Prickly superfood: The juice of this cactus has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce colon damage from ulcerative colitis

People with ulcerative colitis may benefit from drinking the fresh fruit juice of a cactus plant called erect prickly pear (Opuntia dillenii). In a study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, researchers from Sree Siddaganga College of Pharmacy in India have found that erect prickly pear fresh fruit juice can reduce colon damage from ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract. It causes irritation or swelling and sores called ulcers on the inner lining of the large intestine. It typically begins gradually, but can worsen over time, leading to life-threatening complications. There is no known cure yet for this condition, but there are treatments available that can greatly improve the symptoms of the disease.

For the study, the researchers assessed the protective effects of fresh fruit juice of erect prickly pear on acetic acid-induced ulcerative colitis in rats. For one week, the rats received erect prickly pear fresh fruit juice. After that, the researchers gave rats acetic acid to induce ulcerative colitis. Then, they examined the damage in the colon of rats.

The results revealed that the treatment with erect prickly pear juice significantly reduced the macroscopic damage, clinical activity score, and wet weight of the colon. The acetic acid-induced ulcerative colitis increased the levels of myeloperoxidase, malondialdehyde, and lactate dehydrogenase and reduced glutathione levels in the colon, increasing oxidative stress and reducing antioxidant activity. However, with the treatment with erect prickly pear juice, oxidative stress was reduced and antioxidant activity was increased.

The researchers also found that erect prickly pear juice contains phenolics, flavonoids, and betalains. They believe that these compounds are responsible for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the fruit juice, which are the reasons behind its protective effect against ulcerative colitis.

With these findings, the researchers concluded that erect prickly pear fresh juice may be used as a treatment for reducing the damaging effects of ulcerative colitis.

Fast facts on erect prickly pear

According to a study published in the Journal of Biotechnology & Biomaterials, the cactus plant is commonly found in Mexico and the U.S., but is also grown in other countries, including Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Sri Lanka, and India. The study reports that the cactus plant is rich in nutrients, including protein, fiber, fat, calcium, and phosphorus, and amino acids. It is also rich in free amino acids, such as serine, g-aminobutyric acid, glutamine, proline, arginine, and histidine, and contains methionine. Found within the fruit are betalains and carotenoids, which have exhibited antioxidant, anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and cardioprotective activities.

Other treatments for ulcerative colitis

These natural medicines may also be used to treat ulcerative colitis:

  • Aloe vera: Aloe vera is more than just a sunburn treatment, it can also be used to treat ulcerative colitis — thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research has shown that treatment with aloe vera is effective against ulcerative colitis. The plant can inhibit the production of prostaglandins and interleukins, which are compounds linked to colitis symptoms.
  • Andrographis paniculata: This herb, which is native to India and Sri Lanka, can relieve ulcerative colitis symptoms. A study reported that people with ulcerative colitis who took Andrographis exhibited clinical improvements in their symptoms compared to placebo.
  • Boswellia: This herb has been used to treat inflammatory conditions like asthma, but studies also suggest that it can be used to treat ulcerative colitis. It has been shown to be more effective at reducing symptoms and inducing remission, compared to sulfasalazine, a conventional drug treatment for ulcerative colitis.
  • Curcumin: Widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, this active compound of turmeric may also be used to treat IBDs like ulcerative colitis. Research has shown that it can help improve the symptoms of the disease and induce remission.
  • Licorice: Licorice (glycyrrhizae radix or liquiritiae radix) are packed with flavonoids, which gives it powerful anti-inflammatory activities. These anti-inflammatory activities, in turn, give licorice the potential to be used as a natural treatment for ulcerative colitis.

Read more news stories and studies on natural treatments for ulcerative colitis at

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