By Kris Vaughan, CH
Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii) is a cactus that grows abundantly in almost every area of the American Southwest and there are healing properties in the flowers as well as the pads. When I am out hiking or camping I make sure to locate these plants wherever I go in case of an emergency but the best is when they grow in your own backyard.
Wound & Sunburn Care
The Prickly Pear pulp applied externally is very anti-inflammatory and it keeps unorganized cellular fluids from building up in damaged tissues making this a perfect choice for sprains, strains, broken bones and sunburns. Applying poultices of the pulp over these types of injuries will relieve pain, reduce swelling and bruising, and speed the healing of the tissue. The pulp is also a great drawing agent and will pull toxins, venom of bites, and even splinters out of a wound allowing it to heal.
Prickly Pear is a natural sunscreen and is a great option when you are stuck outside for extended periods of time. The SPF is only about 10 so you would need to reapply often by rubbing the pulp of the pad over your skin. If you are already sunburned, the cooling and anti-inflammatory nature of the prickly pear will be very soothing and pain relieving, much like aloe vera.
Blood Sugar Management
The roasted pulp of the Prickly Pear is high in soluble fiber, which slows the uptake of dietary sugars, and it increases cellular sensitivity to insulin. Taken before meals, Prickly Pear reduces blood sugar concentrations by 20-30% according to Charles W. Kane author of Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest. Caution: Do not use this if you have IDDM (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus)
You can purchase Prickly Pear pads in many grocery stores, or you can harvest your own if you have them growing in your yard. Reconnecting to traditional ways of caring for our health is fun and liberating and empowers us to develop a deep connection to our surroundings.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner. Kris Vaughan is a certified clinical herbalist and herbalism educator in Prescott Valley. Kris is the Founder and Program Director of Herbal Wisdom Institute, teaching traditional herbalism for a modern world. (928)239-5117 www.herbalwisdominstitute.com