<i>Opuntia ficus-indica<i> (L.): An Overview of the Recent Application and Opportunities in Food



  • Quynh T. T. Ha Institute of Biotechnology and Food Technology, Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam.
  • Khanh K. Nguyen Faculty of Food Technology, Binh Duong University, Binh Duong Province 75000, Vietnam.
  • Anh N. Le Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT), Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam.
  • Hoan T. Vu Institute of Biotechnology and Food Technology, Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam.
  • Tuan N. Nguyen Institute of Biotechnology and Food Technology, Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam


Opuntia ficus-indica, prickly pear, nopal cactus, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant


Opuntia ficus-indica (OFI, prickly pears, nopal cactus) has been used as a food, in beverages, besides prickly pears's natural betalain pigment serves as a food colorant. The abundant biological components of nopal cactus, including polyphenols, flavonoids, and other related compounds that exhibit therapeutic like, hypoglycemia management, anti-infection, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidation. Its versatility is remarkable, finding applications in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, human and livestock nutrition, alternative fuels, construction, erosion control, and animal care. Recent studies highlight its potential to inhibit the growth of cervical, ovarian, and bladder cancer cells in vitro. In vivo tests on mice demonstrated decreased tumor growth in the ovarian cancer model. However, more meticulously designed clinical trials are required, utilizing phytochemically characterized preparations. Opuntia ficus-indica recast an exceptional safety and tolerability profile, underscoring its potential as a versatile and health-promoting resource.

Author Biography

Anh N. Le, Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT), Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam.

Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, Thu Duc, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam.

Research Institute for Oil and Oil Plants (IOOP), Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam.


Mondragón-Jacobo C, Pérez-González S, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations., Cactus (Opuntia spp.) as forage. FAO. 2001.

Piga A. Cactus pear: A fruit of nutraceutical and functional importance. 2004. [Online]. Available: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/33679503

Silva MA, Albuquerque TG, Pereira P, Ramalho R, Vicente F, Oliveira MBPP, Costa HS. Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.: A multi-benefit potential to be exploited. Molecules. 2021; 26(4): 951. doi: 10.3390/molecules26040951.

Inglese P, Mondragón-Jacobo C, Nefzaoui A, Sáenz C. Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations, and international center for agricultural research in the dry areas, Crop ecology, cultivation and uses of cactus pear. Rome, Italy: FAO, 2017. Accessed: Apr. 21, 2023. [Online]. Available: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7628e.pdf

Ribeiro R, Barreto S, Ostrosky E, Rocha-Filho P, Veríssimo L, Ferrari M. Production and characterization of cosmetic nanoemulsions containing Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) mill extract as moisturizing agent. Molecules. 2015; 20(2): 2492–2509. doi: 10.3390/molecules20022492.

Medina EMD, Rodríguez EMR, Romero CD. Chemical characterization of Opuntia dillenii and Opuntia ficus indica fruits. Food Chem. 2007; 103(1): 38–45. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.06.064.

Martins M, Ribeiro MH, Almeida CM. Physicochemical, nutritional, and medicinal properties of Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. and its main agro-industrial use: a review. Plants. 2023; 12(7): 1512. doi: 10.3390/plants12071512.

Domenico P. Botany and uses of cacti. GSC Biol Pharm Sci. 2022; 21(1): 287–297. doi: 10.30574/gscbps.2022.21.1.0405.

Feugang JM. Nutritional and medicinal use of cactus pear (Opuntia spp.) cladodes and fruits. Frontiers in Biosci. 2006; 11(1): 2574. doi: 10.2741/1992.

Aragona M, Lauriano ER, Pergolizzi S, Faggio C. Opuntia ficus indica (L.) Mill an ancient plant source of nutraceuticals. Nat Prod Res. 2018; 32(17): 2037–2049. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2017.1365073.

Martins M, Ribeiro MH, Almeida CM. New foods with history: nutritional and toxic profile of prickly pear. J Food Meas Charact. 2023; 17(1): 956–972. doi: 10.1007/s11694-022-01680-z.

