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10+ Prickly Pear Benefits with Side Effects

Do you know Prickly Pear fruit, called Tuna, contains sweet purple-red juice?

Generally, Prickly Pear provides different health benefits like combating inflammatory diseases, good gut health, control of diabetes and cholesterol, better skin and hair, prevention of cancer, etc. 

Prickly Pear, a member of the Cactaceae family, is native to America. As the name suggests, Prickly Pear is full of prickles.

The desert plants provide you with aesthetics and many health benefits too, which you will be surprised to know.

Overview of Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear, known as Nopales cacti, has about 200 species.  The most common Prickly Pear intended for eating is Oputina ficus-indica, often known as the Indian Fig Opuntia.

Common NamePrickly Pear
Botanical NameOpuntia basilaris P. Mill.
Plant TypeHerbaceous, perennial, cactus
USDA Zone4 to 11
NativeAmerica, Mexico, especially in the central and western regions, Caribbean islands (West Indies)
Blooming PeriodMay to July
Fruiting SeasonLate summer through early winter
Fruit Color Yellow, Red, Purple and Orange
Fruit StructureFleshy oval pads (pencas) growing one atop the other
ToxicityEdible, Non-Toxic

12 Science-Backed Benefits of Prickly Pear 

Almost all have some form of this Prickly Pear fruit, and most varieties are edible.

Prickly Pear fruits
Prickly Pear fruits taste like a melon or a kiwi.

Continue reading to learn more about the possible medicinal benefits of Prickly Pear.

1. Boasts Various Anti Properties

Prickly Pear contains various anti properties like antioxidant, anti-viral, and anti-microbial properties. 

A study published in the National Library of Medicine concluded that Prickly Pear fruit positively affects the body’s redox balance, decreases oxidative damage to lipids, and improves antioxidant status in healthy humans.

Prickly Pear consists of 85-90% water by weight, but its fruit is rich in Vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties.

Similarly, it showed an anti-yeast effect on Candida parapsilosis, Candidasake, and anti-fungal activity against three opportunistic cutaneous molds (Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Fusarium).

Furthermore, its oil has a good wound-healing effect.

2. Reduces Inflammation

Prickly Pear possesses a chemical component called Betalains, which is full of anti-inflammatory properties.

According to research on the anti-inflammatory properties of Prickly Pear fruit, indicaxanthin can be considered a potential health-promoting substance.

Furthermore, the basis of the protective activity of fruits is effective against age-related and chronic inflammation-based disorders.

Prickly Pear’s antioxidants and minerals can help reduce inflammation, especially in conditions like arthritis, gout, and muscle strain.

The oil can also be applied topically to reduce swelling from bug bites.

In Chinese medicine, Prickly Pear is a weak venom used to treat inflammation and pain and a detoxifying agent for snake bites.

3. Protects Liver Health

Consuming Prickly Pear can help to diminish fatty liver acid, preserving Prickly Pear benefits for liver. 

Prickly Pear increases fatty acid oxidation and very-low-density-lipoprotein (VLDL) synthesis, which can quickly diminish fatty liver acid.

Likewise, its intake can decrease oxidative stress and improve liver insulin.

The study published in Pub Med concluded a decrease in liver lipid and protein oxidization after the intake of Prickly Pear juice.

It helps to protect your liver from alcoholic beverage side effects.

4. Better Skin and Hair

Prickly Pear seed oil contains high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, about 88%. The polyunsaturated fatty acids contain Omega 3 and Omega 6 crucial for your hair. 

The anti-inflammatory property of the Prickly Pear also helps to soothe scalps. In addition, the flavonoids found in them help to accelerate hair growth.

Similarly, it helps in a natural skin care diet and is the building block of healthy cell membranes.

This fatty acid also produces the skin’s natural oil barrier, which helps to make your skin hydrated, plumper, and younger-looking.

  • Prickly Pear has excellent content of vitamin C, which can accelerate the production of collagen and elasticity that helps make your skin plump and firm.
  • It can also prevent premature skin aging by restoring the appearance of young and soft skin.
  • Oleic acid in the prickly pear is a holy grail for dry and aging skin. It can also help with restoring damaged skin cells.

5. Good for Gut Health

Prickly Pear is a good source of dietary fiber, providing about 19% of the dietary value in one cup.

It has soluble and insoluble fibers, essential for healthy digestion and removing toxins from the bowel.

A study published in the International Journal of Advanced Research showed that Prickly Pear has cladodes and mucilage, which helps protect against ulcers.

It has a high level of potassium and magnesium that helps foods to be absorbed better and improve digestion.

6. Controls Diabetes

Prickly Pear can help you control your blood sugar level by balancing the glucose level in your body.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine stated that a combination of Prickly Pear leaves significantly affects glucose reduction.

Prickly Pear has a very high-soluble fiber and pectin content which can prevent the absorption of sugars.

Prickly Pear flower
Prickly Pear flower in shades of yellow and orange and helps treat diabetes.

