Edible cacti: varieties to choose and properties of each

The world is full of succulent delicacies to eat that are little known or not yet fully known. One of these examples is spirulina or chia seeds, which are an important part of the diet of people in certain countries, while in others they are not yet as popular.

Cacti are quite well-known in decoration, but they also offer multiple health benefits that many don't know about. Keep reading to meet them!

Benefits of cacti for health

Surprisingly for some, certain cactus species boast anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which are of great help in protecting brain cells from free radicals.

Some laboratories in France have carried out multiple studies indicating that those who suffer from a metabolic syndrome, a series of diseases that increase the risk of suffering from heart conditions and type 2 diabetes; having consumed nopal cactus, they experienced a decrease in bad cholesterol and an increase in good cholesterol. This effect is due to the high pectin content of the nopal.

Another one of the benefits of cacti it is their great fiber content, thus turning them into foods with quite interesting purifying and diuretic capacities. Similarly, you are cactus properties They are of great help for the body to be free of residues as well as toxins, but at the same time they will help to maintain a balance in the fluid levels within the body.

Some cacti have a lot of calcium and this factor is important when it comes to preventing diseases like osteoporosis. This feature has been demonstrated by the National Autonomous University in Mexico.

According to other work carried out by French specialists, it was obtained as a result that the consumption of cacti helps to reduce the chances of being overweight, keeping in mind that the recommended daily dose cannot exceed 240 milligrams, if the food consumed comes from extract of Cactus.

Likewise, the consumption of cacti helps to decrease glucose levels in the blood, which prevents heart disease or diabetes from appearing.

Edible cactus

Most of the fruits produced by cacti are completely safe to consume, although some of them taste better than others. Certain types of cacti have a more pleasant flavor when they are cooked, others just by removing the thorns already taste very good, but all that also depends on the taste that people have.

The choice of edible cactus It will depend on what you want to do with them. A large proportion of cacti that are fit for human consumption come from Opuntias species, which are usually called nopales or pear cacti.

Both the leaves and its fruits (usually known as prickly pears) of any Opuntia are safe to consume. It is very easy to identify these cactus species because they are oval in shape, the leaves are loose like popsicles and are completely covered by small spines.

Within Mexican foods, for example, the nopal is very popular, so it is not uncommon that they are consumed even in soups or burritos at breakfast.

Indian son

The most popular of all edible cactus is he Opuntia ficus-indica, also known as the son of the Indian. The leaves and fruit of this plant have a pleasant flavor. In addition, it is one of the basic foods that make up various dishes in Central America and in the southern states of the United States. However, it has also become part of the gastronomy of Australia, the Galapagos Islands and northern Africa.


The saguaro (Giant Carnegiea), which is often referred to as the desert symbol, has a fruit that is edible when ripe. However, obtaining it can take a few decades.


The sweet pitahaya is the fruit of the Hylocereus and Selenicereuses species, very similar to the Saguaro although smaller and with arms that grow in the lower part of said plant. The flowers are very similar to those produced by lavender.

The fruit that comes from barrel cactus It is very tasty when eaten raw, and its enormous advantage is that it has no bones. The flowers and buds of this plant can also be eaten. The fruit of this cactus is known as dragon fruit, yellow or red in color, with a red center with black seeds.

We have already mentioned some of the edible cactus better known, but now let's detail the benefits of cacti depending on the plant:

Caralluma Fimbriata

This is a cactus that comes from India. It is used for Ayurvedic medicine, but is also currently used as an appetite suppressant and to burn body fat. It is a plant that has properties that help improve transit in the intestine.

There are other varieties that belong to this species of cactus, which are used regularly in medicine, such as the case of the Atenuata adscendens.

In ancient times, some Indian tribes consumed Caralluma or simply chewed it a little, to reduce hunger. It was often eaten raw, but currently this plant is eaten accompanied by some cooked vegetables and is even prepared in preserves or preserves.

Another of the characteristics of this cactus is its action against ghrelin, the satiety hormone that is produced by the digestive system to regulate hunger, which increases when we feel hungry and decreases if we are satiated.

