Prickly Pear Uses, Benefits & Dosage

Scientific Identify(s): Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill., Opuntia fragilis (Nutt.) Haw., Opuntia streptacantha Lem., Opuntia tuna (L.) Mill.
Frequent Identify(s): Nopal, Prickly pear, Tuna

Medically reviewed by Final up to date on Mar 16, 2020.

Scientific Overview


Prickly pear is broadly cultivated and commercially utilized in juices, jellies, candies, teas, and alcoholic drinks. American Indians used prickly pear juice to deal with burns, and prickly pear has an extended historical past in conventional Mexican people medication for treating diabetes. Its use in treating diabetes, lipid issues, irritation, and ulcers, in addition to its different pharmacologic results, have been documented. Nevertheless, there may be restricted medical info to help these makes use of.


Prickly pear is commercially obtainable in quite a few doseforms, together with capsules, tablets, powders, and juices, and as meals. Comply with producers’ recommended pointers if utilizing industrial merchandise. Typical dosage regimens are two 250 mg capsules by mouth Three instances a day or each Eight hours.


Hypersensitivity to any parts of prickly pear.

Being pregnant/Lactation

Keep away from use throughout being pregnant and lactation due to the dearth of medical research.


None nicely documented.

Adversarial Reactions

Dermatitis is the most typical antagonistic response to prickly pear.


Little info is offered.

Scientific Household


Prickly pears are members of the Cactacceae or cactus household, which incorporates about 97 genera and 1,600 species. The species are present in Europe, Mediterranean nations, Africa, southwestern United States, and northern Mexico. Vegetation within the genus Opuntia choose a dry, scorching local weather and encompass perennial shrubs, bushes, and creeping crops. Prickly pear can develop 5 to eight m in peak; its roots are shallow, however the plant can unfold as much as 40 m in diameter over the bottom. The stems are branched, leaves are cylindrical in form, and the plant is roofed with barb-tipped bristles (generally known as glochids) which are distinctive to Opuntia. Its flowers, petals, and sepals are quite a few in amount and coloration. The oval, pear-shaped, purplish fruit is pulpy and candy however could also be lined with spines or bristles. The seeds throughout the pulp are disk-shaped and have quite a few colours.1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

As a result of info on this species as a complete is sparse, the next subspecies are additionally included in numerous points of the dialogue: Opuntia fulginosa, Opuntia megacantha, Opuntia dillenii, Opuntia microdasys, Opuntia bieglovii, Opuntia acanthocarpa.

Historical past

Prickly pear is broadly cultivated and utilized in juices, jellies, candies, teas, and alcoholic drinks. The fruits and flowers of the plant are used as pure meals colorants. Cactus gum is used to stiffen material. Important oils from the flowers are used to make perfumes, and the seeds are a supply of oil. Prickly pear has additionally been used as a supply of animal feed and dye.1, 4

There are quite a few medicinal makes use of of the plant. American Indians used prickly pear juice to deal with burns. Typically a cone of plant materials could be burned on the pores and skin to deal with irritation or an infection, a course of generally known as moxabustion in Chinese language medication. The Lakota tribe used prickly pear in a tea to help moms throughout childbirth.1

Prickly pear has an extended historical past of conventional Mexican people medication use, notably as a remedy for diabetes. Prickly pear pads have been used as a poultice for rheumatism. The fruit has been used for treating diarrhea, bronchial asthma, and gonorrhea. The fleshy stems or cladodes have been used to deal with excessive ldl cholesterol, blood stress, gastric acidity, ulcers, fatigue, dyspnea, glaucoma, liver circumstances, and wounds.1, Eight In South Korea the plant has been used to deal with belly ache, bronchial bronchial asthma, burns, diabetes, and indigestion.9 In Sicily, a flower decoction of prickly pear has been used as a diuretic; the cladodes had been valued for his or her anti-inflammatory exercise in treating edema, arthrosis, and whooping cough, and for stopping wound an infection.1

Prickly pear has additionally been planted on steep slopes to manage erosion.3


The medicinal parts of the plant are discovered within the flowers, leaves or pads, and fruit.

