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The Nopal is nothing but the plant that is scientifically classified with the name of Opuntia ficus, that is the prickly pear, native of Mexico, but very frequent on the Italian and Mediterranean coasts. In ancient times, this plant with tasty fruits and covered with thorns was considered sacred by the populations of central America and especially by the Aztecs. Today, while the fruits are eaten fresh, cactus blades and flowered tips are used in herbal medicine as natural remedies for those who want to keep their weight under control. The nopal, in fact, rich in vitamins A, B and C, and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium, has a hypoglycemic effect and acts on the metabolism of sugars and fats. In practice, the plant extracts of this plant belonging to the Succulent family, act on the sugars capturing them once ingested and favoring their elimination. The benefits of nopal they also reside in its draining, diuretic and satiating properties that make it the right complement for those who follow a low-calorie diet. Like other natural remedies, even the nopal it can be used in conjunction with other substances for specific needs related to weight loss and blood sugar control.
In Nopal, or prickly pear, it is a succulent plant that grows mainly in arid and sandy areas and is able to withstand drought. It is not a case, in fact, that it has developed and spread in hot countries where, when fully ripe, it grows to a height between 3 and 5 meters. Like the other succulents, this plant has a particular structure: the leaves are rare and very small, while the stem is made up of shovels, or modified stems, oval and flat. On the blades there is a slightly oily layer which acts as a protection against external agents and animals. The edible part is the fruit, colorful and full of seeds, excellent to taste without peel and above all cold. The Nopal, or prickly pear, tends to grow in an epsponential manner so as to be considered a weed capable of modifying some Mediterranean landscapes with its excessive proliferation. Of this plant that grows spontaneously, the blades and inflorescences are mainly used as natural remedies.
The main characteristic of the nopal which makes it suitable as an adjunct to low-calorie diets is certainly the presence of soluble and insoluble fibers that help both to reduce the absorption of sugars and fats, but also to increase the sense of satiety. The officinal effects, in fact, are attributed to the great presence of a mucilage, the opuntiamannan, especially in the blades. This element allows the capture of fats and sugars after they have been ingested and helps eliminate them through intestinal transit. The mucilage has a beneficial effect not only for those on a diet, but also for those who need to control blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. In fact, this plant also helps to transform LDL cholesterol, which is considered "bad"; in HDL cholesterol. Nopal, therefore, is indicated both for those who want to control weight, but also for those suffering from hypertension and other cardiovascular problems and related to the metabolism of sugars. It is in the pulp of the dried plant that most of the polysaccharides suitable for controlling sugars and weight are concentrated. Nopal, however, can also be used as a natural soothing for wounds and rashes: fresh leaves, without skin and without thorns, can be applied to the injured part. When the leaf begins to turn white it means that it has exerted its healing effect and surely the first benefits will be noticed. Even the fresh fruits of the plant, once deprived of their skin and thorns, have excellent properties: they contain many mineral salts, and are therefore ideal for replenishing the fluids lost through physical effort or heat, but they are also excellent and tasty remedies for those suffering from constipation.
Nopal is found in herbal medicine under different formulations. This plant can be taken alone or with other natural remedies depending on the effect you want to have. In trade, nopal is sold in the form of dried extract in tablets, tablets, capsules and capsules. The dosage obviously varies according to the amount of extract present in the product, but in general it is recommended to take 1000 mg of extract before the main meals. The nopal has no contraindications, but it is better to avoid the simultaneous oral intake of glycemic control drugs. It is best to avoid this remedy even if you take the anti-conventional pill during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Of this beautiful plant you can also eat fresh shovels in a salad: a typical dish of the areas of central America, but which can be reproduced here in Italy. The Nopal can be purchased as a dry herbal extract at a price of about 10/15 euros, it can be collected to use it fresh (better to wear special gloves) or buy its sweet and tasty fruits in supermarkets, especially in the summer season. In addition, fresh flowers can be used as an infusion, leaving them 10 minutes in boiling water, to combat intestinal disorders and respiratory tract inflammation.