Aruwa CE, Amoo SO, Kudanga T. Opuntia (Cactaceae) plant compounds, biological activities and prospects – a comprehensive review. Food Res Int. 2018; 112: 328–344. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.06.047.

Sáenz C, Berger H, Rodríguez-Félix A, Galletti L, Corrales García J, Sepúlveda E, Varnero MT, García de Cortázar V, Cuevas García R, Arias E, Mondragón C, Higuera I, Rosell C. Agro-industrial utilization of cactus pear. Rome, Italy: FAO, 2013.

Hallim A, Rabie A, El-Shewey M, Abdel-Ghany A. Evaluation of physico-chemical properties and antioxidant activity of stirred yoghurt fortified with pomegranate and cactus pear juices. Zagazig Afr J Agric Res. 2019; 46(6): 1995–2008. doi: 10.21608/zjar.2019.51918.

Karabagias VK, Karabagias IK, Prodromiti M, Gatzias I, Badeka A. Bio-functional alcoholic beverage preparation using prickly pear juice and its pulp in combination with sugar and blossom honey. Food Biosci. 2020; 35: 100591. doi: 10.1016/j.fbio.2020.100591.

Ferreira RM, Costa AM, Pinto CA, Silva AMS, Saraiva JA, and Cardoso SM. Impact of fermentation and pasteurization on the physico-chemical and phytochemical composition of Opuntia ficus-indica juices. Foods. 2023; 12(11): 2096. doi: 10.3390/foods12112096.

Cruz-Cansino NDS, Montiel-Columna NI, Bautista-Velueta PG, Pérez-Tinoco MR, Alanís-García E, Ramírez-Moreno E. Optimization of thermoultrasound conditions for the processing of a prickly pear juice blend (Opuntia ficus indica) using response surface methodology. J Food Qual. 2016; 39(6): 780–791. doi: 10.1111/jfq.12247.

Chiteva R and Wairagu N. Chemical and nutritional content of Opuntia ficus-indica (L.). Afr J Biotechnol. 2013; 12(21): 3309–3312.

Kaur M. Pharmacological actions of Opuntia ficus indica: a review. J Appl Pharm. Sci. 2012. doi: 10.7324/JAPS.2012.2703.

Monteiro SS, Almeida RL, Santos NC, Pereira EM, Silva AP, Oliveira HML, M.A.d.B. Pasquali. New functional foods with cactus components: Sustainable perspectives and future trends. Foods. 2023; 12(13): 2494. doi: 10.3390/foods12132494.

Kossori RLE, Sanchez C, Boustani E, Maucourt MN, Sauvaire Y, Méjean L, Villaume C. Comparison of effects of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica sp) fruit, arabic gum, carrageenan, alginic acid, locust bean gum and citrus pectin on viscosity and in vitro digestibility of casein. J Sci Food Agric. 2000; 80(3): 359–364.

El-Beltagi HS, Ahmed AR, Mohamed HI, Al-Otaibi HH, Ramadan KMA, Elkatry HO. Utilization of prickly pear peels flour as a natural source of minerals, dietary fiber and antioxidants: Effect on cakes production. Agronomy. 2023; 13(2): 439. doi: 10.3390/agronomy13020439.

López R, de Ita A, Vaca M. Drying of prickly pear cactus cladodes (Opuntia ficus indica) in a forced convection tunnel. Energy Convers Manag. 2009; 50(9): 2119–2126. doi: 10.1016/j.enconman.2009.04.014.

Bouazizi S, Montevecchi G, Antonelli A, Hamdi M. Effects of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica L.) peel flour as an innovative ingredient in biscuits formulation. LWT. 2020; 124: 109155 doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2020.109155.

Micale R, Giallanza A, Russo G, La Scalia G. Selection of a sustainable functional pasta enriched with Opuntia using ELECTRE III methodology. Sustainability. 2017; 9(6): 885. doi: 10.3390/su9060885.

