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Welcome to another episode of Radio Botanical!

Join Miranda and Lucas as they explore the history, geography, traditional knowledge, current medical research on medicinal plants from around the world AND discuss how you can harness the power of plant medicines in your own life. This time we’re carefully tiptoeing around one of the most famous Mexican plants EVER – the Prickly Pear Cactus. 

The Prickly Pear or Nopal (any cactus in the Opuntia family) is known for its endless practical uses in medicine, farming, cooking, clothing, art, and even war. 

Today we’re going to fix our gaze on what might be the most widespread of all of the Prickly Pears: Opuntia ficus indica. 

Recently, researchers have identified many potential benefits of the compounds in the Prickly Pear. Its phytochemicals have demonstrated significant anti-diabetic, antimicrobial, and cardioprotective effects. 

Stick with us and you'll find out . . .

  • Why you should bring Prickly Pear to your battle siege fortress
  • How the founding of the Mexico City (the capital of the Aztec Empire) was dependent on a Prickly Pear
  • Why some South Africans think the Prickly Pear is a native African plant
  • How Prickly Pear cacti paddles became a food staple of long ocean voyages
  • How the Prickly Pear in influenced the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V
  • What animals that compulsively eat Prickly Pear fruit until they die
  • Why the infamous “redcoats” (British troops in the U.S. Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars) wouldn’t have their name without without the Prickly Pear. 
  • How and what we know about Nopal (Opuntia ficus indica) benefits from current scientific research studies
Plus, why Prickly Pear might be the crop that saves the world in future droughts.
Clarifications: The first traveling terrarium was the Wardian case – invented by a MALE botanist Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (sadly not one of the countless important Victorian woman botanists who Miranda thought must have been responsible). The camera obscura phenomenon has been observed for 2500 years. The medieval Middle Eastern scientist we mentioned is Ibn al-Haytham. 

Listen to Episode 4!

so how can you harness the benefits of Prickly pear?

Nopal is one of the most important ingredients in Paracleanse – a key botanical formula in our Gut Wellness Program. 

If you are dealing with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms and want to follow our Gut Wellness Program under the supervision of your practitioner, no worries! Check out the Gut Wellness Program Handbook here. 

You (or your practitioner) can purchase Paracleanse here and pure Nopal here and here. Remember, when you purchase through our affiliate links, you are supporting the educational mission of the Global Wellness Lab (and taking advantage of years of our personal experience with specific formulas and nutraceutical companies). 

Check out our Prickly Pear resources!

Miranda’s science-y resources (in order of podcast discussion):  

Beinart W. Prickly Pear: A Social History of a Plant in the Eastern Cape. NYU Press; 2011.
[Note: This book is fascinating, FYI.] 
Allegra M, et al. Indicaxanthin from Opuntia Ficus Indica (L. Mill) impairs melanoma cell proliferation, invasiveness, and tumor progression. Phytomedicine. 2018;50:19-24. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2018.09.171

Allegra M, et al. Indicaxanthin from Cactus Pear Fruit Exerts Anti-Inflammatory Effects in Carrageenin-Induced Rat Pleurisy. The Journal of Nutrition. 2014;144(2):185-192. doi:10.3945/jn.113.183657

Attanzio A, et al.. Indicaxanthin from Opuntia ficus indica (L. Mill) Inhibits Oxidized LDL-Mediated Human Endothelial Cell Dysfunction through Inhibition of NF-κB Activation. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2019;2019:e3457846. doi:10.1155/2019/3457846
Bakari S, et al. Proximate analysis, mineral composition, phytochemical contents, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities and GC-MS investigation of various solvent extracts of cactus cladode. Food Sci Technol. 2017;37(2):286-293. doi:10.1590/1678-457x.20116
Butera D, et al. Antioxidant Activities of Sicilian Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus indica) Fruit Extracts and Reducing Properties of Its Betalains:  Betanin and Indicaxanthin. J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50(23):6895-6901. doi:10.1021/jf025696p
Baldassano S, et al. Inhibitory effects of indicaxanthin on mouse ileal contractility: Analysis of the mechanism of action. European Journal of Pharmacology. 2011;658(2):200-205. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2011.02.034
del Socorro Santos Díaz M, et al. Opuntia spp.: Characterization and Benefits in Chronic Diseases. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017;2017:1-17. doi:10.1155/2017/8634249
Palmeri R, et al. Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties of Semi-Processed Frozen Prickly Pear Juice as Affected by Cultivar and Harvest Time. Foods. 2020;9(2):235. doi:10.3390/foods9020235
Gambino G, et al. Brain Distribution and Modulation of Neuronal Excitability by Indicaxanthin From Opuntia Ficus Indica Administered at Nutritionally-Relevant Amounts. Front Aging Neurosci. 2018;10. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2018.00133
Silva MA, et al. Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.: A Multi-Benefit Potential to Be Exploited. Molecules. 2021;26(4):951. doi:10.3390/molecules26040951
Other resources consulted:
Prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) (Cactaceae). Agricultural Resource Council South Africa. Accessed May 10, 2021. 

Prickly Pear Blood Story Map. Library of Congress. Accessed May 10, 2021.

Put the red in redcoats. History Myths Debunked. Accessed May 9, 2021. 

The Persistence of Nahua Culture. Newberry Publications. Accessed May 6, 2021.

Why prickly pears are suddenly a hot crop in SA. Business Insider. Accessed May 7, 2021.

Lucas’ semi-“stantiated” resources: 
Toxqui-López S, Olivares-Pérez A, Fuentes-Tapia I, Pinto-Iguanero B. PVA with nopal dye as holographic recording material. 2011;8011:80110D. doi:10.1117/12.901762

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