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Nopal: Benefits, Uses, Effects?

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Nopal: Benefits, Uses, Effects?
The OPUNTIA (NOPAL): A NATURAL AID IN THE TREATMENT OF OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY.

The genus Opuntia, belonging to the family of Cactaceae, includes about 300 species, including Opuntia ficus indica, or Prickly Pear, is considered the most famous and significant.
The name seems to derive from the ancient Greek city Opuntia Opus, corresponding to today's Atalanti, where it was believed in ancient times to grow plants similar to the Cactus, which really had nothing in common with the real Cactus, because these plants were shipped to Europe in 1500 after the discovery of America. The term Ficus Indica (ie Fico of India) seems, in fact, due to Christopher Columbus, who thought to have arrived in India, and has nothing in common with our Figs (Ficus carica, Moraceae family).

The Cactus comes from the greek word "kaktòs", with reference to certain species of thistles widespread in the Mediterranean area; the term became "cactus" in Latin, means According to Pliny, the Elder, scientist, naturalist, historian, who died in 79 AD under the eruption of Vesuvius, the author of the impressive nature encyclopedic work that made him famous, the "Naturalis Historia", consisting of thirty-seven volumes.

The Opuntia term was first used by Pliny the Elder, but to indicate a genus of plants, different from the actual prickly pear, actually probably imported from the West Indies and known as Indian fig; The term was later Opuntia maintained and assigned to Opuntiae Central America, the famous Scottish botanist Philip Miller in 1752.

Opuntia ficus indica is a succulent plant arborescent, up to 4-5 meters high, native to Mexico (still in the Mexican coat of arms shows the Prickly Pear), from which it spread throughout Central America since the time the Maya, the Aztecs and the Incas, who considered a sacred plant, and the subject of trade off, because it is necessary for the production of the Carmine: the Dactylopius coccus is an insect pest of Prickly Pear from whose body is dried extracts the Carmine Red, a valuable natural colorant also marketed by these people, who used to dye the robes of nobles and warriors.

Cladodes (pads) Today Opuntia ficus Indica is well naturalized in all temperate zones of the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and in warm regions of the Mediterranean basin, where it grows on the slopes feral arid and sunny, often associated with the broom and cistus, or form impenetrable hedges that surround fields of grasses, olive, vine, or orchard, as it acts as a barrier and wind deflector can be a valid obstacle to the spread of fire.
The Prickly Pear is a particularly favorable habitats in Sardinia, Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, where he is also the subject of crops, as well as in Spain and North Africa, for the exploitation of its edible fruits, the flesh delicately sweet, rich minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, and vitamin C.
Everywhere, its fruits are intended for use as human, but also of some animals, such as cattle and pigs especially, who do not fear her little thorns, these glochids, equipped with tiny hooks which, in contact with skin, there are implanted becoming difficult to remove.

The prickly pear has a particular structure, characterized by large spate oblong and flattened, thick and fleshy, called cladodes or pale, glaucous-green color, which is attributed to misuse the name of the leaves: they are instead of drums metamorphosed, operating photosynthesis vicariando the function of true leaves, turned into leathery and prickly taper pins 1-2 cm in which the blades are scattered, creating a defense against predators. There are also varieties of Opuntia helpless, that is devoid of spines hard and leathery, but not of glochids, which are always present.
Cladodes (blades) are covered by a thick waxy cuticle, which has the task to limit perspiration, a characteristic typical of all succulent plants, useful to resist heat and drought in hot, arid climates of their habitat ; basal cladodes after a few years lignify to make more robust structure, assuming the appearance of real logs.

Prickly pear - Spinei cladodes are known by the name of Nopal (from "nopalli", which in the ancient Aztec language, the nauatl means leaves), and used as food in Mexican cuisine, after being roasted on hot plates, once cleaned thoroughly by the thorns. The internal parenchyma rich in water, formed by layers of cells that act as a reserve of the precious liquid to the plant, is consumed in the fresh state, after being deprived of the thick cuticle and spines, as a kind of vegetable, or sliced ​​and preserved in brine, pickled, candied, such as jam, juice, or more rarely dried.
'll Discuss shortly what is the importance of Nopal in modern herbalism.

The fruit of the prickly pear is an ovoid berry weighing about 150 grams, green when unripe, which varies during the stages of ripeness, from green to golden-yellow to orange-red when ripe until to garnet red in some varieties.
It contains many seeds reniform, hard and woody, surrounded by a mucilaginous pulp sweet and aromatic, which is the edible part, once released from the fruit peel sprinkled with thick bundles of glochids point, the tiny hooked thorns that you need to do a lot of attention, because poorly anchored to the substrate on which they grow, and then come off easily.

Opuntia - fruttoI fruits ripen and become edible at the end of August; it should be used after the first summer showers that hydrating the fruit, make it more mellow and pleasant. The cultivated varieties are always pretty meaty, but the watering when the plant is subjected during cultivation, in order to increase production, make it, in my opinion, the taste of these fruits, which become very large (up to 400 grams!), Very less sweet and aromatic, almost "watered down" compared to the fruits of wild plants.
With the fruit of the prickly pear can be prepared very delicate and pleasing jellies, and remove the seeds with a strainer; they are also used for the production of juices, liquors and syrups.
We must not abuse the consumption of the fruits of the prickly pear: the abundance of woody seeds can form in the large intestine a very compact bolus, which can cause constipation, and, in extreme cases, even an intestinal blockage. These fruits are not recommended for those suffering from diverticulosis, should be consumed in moderate amounts, accompanied by copious amounts of water, which, moisturizing cuticle gelatinous covering the seeds, making them less agglutinabili.

In addition to fruits, as mentioned earlier, are used as food even young cladodes, or blades, whose gelatinous pulp is a source of soluble and insoluble fiber, mucilage, pectin, vitamin A, C, B vitamins, amino acids and numerous minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium.

Opuntia - fiorela herbal medicine has discovered relatively recently the importance of Nopal in the treatment of overweight and obesity, since the dehydrated pulp that is extracted from the blades has a high content of Opuntiamannano, rich in polysaccharides, which you have the ability to bind fats and sugars ingested, thus making them less assimilable for the body, which eliminates them without being able to use.
The Opuntiamannano, along with pectin, also gives a feeling of satiety and thus helps to follow more controlled and balanced diet; also helps reduce the amount of sugar in the blood, avoiding blood sugar spikes, and maintaining adequate levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
The mucilaginous fiber reduce excessive gastric acidity, acting as gastroprotective, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing, promote peristalsis and facilitate a physiological intestinal functions, acting as a mild laxative and reducing the risk of diverticulosis, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

The Nopal is then shown to help reduce overweight and obesity, for its satiating action and because it reduces the absorption of fats and carbohydrates in metabolic disorders when it is necessary to balance the glycemic control and / or reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, in inflammation of the stomach, in constipation, also in the presence of diverticula, hemorrhoids or anal fissures.
The juice obtained from cladodes has a traditional use in disorders of the liver as a detoxifier, it is used mainly for external use as an emollient, moisturizing, soothing, for dry and irritated skin.
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Even the yellow flowers Opuntia ficus indica are used in herbal medicine because they contain flavonoids, which modern researchers attribute mild antispasmodic properties of the intestinal tract; the popular tradition attributes their diuretic properties.
A recent study indicates that the use of dried flowers produces an improvement of discomforts associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia, as shown by the British Pharmacopoeia.

Article Wiki Closed - Nopal: Benefits, Uses, Effects?
asked Jul 4, 2014 by Lancomega Level (10,245 points)
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