There are currently around 150 species of prickly pear in the world. These perennial plants are a type of cactus that was originally grown in the Americas. One of the best-known species is fig prickly, which is credited with healing and slimming properties. 

Prickly pear fig called Indian fig (Opuntia ficus-indica) was imported from America to Europe most likely by Christopher Columbus (convinced that he came to India, hence the misleading term suggesting the Indian origin of this plant). Currently, fig prickly can also be found in Australia, in the Mediterranean and in India. The characteristic features of this plant include strongly branched leaves formed from stems, with a fleshy texture and a flat shape. Spikes cover them. 

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Prickly pear prickly as a cultivated plant 

Prickly pear prickly is grown mainly due to fruit with an oval and slightly elongated shape. During puberty they change color from green to red. The fruit of the fig prickly is very hard and covered with characteristic bracts. Just below it is a very juicy pulp with fine seeds. Fruits of fig prick are very popular mainly due to the content of vitamins A (beta carotene), C and E, vitamins B1 and B6 and numerous minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, and in smaller amounts of other macro- and micronutrients (including iron , sodium, magnesium, potassium). Fig Opuntia fruit is also a source of fiber. 

Rich chemical composition and toxic character 

The chemical composition of fig pear fruit includes not only the above-mentioned ingredients but also sugars, organic acids, alkaloids, lactones and terpenes as well as flavonoids with antioxidant properties. Such varied chemical composition prompts to consider the potential toxic effects of this plant on the human body. Various preparations are produced from fig fruit. In general, consumers tolerate them well, which is why prickly pear prune is considered to be non-toxic. However, some people may have disturbing symptoms such as 

– nausea 

– diarrhea 

– headaches 

– feeling of fullness 

Despite the risk of such symptoms of fig prickly pear, healing properties are assigned. In the light of current medical knowledge, the plant is anti-inflammatory and analgesic. In addition, it is attributed to its protective properties against the nervous system, antiviral and antioxidant effects. In addition, fig prickly belongs to the group of plants that can be effective in the field of antidiabetic prophylaxis. Prickly pear prune can trigger a lactogenic effect (milk-producing). The problem is that the use of preparations containing it during pregnancy and breastfeeding could adversely affect the health of the child. Research in this area was not carried out, so it is better to blow on cold and not risk. 

Studies in mice and anti-cancer activity 

Like many other plants with antioxidant (antioxidant) activity, fig prune has been tested for the possibility of its use in cancer therapy and prophylaxis. Laboratory tests were carried out with the participation of mice. Researchers have been able to show that fig fruit extract can inhibit cervical cancer cell proliferation, bladder cancer and ovarian cancer in vitro. The plant extract may also induce a cellular process that ultimately leads to the elimination of the effects of the genetic mutation in ovarian cancer growth. In other words, according to scientists studying the prickly pear extract, a plant substance can lead to inhibition of ovarian cancer. 

We have known the healing properties of prickly pear for years 

The healing effect of fig prickly pear is not the discovery of the twenty-first century. For many centuries, they have been used to treat asthma, liver cirrhosis caused by alcohol abuse, stomach ulcers and gastroenteritis. Prickly pear can also help people who suffer from indigestion. The fig leaf contains mucus, which counteracts the adverse effects of ethanol on liver cells. Pectins, a type of water soluble fiber, support the natural process of regeneration of the mucous membrane of the digestive system. 

The use of fig opuntia in the field of alternative medicine is very wide and concerns not only internal but also external use in the form of compresses. Such natural characteristics are used, among others in the treatment of rheumatism, burns, wounds and chronic skin diseases. Nowadays, fig prune is successfully used in the field of phytotherapy. 

Prickly pear prune relieves the symptoms of a hangover 

The use of fig opuntia extract nowadays is associated with the production of preparations with various effects. One example is measures to relieve hangover symptoms such as 

– nausea 

– headaches 

– anorexia 

– dizziness 

– dry mouth 

The prickly pear extract is a common ingredient in this type of preparation. The beneficial effect of fig prickly pear in this range may be due to its natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Research on rabbits and slimming properties 

The potential for slimming action of fig prick appeared when rabbits were given an aqueous solution of 2 ml per 1 kg body weight extract from the prickly leaves. The study lasted for 3 months, and after its completion, the researchers noted the following changes 

– reduction of overall body weight 

– reduction in liver weight 

– lowering cholesterol 

– reduction of triglyceride levels 

– low blood glucose 

For comparison, the second group of rabbits was given the same amount of placebo for the same period. However, they did not have such beneficial effects as in the group of animals that received fig prickly pear. 

After the publication of these results, research was carried out into the possibility of using fig leaf pearls in the treatment of syndrome X. A group of women who had features of the metabolic syndrome were given capsules containing powdered, dried opuntia leaves. The dose of the preparation was 1.6 g for each meal consumed. As a result, a reduction in LDL cholesterol in the blood and triglycerides was observed, as well as an increase in the level of HDL called good cholesterol. At some of the participants after the experiment, the features of the metabolic syndrome were no longer found. 

Another experiment was focused on examining weight loss in women using preparations containing fig prickly extract. Participants of the experiment took 12 grams of the extract per day for 12 weeks. As a result, the body weight decreased on average by 2.4 kg compared with the group that took placebo. 

Lipophilic fiber – the secret of slimming properties of prickly pear 

Prickly pear prone to slimming but not because it burns fat only, it has the ability to bind fat from food in the digestive tract. The fat is not absorbed, it is only expelled. Valuable fats are essential for our bodies for many life processes, so slimming with fat binding is not a good idea. Thus, the caloric value of a consumed and assimilated meal is reduced, but we deprive ourselves of the nutritional value of fat. Lipophilic fiber is extracted from the Opuntia prunus extract patented as NeOpuntia. The dietary fibers contained in this fiber irreversibly bind part of the fat molecules introduced into the gastrointestinal tract. As a result of this process, a gel is formed that prevents further digestion of fat. 

Summary 

Opuntia prunus is used in various industry sectors – in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and food industries. However, in order for it to be curative or slimming, it must be dosed in the right amounts and form. The studies were conducted using the extract, not the fruit of the plant. Adding it in the form of aromas (eg for tea) will not make this product have slimming or healing properties. The same should be treated with fig opuntia jams – these are not measures to support slimming. Another condition to take advantage of slimming properties of this plant is the appropriate time of taking the preparations. They must be used for at least a few weeks and at therapeutic doses recommended by the manufacturer.

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