Nopales History, Botanical Description, 10 Benefits and More.

The nopales can be considered as a type or a derivation of cactus that tend to be quite healthy and beneficial for health. These include its ability to help lose weight, prevent cancer, improve skin health, protect heart health, regulate and improve digestion, boost the immune system, optimize metabolic activity, build strong bones, cure insomnia. and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

What are Nopales?

Nopales are a form of vegetables made from the soft pads of underdeveloped prickly pear cacti. Useful vegetative pads are green or purple and are about the size of a person’s hand. They have a consistency somewhere between green beans and green peppers and are regularly added to eggs and sauteed steak. They are native to Mexico and Central America, and it is in these kitchens where fresh nopales are found. They are mostly fresh in Mexico, either canned or pickled for export, particularly to the southwest of the United States and Texas. For gastrointestinal problems Nopal contains vitamins A, complex B, C, minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and more. It is a variety of cactus known for its medicinal properties. In the pharmacopoeia, it has been used to treat various gastrointestinal disorders and to lower blood glucose levels in diabetics. The nopal, rich in fiber, is also known for its slimming properties. Also the fruit of the cactus, rich in mucilage, leads to a state of satiety and, therefore, is used as a dietary supplement, as an appetite suppressant. Scientifically known as  Opuntia ficus-indica  or more commonly known as prickly pear cactus, it belongs to the Cactaceae family. Native to Central America, it adapts to arid climates. The cactus quickly invaded the Mediterranean basin. Modern medical research is slowly rediscovering its many properties. A very nutritious and energetic food, it has, among other things, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic and neuroprotective effects. Every part of this cactus is used.

Consists in:

  • small leaves whose shape is similar to that of a cone
  • Fruits like berries, up to 300 seeds
  • Pistil flowers, stamens and petals
  • Flat or cladode stems up to 40 cm long.

History of the Use of Cactus in Herbal Medicine:

Originally from Central America, nopal was already used by Aztec medicine to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

“In the form of ointment and poultice, it relieved rheumatism and its juice applied to burns and wounds served as a cure”.

In addition, very nutritious and energetic, it was and continues to be widely used in traditional Central American cuisine, as fresh fruit, but also as a vegetable, in jam and in an alcoholic beverage, the colonche. Since its spread in the east, it is used by Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic and diuretic.

Botanical Description of the Nopales:

There are about four hundred species of prickly pears. This cactus up to 5 m high develops on large areas. The cactus has large pads, also called snowshoes or cladodes, hair covers and thorns. There are also varieties without thorns. The cladodes of the Berber fig, very fibrous, retain water and allow the plant to resist heat and drought. The cactus gives flowers of different colors, yellow, pink or purple, depending on the species, and orange or purple fruit, edible, pear-shaped. Prickly pear cactus is enjoyed in hot and arid climates and effectively drains moisture from some lands.

Health Benefits of the Nopales:

All parts of the nopales have been used for hundreds of years in both traditional and natural medicine due to their multiple nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Cactus has Been Used to Treat:

  • glaucoma
  • wounds
  • fatigue
  • liver conditions
  • ulcers

The supposed benefits of fresh cactus juice include reducing blood sugar, healing wounds and reducing cholesterol. Human studies on cactus and its ability to treat or prevent diseases are limited. However, many studies have confirmed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the plant. Let’s explore some of the health benefits of prickly pear cactus that people have been enjoying for thousands of years.

1. Reduce Cholesterol:

It has been found that the cactus leaf reduces the level of cholesterol in the body in research conducted at the University of Vienna. Researchers in France verified the same effect in 68 women, who after four weeks saw a reduced level of cholesterol and triglycerides in their body. This functional food is also related to the reduction of risks related to heart problems.

2. Cure Diabetes:

The elevation of blood sugar level in the body leads to various diseases, such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Eating nopales leaf helps lower blood sugar in patients suffering from obesity and diabetes. Research conducted at the University of Vienna among 24 non-obese patients who consumed cactus leaf showed an 11 percent decrease in blood sugar level, demonstrating its benefit for patients with diabetes.

3. Fight Cancer:

Phenolic and flavonoid, two compounds with antioxidant properties are contained in the nopales leaf. These antioxidants help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals that are related to cardiovascular disease and cancer. In the June 2009 issue of “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition,” it was reported that nopales pear phytochemicals slowed cell growth in colon, liver, breast and prostate cancer without having an impact. Negative in healthy cells.

4. Improves Digestion:

Eating nopales has also helped improve the process of digestion in humans. The nopales help reduce cellulite while improving the ability to retain water in the body to accelerate bowel movement. This fiber-rich food reduces carcinogens and improves digestive health in humans.

5. Help to Lose Weight:

Nopales are a low-calorie food rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals, which make it beneficial for weight loss. With 17 amino acids, being 8 essential, it provides a good amount of energy and serves 16 calories per 100 g of intake.

6. Protect Brain Cells from Damage:

The steam and the fruits of the nopales have a quercetin 3-methyl, flavonoid compound that is considered a powerful neuro protector. This neuro protector protects neuronal cells in the brain, thus protecting brain cells from damage.

7. Reduce Inflammation:

It is also said that nopales possess anti-inflammatory properties that fight burns in muscles, the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal tract and arteries. It has been found that it has bio-flavonoid quercetin that neutralizes the compounds that damage cells and serves as an analgesic with its anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains anti-ulcer properties that fight edema and restrict leukocyte migration.

Signal word:  Due to their ability to regulate and affect blood sugar levels, nopales can sometimes make people hypoglycemic and should not be consumed in excess before an operation. Apart from these health problems, nopales are a delicious and highly nutritious addition to your diet.

Use and Dosage of Nopales:

Nopales come in different forms, different packages and different doses.

– To achieve a satiety effect in the context of a diet, it is generally advisable to take a cactus capsule in the morning, at noon and at night. The prickly hypoglycemic action of the prickly pear seems to be more effective when absorbed about 15 to 30 minutes before a meal.

– To combat gastric pain, it is recommended to take a cactus flower extract, at a rate of 0.3 ml to 1 ml, 3 times a day.

In addition, the action of the nopal seems to be significantly accentuated by the simultaneous intake of other food supplements, such as vegetable chitosan, to improve weight loss, matte for satiety, olive and fenugreek. For mild diabetes, and garcinia for weight stabilization.

– For the treatment of diabetes, obesity, gastric and intestinal disorders and, more generally, for any cactus intake, strictly follow the instructions of health professionals, doctors and pharmacists.

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