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Usos Medicos del Nopal: Tratamientos Para La Diabetes, El Colesterol y El Sistema Inmunologico


Usos Medicos del Nopal: Tratamientos Para La Diabetes, El Colesterol y El Sistema Inmunologico Cover




Chapter 3--The Healing Parts of the Prickly Pear Cactus

Very few plants in the botanical kingdom are a vegetable, fruit, flower, and, most importantly, a medicine. The prickly pear cactus is unique among cacti, and in fact among all plants, in that each part of the plant may be used for some healthful purpose. The fruit of the cactus--also known as the pulp or tuna--can be eaten much like other fruits. The pad is the source of many vitamins and minerals. The flowers, which grow from the fruit, are used as herbs. Each of these uses is detailed in the following sections.

Cactus Fruits

One of the tastiest parts of the prickly pear cactus is the fruit. Although low in calories, it is apt to satisfy the sweetest tooth and therefore makes an ideal treat for those watching their waistline. It is similar in shape to the kiwi and comes in its own convenient wrapper. It can be picked off the cactus and eaten raw or prepared in many different ways.

The most common preparations of the fruit are in the forms of beverages, syrups, candies, jellies, marmalades, barbecue sauce, and popsicles (see chapter 11). In the Caicos Islands and throughout various communities in Latin America, the fruit is used for making wine and other alcoholic beverages.

The common name for the prickly pear fruit is tuna. Other names for the fruit include Indian fig and cactus pear. The fruit is becoming increasingly available in the United States in grocery and specialty stores. When available, it is offered for sale both fresh and dried. In Israel, where exportation of the cactus fruits has grown into a large, commercially successful business, the fruit is referred to as a “sabrah.” Interestingly, the word sabrah is also used to identify a person born in the land of Israel. According to local folklore, like the prickly pear fruit, the people of Israel have a rough exterior but are tremendously sweet and soft inside.

Vitamin and Mineral Content

The fruit is packed with co-factors that boost immunity. It contains significant portions of the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains a large proportion of antioxidant compounds, including flavonoids, that help protect against cancer and are chiefly responsible for protecting the body against the oxidation of cholesterol, a subject that will be investigated in chapter 4. Like the pads (see below), the fruit is high in vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene and also vitamin C.

Medicinal Benefits

The fruits of the prickly pear have been under intense focus by researchers in recent years. Scientists have noted positive links between the consumption of the cactus fruit and its antihyperglycemic effects. In a study published by the International Journal of Pharmacognosy, researchers found that the daily intake of the prickly pear fruit yielded positive results in laboratory animals. For example, the Opuntia dillenii species of the fruit has exhibited a notable antidiabetic effect on rabbits. This species of fruit produced hypoglycemia in rabbits mainly by reducing intestinal absorption of glucose.

Studies conducted at the University of Arizona by Dr. Maria Luz Fernandez, one of the prickly pears key researchers, show the effects of diet on cholesterol metabolism. Her research includes the use of prickly pear pectin, a glutinous substance found in the cactus fruit. The results of the tests point to a decrease in plasma cholesterol, which is mainly a decrease in low-density lipoprotein. Other results also suggest that prickly pear pectin may modulate the bodys glucose response.

Cactus Pads

The nutritional content of the fruit of the prickly pear is only surpassed by the nutritional content of the prickly pears pads.

Vitamin and Mineral Content

The modest cactus pads of the prickly pear are a storehouse of nutrients. They include a healthy dose of the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. They are also particularly high in the dietary antioxidant vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) in levels comparable to spinach, and high in the antioxidant vitamin C.

Antioxidants are agents that restrict the deleterious effects of oxidant reactions within the body. Daily intake of antioxidants has shown to be effective in preventing the oxidation of arterial cholesterol and reversing arterial damage. In chapter 4, I will explore the role of antioxidants on plasma LDL cholesterol concentrations.

Amino Acids

The pads also contain a full range of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, including the eight essential amino acids not manufactured by the body. The benefits of amino acid consumption are far-reaching, as protein is involved in multiple chemical interactions within the body. It is extremely rare that a plant source provides such a high and broad composition of amino acids as the prickly pear. Its utility as a nutritional, high-fiber, low-fat food is amplified by this unique and exquisite amino acid profile. Vegans and vegetarians who rely on legumes such as soybeans and peas to fulfill their protein requirements will find in the nopal pads a high-quality source of protein.

Medicinal Benefits

According to Charles W. Weber, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona, perhaps the most important component in the cactus is its dietary soluble fiber, which comes especially in the mucilage and pectin.1 Mucilage is the sticky juice that oozes from the pad when it is sliced. In medical circles, this sticky substance is referred to as mucilaginous polysaccharide. Interestingly, the polysaccharides are the primary active ingredient of other popular immune-stimulating herbs such as aloe vera, echinacea, astragalus, and Oriental mushrooms.

Other recent medical studies on the prickly pear cactus pads have explored and verified their use as an “antidiabetic” remedy. Studies published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology and Diabetes Care have documented the effectiveness of prickly pear pad use in the treatment of individuals with type II diabetes. Results of the studies have yielded strong positive results showing a noticeable hypoglycemic effect in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).

Product Details

Knishinsky, Ran
Inner Traditions International
del Fabro, Paola Fiora
del Fabro, Dick
Ran Knis
Herbal Medications
Alternative Therapies
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
7.60x4.90x.50 in. .40 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Alternative
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Herbal Medicine

Usos Medicos del Nopal: Tratamientos Para La Diabetes, El Colesterol y El Sistema Inmunologico New Trade Paper
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Product details 160 pages Inner Traditions International - Spanish 9781594773549 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The prickly pear cactus is destined to be the next big herbal superstar, following in the footsteps of St. John's wort and Echinacea, according to author Ran Knishinsky. Traditionally used as a panacea for over 100 ailments, it has also been the subject of blood cholesterol research sponsored by the American Heart Association.
"Synopsis" by , La primera guía completa a los usos y las propiedades naturales de sanación del nopal

• Examina las investigaciones científicas que promueven el nopal como un remedio natural para la diabetes y el colesterol y analiza además su uso en el tratamiento de la obesidad, los trastornos gastrointestinales, las afecciones de la piel y las infecciones virales

• Incluye 24 recetas con el nopal, desde el pan de tuna hasta el caramelo de nopal

El nopal --una planta que tiene la distinción de ser al mismo tiempo hortaliza, fruta y flor-- está destinado a ser la próxima gran superestrella de los remedios botánicos, como lo han sido la hierba de San Juan y la equinácea. Desde hace cientos de años ha sido un alimento básico en las dietas de los pueblos de la región suroeste de los Estados Unidos, del Oriente Medio, partes de Europa y África y América Central y del Sur, y se ha utilizado como panacea para más de cien dolencias distintas. Más recientemente, ha sido objeto de pruebas e investigaciones relacionadas con el nivel de colesterol en sangre, patrocinadas por la Asociación Estadounidense de Cardiología, y se utiliza en el tratamiento de la obesidad, trastornos gastrointestinales y afecciones de la piel. El libro contiene una sección en la que se detallan los productores de alimentos naturales que distribuyen el nopal, así como un capítulo de recetas en el que se presentan 24 platos tradicionales y modernos en los que se utilizan las tunas y nopales.

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