Isorhamnetin-glucoside, kaempferol, luteolin, penduletin, piscidic acids, quercetrin, rutin, and β-sitosterol have been discovered within the flowers of prickly pear.10 The leaves or pads are wealthy in mucilage and consist primarily of polysaccharides that include galactose, arabinose, xylose, and rhamnose.11

Prickly pear fruit is excessive in dietary worth.12 Ethanol-soluble carbohydrates are essentially the most ample parts of prickly pear fruit pulp and pores and skin, making up 50% of the pulp and 30% of the pores and skin. The betalain compounds are liable for the varied colours of the fruit.13 The pores and skin comprises calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, and selenium.12, 14 The edible pulp comprises biothiols, taurine, flavonols, tocopherols, and carotenoids.15, 16 Nevertheless, industrial processing of juice parts ends in some lack of nutritional vitamins A, E, and C.8, 15 The seeds are wealthy in phosphorus and zinc. The oils from the seeds and peel are an excellent supply of polyunsaturated fatty acids.17, 18, 19

A number of older chemical analyses of enzymes from Opuntia species can be found.20, 21, 22, 23 One research paperwork the unstable constituents24 of prickly pear, whereas one other identifies the constituents of O. fragilis.25 Different research talk about the chemistry of prickly pear, together with isolation of albumin26 amino acid composition within the fruits27 and fatty acids of the seeds.28

Makes use of and Pharmacology


A mechanism of motion stays to be found in diabetes; nonetheless, polysaccharides could also be liable for the plant’s hypoglycemic exercise.29

Animal information

An extract of O. fulginosa prickly pear maintained regular blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin ranges in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats after insulin was withdrawn.30 Comparable outcomes had been obtained with O. megacantha in lowering blood glucose in regular and streptozocin-induced diabetic rats. Nevertheless, O. megacantha was nephrotoxic as proven by elevated plasma urea and creatinine concentrations and diminished plasma sodium concentrations.31, 32

Scientific information

The hypoglycemic results of Opuntia species are documented in quite a few research.33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 One open-label research of 14 sufferers discovered that O. streptacantha decreased glucose and insulin ranges in sufferers with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus; nonetheless, the plant had no impact on glucose or insulin ranges in wholesome volunteers.36 One other open-label research involving 32 sufferers with kind 2 diabetes handled with O. streptacantha additionally resulted in decreased glucose and insulin ranges.40


Animal information

Two animal research examined the impact of prickly pear seed oil on serum and lipid parameters in rats.41, 42 A rise in high-density lipoprotein ldl cholesterol and a discount in serum ldl cholesterol was noticed in rats handled with seed oil. Uncooked O. ficus-indica had useful results on hypercholesterolemia in rats.43 A pectin isolate from Opuntia decreased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) metabolism in guinea pigs.44, 45, 46

Scientific information

In a single small research of 29 sufferers, prickly pear considerably diminished levels of cholesterol.35 Prickly pear might have antiplatelet exercise, which can be helpful in sufferers with prothrombotic circumstances reminiscent of diabetes and hyperlipidemia.47 Eight wholesome volunteers and eight sufferers with familial heterozygous hypercholesterolemia had been handled with prickly pear 250 mg for two months. Important (P > 0.01) decreases in whole and LDL-cholesterol and diminished platelet proteins had been discovered.

Opuntia capsules in a human trial had marginally useful results on ldl cholesterol and glucose ranges.48


The mechanism of motion is related to the anti-inflammatory precept β-sitosterol.49

Animal information

Anti-inflammatory actions had been demonstrated in Opuntia dillenii in an induced rat paw edema mannequin.50 β-sitosterol from the recent stems of prickly pear had potent anti-inflammatory exercise in an adjuvant-induced power irritation mannequin in mice.49

Scientific information

Prickly pear might inhibit the manufacturing of inflammatory mediators related to the signs of alcohol hangover.51 In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, 55 wholesome volunteers acquired placebo or 1,600 items of prickly pear 5 hours earlier than consuming alcohol. Sufferers consumed 1.75 g alcohol/kg of physique weight over Four hours. C-reactive protein and signs reminiscent of nausea, dry mouth, and anorexia had been diminished in sufferers handled with prickly pear.