Aiello A, Di Bona D, Candore G, Carru C, Zinellu A, Di Miceli G, Nicosia A, Gambino CM, Ruisi P, Caruso C, Vasto S, Accardi G. Targeting aging with functional food: Pasta with Opuntia single-arm pilot study. Rejuvenation Res. 2018; 21(3): 249–256. doi: 10.1089/rej.2017.1992.

Mohamed–Yasseen Y, Barringer SA, Splittstoesser WE. A note on the uses of Opuntia spp. in Central/North America. J Arid Environ. 1996; 32(3): 347–353. doi: 10.1006/jare.1996.0028.

Cota-Sánchez JH. Nutritional composition of the prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) fruit,” in Nutritional Composition of Fruit Cultivars. Elsevier. 2016: 691–712. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-408117-8.00028-3.

Muñoz de Chávez M, Chávez A, Valles V, Roldán JA. The Nopal: A plant of manifold qualities. Plant Hum Nutr. 1995: 109–134. doi: 10.1159/000424468.

El-Mostafa K, El Kharrassi Y, Badreddine A, Andreoletti P, Vamecq J, El Kebbaj MS, Latruffe N, Lizard G, Nasser B, Cherkaoui-Malki M. Nopal cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) as a source of bioactive compounds for nutrition, health and disease. Molecules. 2014; 19(9): 14879–14901. doi: 10.3390/molecules190914879.

Clark WD, Brown GK, Mays RL. Flower flavonoids of Opuntia subgenus Cylindropuntia. Phytochemistry. 1980; 19(9): 2042–2043. doi: 10.1016/0031-9422(80)83039-1.

Kamble SM, Debaje PP, Ranveer RC, Sahoo AK. Nutritional Importance of Cactus: A Review. Trends Biosci. 2017; 10(37): 7668-7677.

Valitova JN, Sulkarnayeva AG, Minibayeva FV. Plant sterols: Diversity, biosynthesis, and physiological functions. Biochemistry (Moscow). 2016; 81(8): 819–834. doi: 10.1134/S0006297916080046.

Stintzing FC, Schieber A, Carle R. Phytochemical and nutritional significance of cactus pear. Eur. Food Res Technol. 2001; 212(4): 396–407. doi: 10.1007/s002170000219.

Supino R, Crosti M, Clerici M, Warlters A, Cleris L, Zunino F, Formelli F. Induction of apoptosis by fenretinide (4HPR) in human ovarian carcinoma cells and its association with retinoic acid receptor expression. Int J Cancer. 1996; 65(4): 491–497. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0215(19960208)65:4<491::AID-IJC17>3.0.CO;2-D.

Veronesi U, De Palo G, Marubini E, Costa A, Formelli F, Mariani L, Decensi A, Camerini T, Del Turco MR, Di Mauro MG, Muraca MG, Del Vecchio M, Pinto C, D'Aiuto G, Boni C, Campa T, Magni A, Miceli R, Perloff M, Malone WF, Sporn MB. Randomized trial of fenretinide to prevent second breast malignancy in women with early breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999; 91(21): 1847–1856. doi: 10.1093/jnci/91.21.1847.

Ameer K, Chun BS, Kwon JH. Optimization of supercritical fluid extraction of steviol glycosides and total phenolic content from Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) leaves using response surface methodology and artificial neural network modeling. Ind Crops Prod. 2017; 109: 672–685. doi: 10.1016/j.indcrop.2017.09.023.

Jiang G, Wu Z, Ameer K, Song C. Physicochemical, antioxidant, microstructural, and sensory characteristics of biscuits as affected by addition of onion residue. J Food Meas. Charact. 2021; 15(1): 817–825. doi: 10.1007/s11694-020-00681-0.

Iftikhar K, Siddique F, Ameer K, Arshad M, Kharal S, Mohamed Ahmed IA, Yasmin Z, Aziz N. Phytochemical profiling, antimicrobial, and antioxidant activities of hydroethanolic extracts of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) fruit and pulp. Food Sci Nutr. 2023; 11(4): 1916–1930. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.3226.

