Surprising Health Benefits of Consuming Cactus Flowers
November 8, 2022
When you think of cactus, you probably think of deserts and tumbleweed, not “health food.” But the prickly pear, also called Nopal cactus, has been used as a natural medicine in Mexico and the United States for thousands of years. Did you know that these desert plants have edible flowers too? While many people think of cacti as nothing more than spiny succulents, these plants offer a variety of health benefits. Cactus flowers are high in antioxidants, which can help protect your body from many diseases. It also has vitamin C and other nutrients. In addition, cactus flowers have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Let’s explore cactus flowers’ physical and mental health benefits, a few recipes, and potential side effects.
Table of Contents
Edible Cactus Plant Parts
The nopal or prickly pear cactus flowers in the genus opuntia are technically edible, but only a tiny portion of the flower is used in cooking. Before a nopal cactus blooms, the flower buds, also called “tuna,” can be picked and cooked as a vegetable. The growing cactus berry becomes too tough to eat when the flower blooms. When the fruit is fully ripe, they taste good again. Cactus leaves are more popular for consumption than other plant parts. Dragon fruit is widely popular among edible cacti.
Physical Health Benefits
Cactus flowers contain iron, calcium, and vitamins C, E, and A. This wide range of nutrients can help the body fight inflammation. Researchers found that people who took cactus and its flower extract after having five to seven drinks had fewer hangover symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, or dry mouth). The extract also helped reduce inflammation, which is often caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Cactus flowers encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut. You can use it to treat diverticulitis and colitis because it is a natural cleanser. You can use juice made from cactus flowers and leaves as a natural remedy for constipation because it has laxative properties. It helps ease inflammation in the urethra and bladder because it is anti-inflammatory. This is especially helpful for people who have gallstones or urinary bladder infections.
If you consume cactus flowers regularly, it can help keep your blood sugar levels steady. The soluble fiber, called pectin, makes it take longer for the body to take in sugar. Therefore, people with diabetes who consume cactus flowers frequently can assist in preventing changes in blood sugar levels. Studies also suggest that drinking juice regularly can help prevent type II diabetes. However, to avoid hypoglycemia, it is best to limit the amount consumed.
Helps You Lose Weight
Fibre in the cactus Plant, including flowers, helps you lose weight. Fibre can inhibit the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin. So, it can keep you from overeating. On the other hand, the cactus flower has very little cholesterol and saturated fat. It also contains Vitamin B6 and riboflavin helps the body’s metabolism work well.
Cactus leaves and flowers can reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing atherosclerosis, lowering cholesterol, and keeping the heart and blood vessels working well. Some of the minerals in cactus leaves and flowers can help keep a normal heartbeat and heart rhythm.
Boosts Thyroid Health
Surprisingly, the cactus flowers have a lot of vitamins and minerals in them. At the same time, manganese-rich cactus is very good for the health of your thyroid. Manganese is found in cacti in more than the daily recommended amount. So, it’s important to pay attention to how much you consume.
Mental Health Benefits
Just bringing the cactus flowers might not provide mental health benefits. But planting nopales at home would certainly have a lot of benefits. Few of them are
Makes You Happier
Bringing plants like cacti into your home can make you feel calmer and improve your mood. Who wants to stay inside all the time and miss out on the beauty of nature? This isn’t just a theory; studies like this one have shown it over and over again. Cactus flowers’ cute and colorful look helps relieve stress and decrease depression.
When you have the cactus plant at your work desk, it helps you to get more work done. Along with making you happier, having cactus flowers inside can give you more energy and motivate you to take on the day. Not only will they help you get more done, but they will also help your kids get more done.
Children who spend time around indoor plants tend to learn better. This means that having cactus flowers in your home could help your kids focus better on their homework, become interested in what they are learning, and keep their minds active and healthy.
Even if you don’t have much of a green thumb or a child interested in nature, having cactus flowers inside is a great way to learn and can make you or your child feel like you’ve accomplished something.
If you’ve never cared for a plant before or want to learn more about gardening, taking care of an indoor plant is a rewarding experience that won’t occupy too much of your time and will still let you enjoy nature indoors.
Having a cactus at home will help kids learn responsibility as they water it and check on it (for example, to ensure it’s getting enough water and isn’t being exposed to cold). It can help them prepare to take care of a pet or go to school.
Recipes for Cactus Flowers
Deep Fried snack
2 fresh flowers from a cactus
1/2 cup of cornstarch
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
Some green shallots, sliced cooking oil, salt, and white pepper to taste.
Cut a few cactus flowers in half lengthwise.
Lightly beat one egg in a bowl, then coat the cactus flowers with the egg.
Mix Chinese five-spice, salt, and white pepper into corn flour.
Coat the cactus in a corn flour mixture.
In a saucepan, heat enough cooking oil to cover the cactus flowers to 190°C (370°F). Deep-fry the cactus flowers until they are golden and crispy, about 2 minutes.
Drain the excess oil from the cactus flowers by briefly placing them on a few layers of kitchen paper on a cooling rack.
In the same pot, heat the oil to about 170°C, add the green shallot, and deep fry for about 5 to 10 seconds. Take the green shallot out of the oil with a sieve, shake it, and pour off the excess oil.
Serve these cactus flowers with some green shallot on top.
Cactus Flower Cocktail
Coarse salt as needed
2 ounces of tequila
2 ounces of sweet-and-sour mix
1-ounce triple sec
1 ounce of lime juice
1 ounce of strained puree cactus flower
Put salt on a small plate. Wet the rim of a glass and then dip it in salt.
Pour tequila, sweet and sour mix, triple sec, lime juice, and flower puree over ice in a cocktail shaker.
Cover the shaker and shake the drink, then strain it into a margarita glass that has been set up.
Forms and Doses of Cactus
You can get the health benefits of nopal cactus in a few different ways. The easiest way, which is also the healthiest, is to eat the leaves and flowers directly. You can also take liquid, capsule, powder, or extract supplements.
More research is needed to figure out how much of each kind of cactus is safe and effective. Most supplements say you should take at least one dose of 500 to 650 milligrams daily.
Potential Risks of Consuming Cactus Plant
Cactus flowers are believed to be safest when they are eaten as food instead of as a supplement. This way, it has the fewest side effects. People think that supplements might be safe, but they need more proof. It is important to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not check supplements for safety, purity, quality, or how they are packaged. Choose your item carefully, and from a source, you can trust.
Potential Side Effects of Consuming Cactus Flowers
Diarrhea that makes you feel full or a lot of stools
Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant shouldn’t take cactus supplements because we don’t have enough evidence of whether they are safe.
Cactuses have been used for thousands of years due to their medicinal and nutritional benefits. Both cactus flowers, pads, and fruit can help fight infections and ease the symptoms of things like hangovers and high cholesterol. Cactus returns to the health and wellness world, showing up in healthy recipes and beauty products. This superfood is a healthy addition to your diet because it contains fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins.