What is prickly pear cactus for? 3 science based benefits

Did you know prickly pear cactus can nourish your immune system?

What is prickly pear cactus for?

Scientists have researched prickly pear cactus and found many phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides that boost the immune system.

#1: Phytochemicals

The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells, and substances. Each individual part plays a different role. Some of them play multiple roles.

As your body’s first line of defense against disease, these components are like the different sections of a country’s army–air, land, sea, and IT.

Different parts of the immune system are best equipped with different “ammunition”. The great variety of phytochemicals in prickly pear cactus add to the phytochemicals in your daily diet to better nourish each part of the immune system.

#2: Antioxidants

Excessive free radicals in your body can accelerate aging of your organs and mutate DNA.

Accelerated aging leads to malfunction of the organs, which causes disease.

DNA mutations lead to mutant cells that reproduce uncontrollably. The end result is cancer.

An unhealthy lifestyle and polluted environments cause excessive free radicals in your body. Fortunately, you can counter them with antioxidants.

Antioxidants go to free radicals and stabilize them, making them harmless. Prickly pear cactus improved the antioxidant activity of blood in people in just a few hours after consumption.

#3: Polysaccharides

The slimy mucilage in prickly pear cactus is valuable for its good variety of polysaccharides. In a typical diet, we would be getting more polysaccharides from mushrooms. Prickly pear cactus is another excellent source of these long chain sugars (as opposed to simple sugars like sucrose and glucose).

In a laboratory study published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2007, extracts of prickly pear cactus, found to contain polysaccharides, had anti-inflammatory effects. They seemed to protect cartilage better than hyaluronic acid.

Getting your daily prickly pear cactus

You can either do it yourself or take a supplement.

There are many cactus supplements out there–see this post for some examples.

However, not all use prickly pear cactus. If you find a prickly pear cactus product that is excellent in quality, food safety, and nutrition, you have found a gem!

10 Comments on "What is prickly pear cactus for? 3 science based benefits"

  1. I live in the Southwestern desert and did not realize how healthy and good prickly pear cactus are! Wow!

    My mother-in-law is always making different food items from the prickly pear cactus that grow in abundance around her property, but I have always avoided eating any of it. I guess it is time for me to give it a try!


    1. Yes please do try it in a dish at least once. If you enjoy aloe vera, there is a good chance you will like cactus because they have similar textures.

      Recent research has shown that the best way to get immune boosting nutrients from prickly pear cactus is in to process it first because some parts of the cactus gel are indigestible.


  2. very interesting article:) always i was a fun of healthy life and i enjoyed reading it. the illness i am most afraid in the world is cancer and i try my best to avoid it, but I have a question.
    what is this prickly pear cactus?where can i find them? I live in Greece. Is possible to find them?
    What other fruits have the most antioxidants?
    Thanks for a very informative reading:) waiting for your answers:)


    1. Prickly pear cactus is a species of cactus that you can find in the wild and domesticated in many places around the world. I did a Google search and apparently you can find it in Greece too.

      A popular source of antioxidants is the blueberry. Another one is grape seed, which is extremely high in oligomeric proanthocyanidins.


  3. Wow! This is the first time I’ve heard of prickly pear cactus. From where I’m from Singapore, I don’t think we ever seen prickly pear cactus, even heard of it. Does it comes in any product yet that I could look for at the store? I’m always looking for new supplement to try on.


  4. Hi Regina,

    Thank you for writing this post. I learn a new word today, Polysaccharides. I need to look more into what exactly it is. I’m into eating healthy and would like to find out more about the health benefits of cactus.

    I never knew that cactus had antioxidant benefits. Is it easy to prepare cactus for eating?

    I saw some of you other comments where you stated it’s different from aloe. Can you eat aloe? LOL


    1. Great that you have a mindset open to healthy eating! You can find out more about polysaccharides in my mushroom post: What Mushroom To Eat For Better Immunity?

      People eat cactus raw and cooked. The messy part is skinning it because of the mucilage which is a slimy but very beneficial substance. Takes maybe one try to get used to! I was amazed by cactus’ nutritional content, which is one of the reasons I set up this site. I hope more people discover how good it is for the immune system!

      Aloe is another food you have to try. The succulent flesh will leave you wanting for more. Like cactus, it does wonders when it comes into contact with skin, especially damaged skin.


  5. I live in southern Arizona and Prickly Pear Cactus are all around us. Wow! I had no idea of the benefits.

    You can believe that I’ll be checking into the supplements. At my age any immune boost is a plus. How did you learn of the benefits?

    Keep up the good work!


    1. I first encountered cactus as an immunity booster in my work with a health product company. I had to find scientific research about cactus. To my surprise it wasn’t very difficult to find papers published about studies done on its immunity boosting effects.


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