On the other hand, when caralluma cactus is consumed, the blood sugar level is lowered, but it also has analgesic as well as anti-inflammatory properties.


This class of cactus has a fairly extensive list of health benefits. The fruits of the nopal can be prepared as juice and the oil that is extracted from the plant has properties very similar to argan.

The nopal has vitamin C and flavonoids in great quantity, making it a product with antioxidant actions and at the same time scavenger of free radicals. It also has vitamin K, which is very useful to eliminate dark circles, redness and the famous spider veins.

One of the benefits offered by this type of cactus for health is that it has an excellent moisturizing capacity, resulting in skin and hair with much more elasticity. One of the ways to use the cactus in this way is to prepare a mask, especially when the hair is too dry and damaged.

When the nopal cactus is consumed, it exerts actions that help to lose weight, because the glucose levels within the blood are decreased, allowing the body to use the energy reserves. But in addition to that, the high fiber content of this cactus is excellent to improve transit in the intestine and to decrease hunger.

If the cactus fruit is consumed, it is ideal for treating a hangover, for constipation and for colon cleansing. It also has flavonoids that make this cactus a food with beneficial qualities for the eyes and with antistamine functions.

Hoodia Gordoni

It is a cactus that comes from the southern part of Africa, especially in the Kalahari desert. The properties of this plant are very similar to those of the Caralluma cactus.

It is normally used to lose weight, because it contains glycosides that exert direct action on the central part of satiety in the hypothalamus, which also reduces hunger. It is recommended that the daily dose does not exceed 200 milligrams.

Other benefits they offer from cacti

Cacti not only offer internal benefits but are also very helpful for external beauty and health. However, for this area, only the nopal and caralluma cactus varieties are used.

In addition to having antioxidants, they improve the appearance of the skin and hair. These cacti are also a great help for nails to have greater strength, and that is due to their moisturizing effects. One of the best ways to use the cactus to improve the appearance of the nails, is to take a piece, crush it in the blender and when you have a liquid mixture, you put it in a container and then leave the nails to soak.

For the face and hair, a good idea is to crush a piece of the cactus and add it to the regular mask. Although in stores you can find products that have cactus extract among its components, and are very effective in improving facial skin as well as the appearance of hair.

Similarly, nopales and Carallumas, if consumed, offer the same results as when applied as masks.

(You may also like: Why a cactus can help you reduce overweight)

How cacti should be consumed

Some of the edible cactus They can be eaten raw just by removing their bones, but they are also delicious when they are part of various recipes. Many of these examples are seen in Mexican gastronomy, where tacos, burritos and even cactus soups are usually prepared.

The fruits of the cacti, as in the case of the sweet Pitahaya and the fruits of the prickly pear, are excellent for preparing juices. They can also be part of salads or simply consumed raw.

Another option, but that depends on what you want to do, is to consume supplements that contain extracts of these cacti.

Cacti that are not edible

Although there are many that can be eaten quietly, it is very important to implement certain methods to identify which are the most appropriate for consumption. Likewise, it must be borne in mind that not all people react in the same way against certain plants.

Some cacti are well known for being hallucinogenic or psychoactive. The cacti belonging to the peyote and Trichocereus species, although they are not acts for consumption, are usually used for other purposes.

Peyotes, due to their high alkaloid content, are used as pain relievers, to treat rheumatism, wounds, bone pain, blows and as a remedy for snake bites as well as scorpions or scorpions. Differentiating a peyote from another class of cactus is very simple, since this plant has white hair very similar to cotton and in certain cases it has a white or pink flower in the central part.

On the other hand, Trichocereus are normally used for ornamental purposes and it is very easy to recognize them, since the branches are erect and have a shape similar to large tubes.

Now that we know about the benefits of consuming cacti and what are the species that can be eaten, let's take advantage of the properties they offer you to improve various aspects of health. Always keeping in mind that when it comes to people who are very sensitive to food, it is advisable to consult with the doctor before consuming any type of cactus.



Succulents and cacti

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