Preliminary research indicates the nopales or prickly pear cactus is helpful in decreasing blood sugar levels in individuals with Type 2 diabetes, according to Mayo Clinic. The leaves and fruit of the plant are high in fiber, cardioids and antioxidants.
The prickly pear has a long history of use in traditional medicine for shortness of breath, fatigue, stomach problems, liver disease and diabetes. However, according to NYU Langone Medical Center, as of August 2013, there have been no double blind studies on the effect of nopales on diabetes. The center reports that the preliminary studies completed are contradictory.
According to WebMD, the fiber and pectin in the nopales cactus have the potential to absorb sugar in the digestive system to lower overall blood sugar. While a single dose of the broiled stems of the Opuntia streptacantha species of prickly pear lowers the blood sugar by 17 to 46 percent, the long-term effects on diabetes are unknown. The raw stems and other species do not have the same effect. The prickly pear is a part of the Mexican and Mexican-American diet. While consuming the cactus is likely safe, some individuals experience diarrhea, bloating and headaches as side effects. The effects of consuming this cactus for a pregnant or nursing woman are unknown.