Prickly Pear / Cactus Pear / Indian Fig / Opuntia
Originating in the Americas, and "domesticated" in Mexico before the beginning of this era, the Prickly Pear / Opuntia ficus-indica, also known as Barbary pear, cactus pear, Indian pear, Indian fig, tuna fig, and Nopal, derives from the genus Opuntia and has been part of the European flora since the 16th century, when Spaniards brought it from Mexico to Europe soon after the discovery and conquest of America. It spread rapidly in the temperate and warm regions of southern Europe, Africa, and then parts of Asia.
The prickly pear contains about 83% water and 10% sucrose, the rest is tartaric acid, citric acid, mucilage and other mucopolysaccharides. The seeds contain a fixed oil, a fatty acid, albumen and starch.
Possible and Historic Usage
Flowers of the prickly pear have been taken internally as medicine for male urinary discomforts by native American groups. Externally mucilage from the leaves was used as an ointment. It contains pectins and mucilage that are beneficial to the digestive system. It is particularly useful in providing nutrients to the pancreas and liver, thereby supporting digestion and maintaining blood sugar balance. Nutritional factors may act in the intestine to prevent fat and excessive sugars from entering the bloodstream.
The native American Indians used the mucilaginous materials from inside the leaves as a moisturiser to protect the skin against the sun. Pulp from the Opuntia leaf is applied as a poultice to painful, swollen tarantula bites which rapidly disappear without burning. The pulp is also used on the sore breasts of nursing mothers. In Sri Lanka, the use is similar, the young cladodes of this plant are ground and applied as a poultice to allay heat and inflammation. This material is also applied to boils to hastens suppuration. In the First world congress on medicinal and aromatic plants for human welfare, the Prickly Pear was cited as being antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic in its properties.
serves as a base for a liqueur
made in Spain.
1. Beazley, M.: Fruit - A connoisseur's guide and cookbook. Alan Davidson and Charlotte Knox. 1991. Mitchell Beazley Publishers. ISBN NO. 0-85533-903-9.
2. Bianchini F., Corbetta F,.: The Fruits of the Earth. Translated from the Italian by Mancinelli A.Bloomsbury Books, London. ISBN No. 1-870630-10-6.
3. Robert Noll: Southwest Desert Botanicals. Cosmetics and Toiletries Vol. 109, June 1994, p.35-37.
4. D.M.A. Jayaweera: Medicinal Plants used in Ceylon Part 2. National Science Council of Sri Lanka. Colombo 1980.
5. Mulas, M.: Medicinal properties and yield possibilities of the prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) in the Mediterranean environment. First world congress on medicinal and aromatic plants for human welfare (WOCMAP), Maastricht, Netherlands, 19-25 July 1992. [edited by Palevitch, D.; Simon, J. E.; Mathe, A.]. Acta Horticulturae (1993) (No. 331): 79-84. ISBN 90-74379-03- 6 [En, 12 ref.] [Centro Studi e Ricerche A.C.S.I., 07100 Sassari, Italy.]