Supplement Forms/Alternate Names:

Opuntia, prickly pear cactus, jumping prickly-pear cactus, tree cactus


Nopal is a cactus that is used when cooking. It has been used to control blood glucose and body mass index (BMI). Nopal can be cooked then eaten or taken as a syrup. It can also be taken as a pill, powder, or extract. Nopal can also be made into a tea.


There aren’t any advised doses for nopal.

What Research Shows

May Be Effective

  • Diabetes —may lower blood glucose B1-B3
  • Metabolic syndrome —may ease symptoms C1

Not Enough Data to Assess

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to take nopal in small doses for a short time, but it may cause nausea, changes in bowel movements, and headache.E1-E3 Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. It is not known whether nopal is safe to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.



A. Alcohol Hangover

A1. Wiese J, McPherson S, et al. Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Jun 28;164(12):1334-1340.

A2. Pittler MH, Verster JC, et al. Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2005 Dec 24;331(7531):1515-1518.

B. Diabetes

B1. Rodriguez-Fragoso L, Reyes-Esparza J, et al. Risks and benefits of commonly used herbal medicines in Mexico. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Feb 15;227(1):125-135.

B2. Godard MP, Ewing BA, et al. Acute blood glucose lowering effects and long-term safety of OpunDia supplementation in pre-diabetic males and females. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Aug 9;130(3):631-634.

B3. López-Romero P, Pichardo-Ontiveros E, et al. The effect of nopal (Opuntia ficus indica) on postprandial blood glucose, incretins, and antioxidant activity in Mexican patients with type 2 diabetes after consumption of two different composition breakfasts. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Nov;114(11):1811-1818.

C. Metabolic Syndrome

C1. Linarès E, Thimonier C, et al. The effect of NeOpuntia on blood lipid parameters--risk factors for the metabolic syndrome (syndrome X). Adv Ther. 2007 Sep-Oct;24(5):1115-1125.

D. Obesity

D1. Grube B, Chong PW, et al. A natural fiber complex reduces body weight in the overweight and obese: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jan;21(1):58-64.

D2. Onakpoya IJ, O’Sullivan J, et al. The effect of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Nutrition. 2015;31(5)640-646.

E. Safety

E1. Rodriguez-Fragoso L, Reyes-Esparza J, Burchiel SW, Herrera-Ruiz D, Torres E. Risks and benefits of commonly used herbal medicines in Mexico. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Feb 15;227(1):125-135.

E2. Sobieraj DM, Freyer CW. Probable hypoglycemic adverse drug reaction associated with prickly pear cactus, glipizide, and metformin in a patient with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Ann Pharmacother. 2010 Jul-Aug;44(7-8):1334-1337.

E3. Izzo AA. Interactions between herbs and conventional drugs: overview of the clinical data. Med Princ Pract. 2012;21(5):404-428.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC