Benefits of the Nopal Cactus.
Nopal, whose scientific name is Opuntia ficus-indica. It is a species of shrub of the genus Opuntia of the family of cacti, ie cactus. Also known among other names by fig tree of prickly pear, prickly pear, tuna, nopalera… The Nopal, like most members of the genus Opuntia, lacks nomophyll leaves, the pencas or cladodes are the photosynthetic stems into which the plant is divided, are flat, oval, and green. They have two kinds of thorns, some short and fine with a hairy aspect, and others long and hard. The fresh pencas are usually called nopalitos and are used sometimes in the diet as vegetables. The stalks branch out emitting flowers and fruits. The fruit, called tuna (if it is sweet) and xoconostle (if it is sour), as thick, thorny skin, and with a pulp abundant in seeds. Once ripe, it turns into a sweet, turgid oval edible berry.
HISTORY AND TRADITION
Cactus nopales are native to Mexico. Currently, they can be found throughout the Americas in a wide variety of agro-climatic conditions, either wild or cultivated.
They have also adapted well to soils in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The domestication of Nopal may have started between 8,500 and 5,200 BC in central Mexico, although for centuries nomads from desert or semi-desert areas of central and northern Mexico already consumed it. The Nopal was very present at the beginning of the Aztec civilization, to the point that the war banners of the Aztec army showed an eagle perched on a plant of Nopal and devouring a snake. Also, the capital of his empire was called Tenochtitlan, which means “Cactus Nopal on a rock”. Nopal reached Europe, specifically Spain, around 1552 with the first Spanish conquerors, from where it was dispersed through Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and England. The Moors spread it through North Africa and the Portuguese introduced it to Brazil, Angola, and India. At present Mexico is the main producer of fresh cactus for human consumption worldwide.
Nopal is a xerophytic plant, which has adapted perfectly to arid and semi-desert areas, all characterized by dry conditions, erratic rainfall, and poor soils exposed to erosion. It can store large amounts of water in its shovels, which makes it possible, for example…
Keep the sheep alive for up to 500 days without drinking water, if they have free access to the fresh pencas. Their harvests are vital in cases of extreme droughts, both for humans and animals.
USES AND UTILITIES OF NOPAL
Nopal is a very noble and versatile plant and can be used as vegetables (nopalitos), fruit (tuna), forage, medicinal plant, to elaborate wine and beer and also: As a substrate (Cochinilla), to conserve the soil, to purify the air, as a base for cosmetics, as fuel, in enclosures and fences, etc. Usable parts of Nopal: The nopalitos or pencas. The flowers. Fruits or Tunas. The whole plant For these reasons the F.A.O. as well as the Globe Wide Fund for Nature (W.W.F.) consider it a food of the future and also as it on the checklist of 50 healthy foods of the future, which might relieve cravings in huge areas of the earth, both for human beings as well as for animals.
PROPERTIES AND BENEFITS EFFECTIVE AGAINST DIABETES
For its low sugar content, this food is nutritionally indicated in diets for diabetes, and for its great fruit richness in mucilages, pectins, xylose, and arabinose, which are types of soluble fiber with effects on blood sugar regulation.
HELPS TO REDUCE CHOLESTEROL
The amino acids, fiber, and niacin contained in Nopal prevent excess blood sugar from becoming fat. On the other hand, it works by metabolizing fat and fatty acids, thus reducing cholesterol.
The presence of amino acids and fiber, including antioxidants such as vitamin C and A in the Nopal, reduce the possibility of damage to the walls of blood vessels, as well as the formation of fat platelets, which gives it a preventive power in relation to atherosclerosis.
This property is related to the metabolism of the crasu-láceo acid of the plants, which in the cacti, inhibits or suspends the growth of several bacterial species. For this reason, the application of cactus poultices has beneficial effects on wounds and skin infections.
PROTECTS THE LIVER
Scientific studies suggest that this cactus may have beneficial effects on the liver. Nopal extract protects the liver from damage caused by chemical insecticides and aflatoxins, probably due to its richness in antioxidant substances. These substances protect the liver from the peroxidation of its fats, also affecting the improvement of cholesterol levels in the blood. The infusion of Nopal flowers contains protective flavonoids and liver tonics, such as routine, quercetin, and kaempferol that are very beneficial.
PROTECTS THE STOMACH
Nopal is a protective remedy for the gastric mucosa, due to its content in fibers and mucilages, which control the excess of gastric acids and protect the gastrointestinal mucosa thus preventing gastric ulcers and all that kind of affections. Due to its anti-ulcerous potential, both the fruit and the young stems (nopalitos) are suitable in the diet for gastritis, stomach acidity, and stomach ulcer.
FAVOURS INTESTINAL TRANSIT
The insoluble fiber content of the Nopal takes in water and accelerates the flow of food via the gastrointestinal system and helps regulate intestinal movement.