This will, in turn, help to regulate the effects on the blood glucose in your body.

7.  High Cholesterol Management

A study revealed that intake of Prickly Pear was able to reduce Low-Density Lipoprotein, which is bad cholesterol.

Likewise, it can also help control bad cholesterol and total cholesterol, which can lead to fatty build-up in arteries and eventually cause blockage in the arteries.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine showed a decrease in total cholesterol by 12% and Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 15% after consuming Prickly Pear.

If you have bad cholesterol, Prickly Pear can help you control your cholesterol.

8. Protects Heart Health.

Prickly pears include potassium, an essential element for maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Potassium in Prickly Pear can relax blood arteries and decrease cardiovascular system stress.

Additionally, the betalains in prickly Pear have been linked to strengthening the endothelial walls of blood vessels, lowering the risk of circulatory system weakness.

Thus, the chance of getting a stroke also decreases from consuming Prickly Pear as it decreases the fatty deposits in your blood vessels.

So, the levels of fiber in the Prickly Pear can help lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the body, decreasing the chances of stroke.

9. Helps Control Weight

Prickly Pear has another great benefit of decreasing your weight by reducing the percentage of triglycerides. 

Triglycerides are one of the types of fat lipid which store extra fat.

When your body intakes extra calories than it needs, it stores it in triglycerides.

A study published in Pub Med showed a result that there was a 12% decrease in triglycerides level due to intake of Prickly Pear.

Carbs, unsaturated fat, added sugars, etc., can heavily affect your triglycerides level.

Prickly Pear will help decrease the extra fat stored in your body.

So, stop checking the weight scale and grab some Prickly Pear.

10. Prevents Cancer

A study published in Pub Med revealed that Prickly Pear contained phenolics, flavonoids, betaxanthins that prevents colon cancer and prostate cancer.

The flavonoids help diminish cancer cell viability.

Likewise, polyphenols have the property of cancer cell removal and regulating the activities of enzymes involved in tumor cell growth. 

Furthermore, betaine also has anti-inflammation effects, which can help in cancer inflammation.

11. Makes Bones and Teeth Strong

If you are having bone-related problems, you can have some Prickly Pear, as it helps to strengthen your bones, making them stronger.

People with osteoporosis can also benefit hugely from Prickly Pear.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, drinking Prickly Pear juice for 8 weeks significantly improved joint mobility and physical functioning, allowing participants to be more physically active.

Likewise, calcium also helps build the strong outer shell of your tooth, known as enamel, which protects your teeth from erosion and cavities.

12. Contains Nutritional Value 

Prickly Pear contains various nutrients like vitamins, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, etc.

According to the USDA, the nutritional value of one cup of Prickly Pear is in the pie chart below.

Prickly Pear Nutritional Value
Prickly Pear’s nutritional content is based on one cup.

How To Eat Prickly Pear?

Prickly Pear Pads have a slight lemony flavor and crunch, just like bell pepper. To enjoy this delicacy, follow the following steps to prepare them to eat.

  • Prickly Pear fruit needs to be ripe if you want to eat them.
  • The Prickly Pear fruit has glochids, and small splinters, which can stick to your skin. So, make sure you are using protective gloves to be safe.
  • If you want to eat the pads, remove the spines, shave off the spine and barb fuzzy dots.
  • Remove two layers of skin and seeds for Prickly Pear fruit to indulge them.

The Prickly Pear fruit is a sweet fruit you can devour if you know how to eat them. You can eat Prickly Pear in a variety of ways.

Some of the ways to eat them are Prickly Pear fruit juice, Grilled Nopales, Jellies, Jam and Marmalade, Fruit Salad, and Cocktails.

Where to Buy a Prickly Pear?

After reading about all these benefits of Prickly Pear, you might be intrigued to buy the Prickly Pear.

ShopsDelivery period
AmazonThree to seven days
EtsyFour to eleven
EbayEstimated 17 days to one months
Planting JusticeApproximately 4 days
If you wish to own ornamental cacti, Red Cactus flowers, Cactus with pink flowers, and Christmas Cactus can be good fits. 

Prickly Pear Side Effects

Though the Prickly Pear is safe for your pets and has numerous great benefits, it can show some side effects. 

According to Mayo Clinic, Prickly Pear has side effects that may include nausea, headache, an increase in the volume of stool, and its frequency.

Some people may see the signs of abdominal fullness and bloat too.

Likewise, the spikes can be dangerous to humans and pets. You must be cautious when touching with bare hands as your spines might hurt you.

Patients must be cautious when using Prickly Pear combined with antidiabetes medications, as the combination may cause hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia is when the sugar level decreases too low in the body.

Likewise, patients who are supposed to undergo surgery should not consume it as it will be difficult to control before or after surgery.

From Editorial Team

Prepare Prickly Pear Fruit to Consume!

First, get the glochids off the Prickly Pear after harvesting. Then, take a kitchen knife to cut the skin.

With that, remove the skin with your hands and slice up based on your morsel. 

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