Cano MP, Gómez-Maqueo A, García-Cayuela T, Welti-Chanes J. Characterization of carotenoid profile of Spanish Sanguinos and Verdal prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica, spp.) tissues. Food Chem. 2017; 237: 612–622. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.05.135.

Matias A, Nunes SL, Poejo JMecha E, Serra AT, Amorim Madeira PJ, Bronze MR, Duarte CMM. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of a flavonoid-rich concentrate recovered from Opuntia ficus-indica juice. Food Funct. 2014; 5(12): 3269–3280. doi: 10.1039/C4FO00071D.

Attanzio A, Tesoriere L, Vasto S, Pintaudi AM, Livrea MA, and Allegra M. Short-term cactus pear [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill] fruit supplementation ameliorates the inflammatory profile and is associated with improved antioxidant status among healthy humans. Food Nutr Res. 2018; 62. doi: 10.29219/fnr.v62.1262.

Karadağ AE, Demirci B, Polat DC, and Okur E. Characterization of Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. fruit volatiles and antibacterial evaluation. Nat Volatiles and Essential Oils. 2018; 5(4): 35-38. Retrieved from https://dergipark.org.tr/en/pub/nveo/issue/44732/546528

Sánchez E, Dávila-Aviña J, Castillo SL, Heredia N, Vázquez-Alvarado R, and García S. Antibacterial and antioxidant activities in extracts of fully grown cladodes of 8 cultivars of cactus pear. J Food Sci. 2014; 79(4): M659–M664. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12416.

Sánchez E, García S, and Heredia N. Extracts of edible and medicinal plants damage membranes of vibrio cholerae. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010; 76(20): 6888–6894. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03052-09.

Boukeloua A, Belkhiri A, Djerrou Z, Bahri L, Boulebda N, and Pacha Y. Acute toxicity of Opuntia ficus indica and Pistacia lentiscus seed oils in mice. Afr J Tradit Complementary and Alternative Med. 2012; 9(4). doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v9i4.19.

Han EH, Lim MK, Lee SH, Rahman MM, and Lim YH. An oral toxicity test in rats and a genotoxicity study of extracts from the stems of Opuntia ficus-indica var. saboten. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019; 19(1): 31. doi: 10.1186/s12906-019-2442-7.

Ondarza MA. Cactus Mucilages: Nutritional, health benefits and clinical trials. J Med Biol Sci Res. 2016; 2(6): 87–103. [Online]. Available: http://pearlresearchjournals.org/journals/jmbsr/index.html

Padilla-Camberos E, Flores-Fernandez JM, Fernandez-Flores O, Gutierrez-Mercado Y, Carmona-de la Luz J, Sandoval-Salas F, Mendez-Carreto C, and Allen K. Hypocholesterolemic effect and in vitro pancreatic lipase inhibitory activity of an Opuntia ficus-indica extract. Biomed Res Int. 2015; 2015: 1–4. doi: 10.1155/2015/837452.

Avila-Nava A, Calderón-Oliver M, Medina-Campos ON, Zou T, Gu L, Torres N, Tovar AR, Pedraza-Chaverri J. Extract of cactus (Opuntia ficus indica) cladodes scavenges reactive oxygen species in vitro and enhances plasma antioxidant capacity in humans. J Funct Foods. 2014; 10: 13–24. doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2014.05.009.

Carreón-Hidalgo JP, Román-Guerrero A, Navarro-Ocaña A, Gómez-Linton DR, Franco-Vásquez DC, Franco-Vásquez AM, Arreguín-Espinosa R, Pérez-Flores LJ. Chemical characterization of yellow‐orange and purple varieties of Opuntia ficus‐indica fruits and thermal stability of their betalains. J Food Sci. 2023; 88(1): 161–174. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.16421.

