Herb Of The Month: Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear (Nopal In Spanish; Opuntia In Latin)

Our herb of the month is an edible one, often eaten as a vegetable for its medicinal benefit. Prickly pear cactus is a ubiquitous sight throughout the Southwest, with a wider range of growth than most cacti species, and is a very attractive one now for its April display of yellow or pink flowers. The green pads are the most distinctive part of the plant. They are oval or marquis shape flattened and about a foot long. They grow end to end and are often at right angles to each other. For this unusual appearance, the plant is used in landscaping, and even as material for a fairly dense, impenetrable living fence, which is a popular form of property boundary throughout Latin America. Mexican cuisine features nopal as an accompaniment to eggs, or as dried nopalitos.

So where’s the medicine in all this? Prickly pear is a very useful food for diabetics, because the presence of prickly pear in a meal has been found to lower the glycemic index for the foods it accompanies. [1, 2]



  1. Lowering Effect on Postprandial Glycemic Response of Nopales Added to Mexican Breakfasts. Montserrat Bacardi-Gascon, MD, Dulce Dueñas-Mena, BSC and Arturo Jimenez-Cruz, MD. Diabetes Care. Publishined online February 26, 2007.
  2. The glycemic index of some foods common in Mexico (article in Spanish, abstract in English). Frati-Munari AC, Roca-Vides RA, López-Pérez RJ, de Vivero I, Ruiz-Velazco M. Gaceta Médica Mexicana. 1991 Mar-Apr;127(2):163-70; discussion 170-1.
About the Author

Dr. Colleen Huber

Dr. Colleen Huber is a licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor and Fellow of the Naturopathic Oncology Research Institute (NORI). She has an active natural cancer cancer clinic, where people come for treatment from all over the world because of her 90% success rate; the highest known cancer treatment success rate in the world. Dr. Huber graduated from and then taught at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe. Her blog contains articles about cancer, alternative cancer treatments, nutrition, and natural lifestyles. Many of these articles have appeared on mercola.com, the world’s most visited natural health website. Dr. Huber’s book, Choose Your Foods Like Your Life Depends On Them, has been featured on four Arizona TV appearances and she has been featured most recently in the book, Defeat Cancer: 15 Doctors of Integrative & Naturopathic Medicine Tell You How. Her groundbreaking and successful alternative cancer treatments and cancer prevention diet have been covered on Channel 3 and Channel 5 in Phoenix. Her academic writing and original research on sugar & cancer has appeared in The Lancet and other medical journals, and received media coverage around the U.S. and Europe. Dr. Huber is one of very few naturopathic physicians/naturopathic oncologists in the United States to have been granted hospital privileges with full scope of practice as licensed in the State of Arizona.

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