The prickly pear cactus (also called the nopal cactus) is traditionally used in Mexico to treat several ills, including high blood sugar, high cholesterol and wounds.
The fruit of the prickly pear cactus can be used to make cactus juice — also known as prickly pear juice or nopal juice. Limited research has suggested cactus juice is useful for treating the conditions listed above, as well as for treating respiratory issues like shortness of breath (dyspnea) and sinus infections.
But is there any evidence that cactus juice can benefit your health?
How Cactus Juice Can Help You
Current research into cactus juice suggests that the prickly pear cactus has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. It’s also a good source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids.
Cactus juice proponents claim it has the following benefits:
- Lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes
- Lowering total cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol)
- Relieving joint pain and inflammation from arthritis
- Reducing gut inflammation to ease symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions
- Protecting the body against damage from oxidative stress
- Aiding in wound healing
- Preventing tumors from developing
However, there are limited studies proving these beneficial health effects. Additional research is needed to provide further evidence that cactus juice can treat or prevent any of the conditions listed above.
Side Note: To date, there have been no studies conducted on the effectiveness of using cactus juice to help treat respiratory issues or chronic lung disease.
Side Effects And Risks Of Cactus Juice
Common side effects of cactus juice are headaches and gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, stomach pains and diarrhea. Cactus juice can also cause severe hypoglycemia in people who are taking medications to regulate blood sugar levels.
It can cause drug interactions with other medications as well — cactus juice is not recommended for people who are taking medicine for kidney, liver and pancreatic conditions.
If you are interested in adding cactus juice to your diet, do your research first. As stated above, there is limited research-backed evidence that cactus juice will deliver any health benefits, and no evidence at all that cactus juice will help treat respiratory issues or chronic lung disease.
You should always talk to your doctor before you add a natural supplement like cactus juice into your diet.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.