For many centuries, native people have relied on the nopal cactus, which is native to the Sonoran Desert, for food and medicine, and today science is beginning to understand just how beneficial this cactus really is.
It has been used in wound healing for its soothing and astringent properties and as a lowering agent for blood glucose and ‘bad’ cholesterol, but perhaps its most beneficial effect is in reducing the body’s inflammation, wherever it occurs.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural response to harmful stimuli, which can take many forms, and is a necessary component of healing.
Inflammation brings the body’s tools of healing into play whenever we are injured or exposed to harmful agents, like pathogens or irritants.
Inflammation is composed of five critical elements – pain, heat, redness, swelling and in some cases, loss of function – due to the rushing of blood and lymph to the site of irritation and release of chemicals that stimulate nerve endings.
Such inflammation is a critical part of response to injury and pathogens from outside the body. However, a great deal of our inflammation is chronic, often caused by the stresses of life.
Chronis inflammation can lead to diseases and debilitating conditions. It becomes crucial to find antidotes to stress and inflammation in order to remain or healthy, or return to health.
Ancient Indians learned that application of the flesh of nopal cactus pads on wounds and aching joints could reduce inflammation. They learned, through experience, that ingestion of the flesh of the pads and of the fruit, along with the fruit’s juice, taken internally as well as rubbed on painful areas, quickly reduced the redness, heat and pain of wounds, burns, rheumatism and other conditions.
One of the main ingredients found in the nopal cactus is a form of antioxidant called betalain. Originally discovered in beets, betalains are responsible for the deep red color found in beets, Swiss chard, amaranth and in the prickly pear cactus. There are 24 types of betalains, and they are all present in the nopal cactus, making it a prime source for antioxidants.
You’ve heard that it is important to include colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet; that’s because plant pigments, betalains included, act as antioxidants, neutralizing the bad effects of oxidation in our bodies. Oxidation is a natural process, but it releases certain molecules as a by-product, the ‘free radicals’ that cause aging and deterioration, a kind of rust or chronic inflammation.
Antioxidants bind these radical molecules so they cannot damage tissues, thereby reducing aging and deterioration. The nopal cactus health juice is bursting with antioxidants.
Today, we are exposed to many environmental toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink and bathe in, and the foods we eat. There is no way to avoid much of the toxic nature of modern life. We can, however, learn to moderate our stress through natural means like yoga, and to mitigate the effects of environmental toxins by choosing wisely what we ingest.
A new product is available which blends science with delicious-tasting fruits and vegetables into a modern ‘health juice’ called Nopalea, by TriVita. This juice is based on the juice of the prickly pear cactus fruit, and includes extracts and concentrates from numerous natural plants that boost the health-giving components of Nopalea above that of nopal cactus health juice alone. This drink has been shown to be helpful in reducing inflammation in the body. If you are seeking relief from chronic pain and inflammation, Nopalea could be the remedy you seek.