The Prickly Pear (or Nopal) Cactus and its fruit was so popular that when voyagers landed on the North American continent and discovered this plant, they immediately brought it back to Europe. The plant’s popularity spread from Spain to Italy to Africa and then around the world.
The popularity of this plant – for more than a thousand years – attests to its genuine benefit to humankind as a food and as a medicine.
It is believed that Aztecs were the first to enjoy the health benefits of the Nopal cactus. When the Spaniards came to America, they soon grew to appreciate the plant’s wonderful properties and spread the word back home. They also took the plant home and so began the plant’s worldwide journey.
It has become a food and medicine in countries around the world. Not only are the pads of the cactus edible, but so are the colorful fruit or blossoms, which can be yellow, red and purple. They are called Nopalitos and are harvested and made into Nopalea Juice. This is an easy way for people to obtain the medicinal benefits of the plant. While some markets do sell the pads as food, they often involve peeling and cooking to obtain the benefits. The juice is all natural and an easy way to take advantage of the plant’s health properties.
Dr. Oz. has touted the Nopal Cactus as a natural wonder. He has bragged about its benefits to cure hangovers and has said researchers are even looking at the plant as a way to decrease the symptoms of diabetes.
In addition, researchers are especially interested in the plants ability to reduce inflammation. A few years back scientists began making links between inflammation and dozens of major diseases, ranging from eczema to cancer and everything in between. With the ability to reduce chronic inflammation, the prickly pear cactus may be effective in reducing the incidence of all these serious medical conditions. All from one plant.
While the jury is still out about its medicinal effects, the plant is definitely gaining popularity in alternative medicine circles. The biggest difference is while scientists look at the possible benefits of prescription drugs, they do not allow anyone to try them before they are proven. However, because Nopalea is actually a food product and comes from a plant that has been ingested for centuries, it is worth giving it a shot to see if its medicinal properties will benefit particular problems. Even when mixed with sweet juices and called Nopalea, the juice remains all natural.
The plant is believed to also contain antioxidants, several of the B vitamins and some essential minerals. It just seems like a sure-fire winner. People who are afraid to try new alternative medicine because of possible side effects can look at the history of the plant and its use for centuries in the Sonoran desert and make their own judgment call.
The spread of the plant around the world is one sign that it will be here for centuries more. In fact, the plant is now grown commercially so its subsequent products and their benefits can be felt worldwide.