Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica)

This plant of the cactus family offers a refreshing and tasty summer fruit, but with some uncomfortable to ingest pipitos. These seeds are quite astringent, so be careful with their consumption. They are low in lipids and moderate in sugars. Elsewhere, it is one of the home remedies against diabetes. At present, they are more commonly used as feed for livestock than for human consumption. It is a fairly abundant plant in our locality.

Harvesting: summer


The cactus, also known as nopal, opuntia, prickly pear cactus, chumba fig,…

It is a fleshy plant belonging to the Cactaceae family, which in its adult state reaches up to 5 meters in height and whose older base parts become woody. It lives in dry, warm, temperate or extreme places in the Americas.

The main root and the secondary roots have more or less the same development, or the latter are widely spread.

The stem is crass, branched and multiarticulated, with thick cuticles, adapted to store water in its tissues. Each one of the articles receives the particular name of penca; its aspect is compressed, they have a racquet shape and botanically they are cladodes, that is to say, stems or ramifications of these that substitute the leaves in their functions, since they present abundant cytophilic parenchyma.

The leaves are reduced to spines and glochids, or small spines that have hooks directed backwards; they are grouped in spaced regions of the cauline surface called areoles. The flowers sprout from the edges of the branches and are reddish yellow in color.

The fruit is a berry with the epicarp provided with glochidia arranged in small groups; the mesocarp is fleshy, but poorly developed.

The seeds are numerous, discoidal, with cellulosic albumen and are supported by very long fleshy and juicy funiculi, which constitute the edible part of the fruit.

Propagation is by seed or, more commonly, by adult stalks, which emit roots when planted in moist soil, the latter being the fastest method of multiplication. The fruits of several species of cactus, called prickly pear cactus, are edible and are used to prepare the well-known prickly pear cheese, as well as some alcoholic beverages. Cacti are also used to form fences and as fodder for livestock after removing their thorns. In French this plant is called “Cactus”. Medicinal use.

– Capsules containing a powder made from the flower of a cactus plant are the current alternative available to men suffering from various urinary ailments caused by an enlarged prostate gland.

– Prostatic enlargement (hypertrophy) causes urinary problems in 50% of men over 50 years of age. If the cause is a tumor, it may require a surgical procedure. Recently, however, urologists have come to the conclusion that surgery is a poor solution when there is no tumor. In a two-year study of 52 men, cactus flower capsules relieved typical complaints, such as frequent and urgent urination, especially at night.

– In preliminary clinical studies conducted with 27 men, who were given capsules made from cactus flowers, showed improvements of between 34 and 80%, without any side effects.

The results show definite subjective improvements in discomfort and quality of life. A multiple study is currently being conducted to determine whether subjective improvements are accompanied by objective improvements, such as prostate gland shrinkage.

– If you have the cactus flowers and not the capsules, you can prepare, with a handful of them, a decoction in a liter of water, and take a glass two or three times a day. The variety of cactus called Cactus grandiflorus is indicated against basal spasms, pectoral angina, arrhythmia, cardiac weakness, cardiac edema, alcoholism, smoking and other drugs.