What is it?
Prickly pear cactus is a fruit native to Mexico with growing support as a hangover cure from the scientific community as well as a treatment for diabetes.
What symptoms does it cure?
- Overall hangover severity
- Nausea & sickness
- Dry mouth
Where can I get it?
Prickly pear can be bought from health shops and online as a plant, oil or capsules.
Prickly pear cactus fruit goes by several different names including barbary fig, nopal cactus fruit and it’s latin name Opuntia ficus-indica. The Prickly Pear is native to Mexico and the young plants commonly feature in diets of people in this region; with it’s juice used in sweets and jellies.
As well as being an ingredient used for sweet treats, the Prickly Pear has a number of health benefits and is used in the treatment of type II diabetes because it contains fiber and pectin which lower blood glucose and the absorption of sugar into the intestine and stomach. The cactus fruit is considered by some researchers as possessing qualities that can help kill viruses and reduce cholesterol levels.
The benefits of the prickly pear also extend to treating alcoholic hangovers, with studies that have found that overall hangover severity was reduced by taking Opuntia ficus-indica extract. Such is the confidence in Prickly Pear Cactus fruit as a hangover cure, a patent was filed in 2010 for a beverage containing an aqueous formulation of cactus fruit extract created to treat hangovers.
What the Science Says
A study by Wiese et al. (2004) at the University of California used a double-blind, placebo controlled method to investigate the effects of Opuntia ficus-indica plant extract (OFI) on hangover symptoms. The researchers randomly assigned 64 young adult participants to receive a dose of OFI or a placebo before drinking 1.75g of alcohol per kilogram of body weight over a 4 hour period.
Participants in the study were then assessed for nine symptoms of a hangover. Wiese and colleagues found that OFI significantly reduced overall hangover severity and was particularly effective in reducing symptoms of nausea and dry mouth. The authors posit that hangovers occur because of inflammation associated with impurities in the alcohol.
The study provides strong evidence in support of OFI as an effective treatment for hangovers, concluding that taking OFI extract before drinking alcohol reduced overall hangover severity by half.
Wiese, J., McPherson, S., Odden, M. C., & Shlipak, M. G. (2004). Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. Archives of Internal Medicine, 164(12), 1334-1340.