This time of year, in the desert, when magenta colored fruits begin to replace yellow blossoms on top of green cactus pads. Even though you see these prickley pear or nopal cactus in Israel, it is not a native. It's only native to the southwestern United States down through Mexico. It was spread to other hot and dry parts of the world during the colonial age. On it's home turf, north america, the plant was really important to ancient Native American cultures. Aztec legend states that Aztec civilization, started at the foot of prickly pear cactus stand. The story goes that a group of Aztec men saw an eagle perched in a prickly pair cactus with a snake in it's beak. The eagle had overcome the snake.
They took this as an omen that they too would overcome their adversaries, and in reverence for the vision they built their capital on the site of the vision. The prickly pear fruit is a rich source of magnesium, and the amino acid taurine, nutrients important to brain, and heart health. Prickly pear cactus is a rich source of flavanoids. These flavanoids are responsible for its health-enhancing benefits. Traditional Indian tribes have used prickly pear cactus as a food item, and a medicinal plant for centuries. The desert climate makes agriculture difficult in the absence of irrigation technologies. Out of necessity, prickly pear cactus was used as a food item by ancient Indian tribes. It has been used to make jellies, soups, pickles, and even cheese type products. Medicinally, prickly pear cactus has been used to heal superficial wounds, like cuts, and scrapes. Like Aloe Vera, it is usually applied topically.
Not surprisingly, recently athletes have turned to prickly pear cactus to get more energy in the gym, to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness, to speed recovery and to reduce the chances of getting DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Prickly pear extract has proven remarkably useful as an ergogenic recovery aide. In addition to its effects on exercise and recovery, prickly pear cactus has shown promise as a diabetes treatment. Clinical trials have shown that it helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and is effective for the treatment of type-2 diabetes. The effects of prickly pear cactus on alcohol consumption are equally impressive. I see also that research has shown that it can help reduce the effects of excessive alcohol consumption because of it's ability to cut inflammation. Anyone can benefit from supplementing with prickly pear cactus, but especially diabetics, the obese, and athletes. You can buy the pads at small markets, and cut them up for your salads, or eat the fruits or jellies made from them. The fruit of the nopal cactus, tastes like a cross between bubblegum and watermelon. As always if under a doctors care or prescription medications check with your doctor. Otherwise give this ancient plant a try, and power up a workouts, speed your recovery, and detox your body. Good Luck...
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