The cactus, specially edible cactus Opuntia ficus-indica are originated in the deserts of Mexico, particularly in semi-arid and dry lands of northern Mexico. Cactus is a modified evergreen plant that grows easily under semi-arid and desert climates. Cactus’s part that we eat, are actually flat, oval, and pad-shape stems which many people think that is leaves. Its segmented stems stack one over the other in odd angles arising directly from the root. The paddles surface is covered with sharp spines (golchids) at the nodes. Attractive blooms begin to appear during spring the edge of pads, which subsequently develop into pear shaped delicious cactus fruits. The fruit, commonly known as prickly pear, is actually popular in the whole Latin world as “TUNA”. Each tuna fruit measures about 5cm in diameter and weigh about 75-100g. Sweet and juicy, their taste is somewhat reminiscent of watermelon and strawberry.

Nopal Cactus contains 18 Amino acids

1) Alanine 10) Lysine
2) Arginine 11) Methionine
3) Aspartic Acid
12) Phenylalanine
4) Cystine 13) Proline
5) Glutamic Acid
14) Serine
6) Glycine
15) Threonine
7) Histidine
16) Tryptopha
8) Leucine
17) Tyrosine
9) Isoleucine
18) Valine

Nopal Cactus contains 15 Potent PhytonutrientsNopal Cactus contains 10 Minerals: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Zinc.Nopal Cactus contains 8 vitamins: Vitamin A, Thiamin(B1), Rivoflavin(B2)Niacin(B3), Pyridoxine(B6), Ascorbic Acid(C), Vitamin E, FolateNopal Cactus contains special anti-oxidant, Betalains, Soluble and Insoluble Fiber as Pectin, Gums, Mucilages, etc.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:Nopales (Opuntia ficus-indica ), raw pads,
Nutrition value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)


Botanical characteristics

Stem: The stem and branches are made of pads or cushions-like cladodes ovoid, flattened, attached to each other and can together reach 5 m high and 4 m in diameter. In Peru the most common varieties develop freight of about 1.5 m in height. The stem, unlike other species of cacti, consists of trunk and branches thick cuticle has flattened green photosynthetic function and water storage in the tissues.

Leaves: deciduous only observed on stems, when the renewal occurs pads, whose armpits are the areolas of which the spines emerge from about 4 to 5 mm. The leaves disappear when the leaves have reached a stage of development and in whose place are the thorns.

Flowers: The flowers are solitary, located at the top of the stalk, of 6-7 cm in length. Each areola usually produces a flower, but not in the same time of flowering, some may sprout the first year, others the second and third. The flowers open at 35-45 days of sprouting. Its petals are bright colors: yellow, orange, red, pink. Sepals numerous light yellow to reddish or white.

Fruit: The fruit is a berry polyspermous, fleshy, spherical ovoid, size and color vary by species, have thin and fragile spines 2-3 mm long. They are edible, tasty and sweet.

The fruit is cylindrical green and takes different colors when ripe, the flesh is gelatinous containing numerous seeds.


It lives in the desert areas of the U.S., Mexico and South America, in Peru and Bolivia. In Peru in the Andean region, where it grows spontaneously and abundantly. Also on the coast, in natural and cultivated.

It thrives in temperatures between 12-34 ° C, with an optimum range of 11-23 ° C and an average rainfall between 400-800 mm.

It develops in loose, sandy limestone on marginal lands and infertile, shallow, rocky soil characterizing him a broad tolerance, but heavy clay soils and wet are not suitable for cultivation.

It grows from sea level to 3,000 meters It reaches its best development between 1700-2500 masl

Historical reference

Native American, was taken by the Spanish to Europe and from there spread to other countries flooded. This wide geographical spread gave rise to many local features ecotypes own.

The major global producers are Mexico, Italy, Spain, North Africa Chile and Brazil, where it is cultivated for fodder only.

