In the last part of the 20th century, conventional medicine dismissed a lot of folk remedies as quackery. In the 21st century, however, scientists have discovered that some of the supposedly ridiculous notions that people had about natural products might actually hold up. One of those is that nopal cactus can help people keep their blood sugar under control.

Does Nopal Cactus Have Medicinal Properties?

Q. What do you know about the medicinal properties of nopal cactus?

A. Nopal or prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) has been a staple of the Mexican diet for centuries. The fleshy pads are eaten as vegetables and are high in fiber and nutrients (vitamins A, C, K, B6 and riboflavin).

Nopal Cactus for Blood Sugar Control:

Years ago a family practice physician wrote us that his diabetic patient was able to control his blood sugar better when he drank tea made from nopal pads. Animal research demonstrates that Opuntia (a different species) can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol (Nutrition Research, June, 2011). Young, tender pads appear to have the greatest effect on blood sugar (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Nov. 20, 2013). Another animal study found that an extract of nopal cactus flowers protected against stomach ulcers caused by alcohol (Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, Nov. 2011). that

Research in people with type 2 diabetes shows that adding nopal leaves or powdered nopal to breakfast can reduce the spikes of blood sugar and insulin that otherwise occur after the meal (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nov. 2014). Another study compared a product made from Opuntia pads (OpunDia) to placebo in overweight volunteers with pre-diabetes (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Aug. 9, 2010). The product lowered blood sugar after a glucose challenge, indicating that nopal cactus itself may have similar properties.

Other Ways to Control Blood Sugar Naturally:

If you are interested in other natural approaches to improving blood sugar control we suggest two books: Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy which has a comprehensive chapter on diabetes and glucose control. You will learn about a low-carbohydrate diet, cinnamon, vitamin D, metformin, Actos and other ways to help improve blood sugar.

The other book is from National Geographic, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. In this book you will learn more about our favorite foods and in particular about bitter melon, cinnamon, coffee, fenugreek mustard, nuts and vinegar for better blood sugar control.

photo credit: Diógenes ;) cc cropped

Revised 4/25/16

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  1. Mary

    I live in Mexico and have been using nopal capsules with meals for about 5 years.
    My blood sugar has remained pretty stable as long as I am consistent.

    I do also take chromium in the morning.

    • Mary

      P.S. Nopal also helps with constipation.

  2. Dallee

    I tried Nopal but, within a short time of starting to use it, tan splotches started appearing on my skin, particularly my lower legs (I am Caucasian). I discontinued the use. and it took well over 6 months before they disappeared.

    It may not be relevant but I am allergic to aloe.

    Do watch for unexpected side effects is my advice.

  3. S H

    A friend of ours moved his family to southern Mexico. He told us that down in southern Mexico people take the cactus in pill form, as well as eat it with their meals like we would a pickle or onion, etc. His doctor had him on cactus for high glucose and it works.
    There are supplements at our local healthfood store that has cactus in it (bloodsugar control), etc.

  4. NC

    I would like to know where I could buy some of these capsules, if in capsule form?

  5. JP

    I started taking cactus juice last week. There has been a very noticeable drop in my blood glucose (it usually runs high and I’m on the insulin pump). There is also a very noticeable drop in the joint pain I have had throughout my entire body for several years. So far, so good.

  6. mlw

    I am a 67 year old female with type 2 diabetes. Controlling it has been a daily challenge. I PRICK MY FINGERS 7X/day for good control for some reason my early glucose is for the most part high even though at bedtime my reading are perfect.
    What is this condition called and why does this occur? I would like to improve fasting glucose levels Please help! thanks mlw

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