greater sugar percentage. If you’re drinking nopal cactus juice to reduce your blood sugar and the converse happens without you knowing, it can have disastrous effects on your health.
In this case, particularly, people with diabetes should monitor their health.
Instead of getting nopal cactus juice from vendors and markets, it’s better to extract your cactus juice.
A study in 2016 was conducted by testing unpasteurized juice from nopal cacti for pathogens.
They found that samples that tested positive for Escherichia coli stood at 91%, while 1% were positive for Salmonella.
Buying cactus juice from vendors who don’t have proper practices can be a serious risk which is why you should opt for reputable sources instead.
Some Ways to Prepare Cactus Plants
Cactus plants are edible. However, many people don’t know how to prepare these plants. We will teach you how to do so today.
Firstly, you have to acquire a cactus pad or a cactus fruit. Please note both of these versions of cactus are used in different recipes as they taste different from each other.
We will start with cactus pads. For cactus pas, you have to isolate the cactus pad from the rest of the plant.
You can do so by grabbing a pair of thick gloves and cutting gently at the base of the pad, twisting it around to loosen it.
After isolating, the pad, you want to rinse it thoroughly. Doing so removes any accumulated dirt or dust your cactus plants have.
After this, you have to begin removing the needles and spines of the Cactus plant. There are two main ways of doing so.
One way is just chucking the whole cactus pad into the fire to roast over an open flame. This process is quicker; it cooks the plant and makes it easier for you to remove the spines and needles.
The second way is by carefully removing the needles and spines one by one. You can do this using a pair of tweezers and a clean knife. This method is arduously wrong and thorough.
After removing the spines and needles, you’re left with a cactus pad that you can prepare for cooking.
One way to prepare the cactus pad is to rub it with some olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
Once you’re done with this, you can just fire up your grill and toast both the sides like a good, old steak.
Another method of preparing cactus pads is to cut them into fine small blocks and toss them into a salad. They function kind of like cucumbers since they’re so water-forward.
They’re great carriers of salad dressing so you won’t regret it.
For cactus fruits, you can prepare sweeter options. You can bake cactus fruit into a tart or make jams and jellies out of the reduction.
Cactus fruits have very hard seeds, so you may want to remove these using a strainer before preparing any dessert. Many people also use cactus fruits to supplement their protein shakes and smoothies.
There are a lot of medicinal uses and health benefits of cactus plants. These include alleviations of your gut, your immune system, and your cholesterol levels.
However, you should be careful before ingesting this plant regularly and ask your doctor about its suitability.