A cytoprotective mechanism is related to an interplay between the mucilage monosaccharides from prickly pear and membrane phospholipids.52, 53

Animal information

Histological proof helps the efficacy of prickly pear cladodes in opposition to the formation of ethanol-induced ulcers.54

Scientific information

No medical trials could possibly be discovered.

Different makes use of


Opuntia species have antioxidant exercise which may be related to their phenolic content material.55 Quick-term supplementation with 250 g of recent fruit pulp in a comparative research56 and a research of sufferers with familial remoted hypercholesterolemia57 diminished oxidative harm to lipids and improved oxidative stress standing of handled sufferers.


Prickly pear cladode, fruit, and flower infusions elevated diuresis in a rat mannequin.58

Neuroprotective results

Animal fashions in rats demonstrated that the flavonoids remoted from O. ficus-indica var. saboten species had neuroprotective exercise in opposition to oxidative harm induced in cortical cell cultures and neuronal harm induced by international ischemia.9, 16, 59


Prickly pear fruit liquid has been studied as a pure sweetener.60Opuntia has been studied as a supply of dietary fiber.61

Viral exercise

One research experiences O. streptacantha antiviral motion in animals and people.62

Weight reduction

A meta-analysis of 5 blind randomized managed trials evaluated the proof for effectiveness of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) on physique weight and cardiovascular danger components. Evaluation of knowledge from research recognized by April 2014 revealed a nonsignificant distinction in physique weight and waist circumference between cactus pear and controls with statistically vital reductions in physique mass index (BMI), p.c physique fats, blood stress, and whole ldl cholesterol. Nevertheless, heterogeneity was excessive and danger of bias was extremely variable. Impact sizes for BMI and p.c physique fats reductions had been small and never clinically vital. Day by day dosages ranged from 400 mg to 15 g for durations of 6 weeks to 2 years.72

Wound therapeutic

Histological proof paperwork that topical utility of polysaccharide extracts from prickly pear cladodes enhanced cutaneous restore and therapeutic of huge, full-thickness wounds in a rat mannequin.63, 64 The polysaccharides from prickly pear cladodes have been studied for his or her chondroprotective results in treating joint ailments.65


Prickly pear is commercially obtainable in quite a few doseforms, together with capsules, tablets, powders, and juices, and as meals. Comply with producers’ recommended pointers if utilizing industrial merchandise. Typical dosage regimens are two 250 mg capsules by mouth Three instances a day or each Eight hours.

Being pregnant / Lactation

Keep away from use throughout being pregnant and lactation due to the dearth of medical research.


Prickly pear might theoretically exacerbate hypoglycemia in sufferers being handled with hypoglycemic brokers (eg, metformin, glyburide, rosiglitazone, acarbose).66 Prickly pear can also exacerbate diuresis in sufferers being handled with diuretic brokers (eg, furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide). Nevertheless, these interactions should not nicely documented.

Adversarial Reactions

Dermatitis from prickly pear is the most typical antagonistic response. A case report of cactus dermatitis in a 2-year-old baby was described after contact with O. microdasys.67 Two different sufferers had been additionally affected by this species, each experiencing dermatitis and one growing extreme keratoconjunctivitis in the precise eye.68 A case of cactus granuloma in a 24-year-old man is described from contact with O. bieglovii thorns.69 Granuloma formation has additionally been seen from O. acanthocarpa spines embedded within the dermis, with onset occurring inside a number of days and lasting a number of months. Therapy with topical corticosteroids has been beneficial.70, 71


Sufferers hypersensitive to any parts of prickly pear ought to keep away from use. O. streptacantha is unhazardous in mice, horses, and people in oral and intravenous preparations.62O. megacantha is nephrotoxic in rats.31, 32

Index Phrases

  • Opuntia acanthocarpa
  • Opuntia bieglovii
  • Opuntia dillenii
  • Opuntia fulginosa
  • Opuntia megacantha
  • Opuntia microdasys


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