Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica).

Plant Part Used: Cactus pad (leaf-stem).

Dominican Medicinal Uses: The fresh cactus pad is traditionally prepared as a juice taken orally for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ailments and indigestion. The gel from inside the leaf-stem is typically applied topically for wound-healing.

Safety: The cactus pad and fruit are widely consumed and generally considered safe. Caution is advised during handling due to sharp spines and glochids which cover the surface; these spiny projections should be removed before use. Cases of contact dermatitis have been reported.

Contraindications: Contraindicated in individuals with a history of allergy or hypersensitivity to Opuntia and other cactus species. Due to lack of available data, avoid use during pregnancy or breastfeeding and in small children.

Drug Interactions: Besides potential synergistic effects with drugs that share similar biological activities to this plant (see “Laboratory and Preclinical Data”), particularly diabetes and blood-sugar modulating medications, insufficient information has been identified on herb-drug interactions in the available literature.

Clinical Data: The following effects of this plant have been investigated in human clinical trials: anti-hangover, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-lipid peroxidation.

Laboratory & Preclinical Data: The following activities of this plant have been shown in laboratory and preclinical studies: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, chondroprotective, gastro-protective, hypoglycemic, immunomodulatory, neuroprotective, radical scavenging and wound-healing.

* See entry for Alquitira in “Part 3: Dominican Medicinal Plant Profiles” of this book for more information, including references.

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