Carmona JC, Robert P, Vergara C, & Sáenz C. Microparticles of yellow-orange cactus pear pulp (Opuntia ficus-indica) with cladode mucilage and maltodextrin as a food coloring in yogurt. LWT. 2021; 138: 110672. doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2020.110672.

Otálora MC, Wilches-Torres A, Gómez Castaño JA. Spray-drying microencapsulation of Andean blueberry (Vaccinium meridionale Sw.) Anthocyanins using prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica L.) peel mucilage or gum arabic: A comparative study. Foods. 2023; 12(9): 1811. doi: 10.3390/foods12091811.

Otálora MC, Wilches-Torres A, Gómez Castaño JA. Spray-drying microencapsulation of pink guava (Psidium guajava) carotenoids using mucilage from Opuntia ficus-indica cladodes and Aloe Vera Leaves as encapsulating materials. Polymers (Basel). 2022; 14(2): 310. doi: 10.3390/polym14020310.

Todhanakasem T, Boonchuai P, Itsarangkoon Na Ayutthaya P, Suwapanich R, Hararak B, Wu B, Young BM. Development of bioactive Opuntia ficus-indica edible films containing probiotics as a coating for fresh-cut fruit. Polymers (Basel). 2022; 14(22): 5018. doi: 10.3390/polym14225018.

Liguori G, Greco G, Gaglio R, Settanni L, Inglese P, and Allegra A. Influence of cactus pear mucilage-based edible coating on marketability and edibility parameters of minimally processed loquat fruits. Agronomy. 2022; 12(9): 2120. doi: 10.3390/agronomy12092120.

Christopoulos MV, Gkatzos D, Kafkaletou M, Bai J, Fanourakis D, Tsaniklidis G, Tsantili E. Edible coatings from Opuntia ficus-indica cladodes alongside chitosan on quality and antioxidants in Cherries during storage. Foods. 2022; 11(5): 699. doi: 10.3390/foods11050699.

Askar A and El-Samahy SK. Chemical composition of prickly pear fruits. Deutsche Lebensm. 1981; 77: 279–281.

Pimiento Barrios E, Muñoz-Urías A, Barbera G and Inglese P,. Domesticacion de nopales tuneros (Opuntis spp.) y descripcion de las principales variedades cultivadas. FAO, Roma (Italia). 1999.

Sawaya WN, Khatchadourian HA, Safi WM, and Al-Muhammad HM. Chemical characterization of prickly pear pulp, Opuntia ficus-indica, and the manufacturing of prickly pear jam. Int J Food Sci Technol. 2007; 18(2): 183–193. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1983.tb00259.x.

Sepúlveda E and Sáenz C. Chemical and physical characteristics of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) pulp. J Agrochem Food Technol. 1990; 30: 551–555.

Rodriguez S, Orphee C, Macias S, Generoso S, and Gomes García L. Tuna: Physicochemical properties of two varieties. Lat Am Food. 1996; 210: 34–37.

Sawaya WN, Khalil JK, and Al-Mohammad MM. Nutritive value of prickly pear seeds, Opuntia ficus-indica. Qualitas Plantarum Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1983; 33(1): 91–97. doi: 10.1007/BF01093742.

Ramadan MF and Mörsel JT. Oil cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica L.). Food Chem. 2003; 82(3): 339–345. doi: 10.1016/S0308-8146(02)00550-2.

Ramadan MF and Mörsel JT. Recovered lipids from prickly pear [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill] peel: A good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, natural antioxidant vitamins and sterols. Food Chem. 2003; 83(3): 447–456. doi: 10.1016/S0308-8146(03)00128-6.



How to Cite

Ha, Q. T. T., Nguyen, K. K., Le, A. N., Vu, H. T., & Nguyen, T. N. (2024). <i>Opuntia ficus-indica<i> (L.): An Overview of the Recent Application and Opportunities in Food: http://www.doi.org/10.26538/tjnpr/v8i1.3. Tropical Journal of Natural Product Research (TJNPR), 8(1), 5734–5745. Retrieved from https://tjnpr.org/index.php/home/article/view/3366