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DIY Prickly Pear Nopales Cactus Diabetes Supplement to Help Control Blood Sugar Level

Updated on July 20, 2014

Historically, the prickly pear cactus plant is well known in Mexico, and has been used traditionally to treat 'sweet urine'. It is also referred to as nopales or nopales cactus. The ancient Mexicans used it by making a cold extract from the young leaves. The drink was given to those that had sweet urine. Many other cultures eat prickly pear too.

Recently, it has been used to treat Diabetes (Type II), lower Cholesterol levels and help with weight loss. A study was carried out on cactus pears by researchers Lee T, Dugoua JJ of the Health Centre of Milton, Milton, Ontario, Canada titled The Nutritional supplements and their effect on glucose control.

The researchers reviewed studies on supplements for diabetes control and concluded that "Soluble fiber, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle, prickly pear cactus and pycnogenol appear to be the most beneficial in the treatment of diabetes" .

Want to plant nopales in your garden?

Control Blood Sugar Levels

Over the last couple of years, I have had three close relations develop diabetes and have real problems with controlling blood sugar levels. In researching diets and meals, prickly pear + diabetes kept coming up, and I decided to investigate.

In this article I am going to concentrate on the constituents of los nopales, Prickly pear Cactus and what makes it work.

Note that prickly pear cactus is eaten as food and is not meant to replace and prescription drugs, it is merely a healthy supplement or drink that you can make yourself and enjoy.

These are opuntia ficus indica or prickly pear fruits. They can be used to make juices, drinks, jams and jellies.
These are opuntia ficus indica or prickly pear fruits. They can be used to make juices, drinks, jams and jellies. | Source

Prickly Pear Cactus Plant

The Prickly Pear Cactus plant is also known as Nopales, Opuntia and Indian Fig Plant.

The young leaves (known as pads) and the rich pink fruits are edible. Prickly Pear contains a lot of natural fibers and pectin. The pectin content makes making prickly pear jelly or jam a breeze. The jams are a rich dark pink color and have a unique refreshing taste. Prickly pear fruits can be bought from most organic shops.

While the fruit makes a refreshing drink, a Diabetic's interest on Cactus Opuntia lies primarily in the leaves


A picture showing the main symptoms of diabetes
A picture showing the main symptoms of diabetes | Source

Prickly Pear Diabetes Supplement

The Prickly Pear Cactus leaves like all other cacti contain a lot of pectin and fibers. The Pectin and Fibers contained in the Prickly Pear Cactus leaves prevent sugar from being absorbed from the food eaten.

A group of researchers at the University of Vienna studied 24 healthy non obese, non diabetic males to try and ascertain the link between prickly pear and both glucose reduction and cholesterol reduction.

The subjects were given the soft leaf pulp for a period of eight weeks.

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The result showed that "Prickly pear leads to a decrease of total cholesterol (12%), low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (15%), apolipoprotein B (9%), triglycerides (12%), fibrinogen (11%), blood glucose (11%), insulin (11%) and uric acid (10%), while body weight, high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, apolipoprotein A-I, and lipoprotein(a) remained unchanged." The study summary can be accessed through PUBMED.

This fibers and pectin have a direct effect on blood sugar, but other researchers in Germany studied the effect of cactus pear on weight loss using a blend of fibers obtained from the leaves and postulated that the effect was due to a complex the fibers form with ingested fat which reduced fat absorption.

As I said, I did a lot of research on the cactus pear before a single leaf entered my kitchen. I couldn't understand how an ornamental plant could have any effect on a real demonstrable disease (diabetes in not at all psychological)

Prickly Pear Cactus Plant

The Prickly Pear Cactus in full bloom. The young are easier to eat
The Prickly Pear Cactus in full bloom. The young are easier to eat | Source

Using Pear as a Diabetes Supplement

First, always tell your Doctor everything about your diet and supplements. In yet another recent study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, focused on the antidiabetic effect of one of the Opuntia species, the researchers found that the plant improved glycemic control in the study animals - lab rats.

They concluded by stating that 'These data support the traditional use of the plants as "agua de uso", a cold infusion of the plant consumed over the course of a day'

And for me that is the best way to use the Prickly Pear cactus plant as a diabetes supplement. Harvest the leaves, chew on the leaves or Juice it, mix with water and sip all day long. Be sure to use the younger tender leaves as the older ones are too tough.

You could filter the mixture to remove some fiber as it makes for a smoother drink. Alternatively, you could drink it whole to take advantage of the effect of the fibres on both diabetes and obesity.

Another word of advice - There are many sub species of cacti. Don't just hack off the leaves of the nearest plant and begin to chew away. Visit a botanical garden or search through pictures online to be sure you can identify the plant. Alternatively buy the cactus or nopales from stockists.

A Cactus Nursery

This cactus nursery contains more than 200 species of cacti. You can visit a place like this to learn more about the benefits of cactus pear and view cactus photos
This cactus nursery contains more than 200 species of cacti. You can visit a place like this to learn more about the benefits of cactus pear and view cactus photos | Source

Prickly Pear Health

There is a lot of research to support using DIY supplement to help control blood sugar. The leaf pulp lowers glucose in the blood, while the fibers it contains complex with dietary fat to reduce fat absorption.

Prickly Pear health supplements are continually being studied.

Best of all , you can simply juice it at home or chew on it to gain the benefits. Let your doctor know what you are doing in case she needs to adjust the dosages of your drugs.

If you have other tips on natural diabetes control or recipes involving prickly pears cactus, please share them below. A lot of us need help and information.


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