|Author: ||M.A. Nazareno|
|Keywords: ||pigments, vitamins, antioxidants, functional properties, betalains, polyphenols, mucilage|
A review of the latest world-wide findings from scientific studies about the medicinal properties of cactus products is presented as well as their traditional and popular uses.
Plants were used by ancient civilizations to cure diseases and heal wounds for thousands of years.
Cactus cladodes, fruits, and flowers have been traditionally used as medicines in several countries.
Cladodes are still used in folk medicine for the treatment of gastric ulcer and for its healing activity as therapeutic agents.
The properties of the infusions of cactus dried flowers to prevent prostate cancer are also well-known.
Remarkable progress has been made over the past decades in disease prevention considering fruit, vegetables and herbs.
Recent scientific investigations confirmed that cactus products may be efficiently used as a source of phytochemicals, such as mucilage, fibres, pigments and antioxidants.
Scientific studies in experimental models confirmed that lyophilized cladodes have significant anti-ulcer effect, protective effect against gastric lesions as well as anti-inflammatory activity.
Diet supplementation with cactus pear fruits in healthy human has shown to decrease the oxidative stress, and, therefore, improves their overall antioxidant status.
Cactus pear fruits have also been studied as ovarian-cancer preventive.
Their ability in suppressing carcinogenesis of in vitro and in vivo models has been assessed. Opuntia ficus-indica cladodes were supplied to hypercholesterolemic rats and a marked decrease in cholesterol and triglycerides levels was found in plasma samples.
Experiments in diabetes mellitus non-insulin-dependent patients have confirmed the hypoglycemic effects of Opuntia streptacantha cladodes.
Moreover, consumption of cactus young cladodes has shown to reduce obesity and blood glucose.
Experiments concerning the antiviral action of cactus cladode extracts have been conducted against viruses such as herpes, HIV-1 virus and influenza A. Functional properties of cactus products can be exploited more efficiently in the food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries if research is encouraged.
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