The health benefits and uses of cactus leaves, also known as the prickly pear cactus pads.
1. Cactus leaf or nopales has been eaten in Latin America for centuries. These have some amazing health benefits for the human body.
2. The paddles or leaves of the cactus are prepared by scraping the spines off and peeling back the skin. The flesh inside may be pickled, added to soups, omelettes, jellies or salads. These have a similar taste to green beans.
3. Alternatively, you can simply remove the spines and slice the paddles into strips. These can be eaten in a salad raw or sautéed with onions and tomatoes.
4. One of the main health benefits of this vegetable is that it contains high amounts of antioxidants. These are extremely powerful anti-inflammatory agents which heal the body from within.
5. Cactus plants are traditionally used in Mexico to treat those suffering from diabetes. The juice is extracted from the leaves and mixed with water. This is known as nopal juice. It lowers blood sugar levels and reduces insulin resistance.
6. Studies show that cactus leaves can help the body to destroy cancerous cells, especially in the colon or breasts. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer by decreasing the oxidation of lipids.
7. When eaten or juiced, the leaves provide the body with important minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sodium.
8. Cactus Juice and Aloe Vera juice can be mixed together to create a powerful healing tonic. These are two of nature’s most powerful healing plants and are commonly found growing near each other in warm countries.
9. The leaves can also be mashed into a pulp. This was traditionally used on wounds to promote healing.
10. Cactus juice can also be drunk to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and urinary tract, especially when suffering with an infection.
11. The flesh from within the cactus has been shown to purify water and is, therefore, being researched by universities as a low cost, large water purification system.
12. The plants grow very easily on dry land and are therefore used in India to produce food for farm animals.
13. The antioxidants within the leaves are excellent for improving the health of the skin. Eating or drinking the juice of the plant gives the skin a natural glow and slows down the ageing process by destroying free radicals.
14. Powerful natural compounds from the stem of the cactus plant have the effect of preventing damage to brain cells. These compounds are being researched for the neuroprotective effects. 1
5. Seasonally the prickly cactus plant grows delicious fruits which sit atop the paddles. These are usually red, but may also be yellow or purple.