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 16 Kcal <1%
Carbohydrates 3.33 g 2.56%
Protein 1.32 g 2%
Total Fat 0.09 g <1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 2.2 g 5.5%
Folates 3 µg <1%
Niacin 0.410 mg 2.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.167 mg 3%
Pyridoxine 0.070 mg 6%
Riboflavin 0.041 mg 3%
Thiamin 0.012 mg 1%
Vitamin C 9.3 mg 15.5%
Vitamin A 457 IU 15%
Vitamin E 0.00 mg 0%
Vitamin K 5.3 µg 4.4%
Sodium 21 mg 1.5%
Potassium 257 mg 5.4%
Calcium 164 mg 16%
Copper 0.052 mg 6%
Iron 0.59 mg 7%
Magnesium 52 mg 13%
Manganese 0.457 mg 20%
Phosphorus 16 mg 3%
Selenium 0.7 µg 1%
Zinc 0.21 mg 5%
Carotene-ß 250 µg
Carotene-α 48 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg


Green Life International Presents Nopal Cactus, a wonder plant capable of helping to treat everything from diabetes to obesity and hangover.

The Nopal or Prickly Pear cactus is one of the world’s first domesticated plants. Nopal’s health benefits have been known for thousands of years by the indigenous people of the the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, California and Mexico, where it grows in one of the most hostile and inflamed climates on earth. Nopal has been intensely studied. Its therapeutic effect has been validated. NopalCactus, the scientific name of Opuntia Ficus-Indica, is a medicinal plant and food with a 12,000 year safety record. It has originated in the volcanic region of the desert Arizona and Mexico. Nopal has been serving mankind as a staple food and healing plant for thousands of years and therefore, many years before the Aztecs migrated to this Mesoamerican region. So central was Nopal to the many indigenous tribes of Mexico that they are the root of Mexico City’s Aztec name “Tenochtitlan” meaning “place of the cactus”. In case of drought, Nopal was the lifeblood of ancient cultures in Mexico for it was both food for the indigenous tribes and their livestock. Nopal was also used to soothe wounds and stiffen cloth, purify water and waterproof paint.

It strengthened mortar and was used fence off valued animals and to protect habitats from wild ones. Cattle that grazed on the Nopales were said to develop a special flavor to their meat and milk. There are two principal fresh food crops derived from the Nopal Opuntia Ficus Indica Cactus. One is the “Nopalito” that are the Nopal cactus pads or leaves and other crop is Nopal “Tuna” or the “prickly pear” fruit of the Nopal Cactus. In comparison with other plants, Nopal is high in nutrients that strengthen the liver and the pancreas. Nopales are very rich in insoluble and especially soluble dietary fiber (Lignan, Cellulose, Hemicellulose, Pectin, Mucilages, and Gum). They are also rich in vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, and C) and minerals (especially magnesium, potassium, and manganese, but also iron and copper). Nopales have high calcium content, but the nutrient is not biologically available because it is present as calcium oxalate, which is neither highly soluble nor easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. Addition of nopales  also reduces the glycemic effect of a mixed meal. Nopales are low carbohydrate and may help in the treatment of diabetes. Nopal is the only plant among tens of thousands of botanical species that contains all 24 of the known betalains, which are potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Although some grocers sell Nopal fruit, it tends to be expensive, and few people know about or buy it. Thus, betalains are almost entirely absent from the average diet (the only other common source is the red beet, which contains only a few betalains). In summary, Nopal cactus is high in dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B, minerals and betalains is considered a useful antioxidant. It is also high in pectin and mucilage, which are the two main components thought to aid in reduction of glucose and absorption in the intestinal tract. Even though, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not reviewed or evaluated claims of effectiveness of Nopal Cactus as a supplement, the Prickly pear cactus (Nopal) appears to be one of the most promising source of Diabetes Mellitus’s plant derived suppressants. In addition, the Nopal has demonstrated its use in altering and managing cholesterol levels. Regarding to side effects, Nopal cactus is thought to be safe and is commonly used as food in certain parts of the world. For most healthy adults there are no serious side effects of Nopal cactus.