EFFECTIVE AGAINST COLON CANCER
The presence of these insoluble fibers in the colon helps dilute the concentration of carcinogens that may be present preventing the proliferation of tumors.
Some studies mention that the flavonoids contained in the fruits of the Nopal have a protective effect on the brain, being adequate food for memory and to prevent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
CARES FOR AND REGENERATES THE SKIN
Tuna seed oil easily penetrates the skin. Its daily use restores the skin’s elasticity, leaving it soft and silky. Its exceptional richness in vitamin E (around 1,000 mg/kg) and sterols (around 10 g/kg) gives it an exceptional capacity to protect the skin against free radicals. Due to its high content of essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid (Omega 6), it is also an excellent natural regenerator of the skin.
The ancient inhabitants of Mexico, where Nopal is native, already used its succulent stems to treat wounds and contusions. This remedy has been researched today, and scientific studies corroborate its healing properties and to treat skin wounds. The pencas are cut and their pulp is applied to the wounds or blows, to help heal them, or to cure skin irritations and contusions. These constitute an effective poultice which, due to the fiber contained in the parenchyma of the stems (“pulp”), softens the skin and contributes to its natural regeneration. Due to its moist qualities, this poultice helps to alleviate pain in dry or irritated skin.
(We must apply the poultice of pencas, heating them lightly in the oven and cut so that the gelatinous part is in contact with the skin or wound).
EFFECTIVE AGAINST COUGH
The syrup prepared from the fruits of Nopal, tunas, or figs prickly pears, is a traditional remedy against cough. Nopal in addition to Flavonoids with antitussive properties, such as luteolin, contains pectin fiber, which has a demulcent and anti-tussive effect.
Due to the number of insoluble fibers present in the Nopal, these produce a feeling of satiety, reducing hunger and helping at the same time to good digestion.
They also help to delay the time when nutrients are absorbed and enter the blood and therefore facilitate their elimination.
HELPS ELIMINATE TOXINS
For its content in vitamins (A, B Complex C), minerals (Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Iron), fibers (Lignin, Cellulose, Hemi-cellulose, Pectin), and mucilages, which together with its17 amino acids favor the elimination of toxins from the body. ASTRINGENT AND ANTISPASMODIC EFFECT The flowers and fruits of the plant are astringent and are used as anti-diarrheal.
The flowers are also antispasmodic and can be taken in infusions for cramps. (3g. of dried flowers per cup, up to 3 times a day). Fruits can be eaten fresh.
HOW TO CONSUME IT
The approach of preparation does not influence the advantages that Nopal offers our organism, as long as it is consumed in its natural state. So don’t wait for any longer as well and begin including it in your diet regimen. RAW NOPAL IN SALAD Use raw cactus and other ingredients (tomato, cucumber, broccoli, …). Cut everything into small pieces in julienne. Add virgin olive oil extra, lemon juice, and seasoning with sea salt or Himalayan. Helps reduce cholesterol. GRILLED NOPAL Roast several pencas for both and dress them (to taste) with lemon juice and oil extra virgin olive oil and salt or the Himalayas. (Before meals) Helps reduce levels of glucose.
NOPAL AND TUNA
Eat raw cactus and Tuna chopped on an empty stomach. Helps to reduce or eliminate gastritis problems. TUNA Eat Tuna on an empty stomach Helps improve functions and potency memory.
Wash a penca well and cut it off in half, o that they remain two sheets. Place them on the pulp side about the wounds, burns. or areas irritated by the sun. Promotes rapid healing and skin regeneration.
NOPAL FLOWERS FOR INFUSIONS
Make an infusion with flowers of Nopal, bring a cup to boil water, and add three or four flowers of Nopal. We sweeten with natural honey. Helps relieve colic and cramps.
Finely chop up a Cactus and let macerate for a few hours (5-6) in olive oil, add the juice of 4-6 lemons (depending on size), and sweeten with natural honey. Effective Cough Remedy and conditions in the chest.
RECOMMENDATIONS NOPAL IS NOT A TOXIC PLANT
May cause dermatitis and skin irritation. Why? Its greatest danger lies in its tiny spikes, which when embedded in the skin can lead to dermatitis. The spikes are hook-shaped and grouped in circles. Once nailed they are difficult to remove from the skin and can lead to dermatitis.
TUNAS CAN CAUSE ABDOMINAL PAIN
If you suffer from diverticulitis, the tunas or prickly pears are contraindicated, this is due to the presence of numerous seeds in its interior that can produce abdominal pain.
CAN PRODUCE FLATULENCE
Due to the fiber content, Nopal can produce flatulence and windiness in some people.
INTENSE YELLOW URINE
The consumption of Nopal due to the presence of numerous yellow pigments (betalains and carotenoids) that it contains, can dye the urine of intense yellow color. Nopal has recently become a true “green gold”, as it represents an important food option for the near future affected by climate change.