Traditional Uses of the Prickly Pear plant

Traditional Uses of the Prickly Pear plant

The prickly pear plant belongs to the genus Opuntia and is native to the Americas, from Chile to Canada. Columbus took the plant back to Europe at the end of the fifteenth century and now it is found all over the planet (Niethammer, 2004). It has a long history in Native American, particularly Aztec legends in which the prickly pear is a central figure. Folklore describes how the Aztecs, after wandering for many generations looking for a home, one day saw an eagle perched on a prickly pear on a small swampy island in the lake of Texoco. Taking this as a sign of where they should settle, they built a city in 1325 called Mexico- Tenochitlan meaning “in the moon’s navel – place of the prickly pear cactus”. This location is close to modern day Mexico City (Niethammer, 2004).

The prickly pear cactus is unique among other plants in that it is a vegetable, fruit and flower all in one (Knishinsky, 2004). Traditional herbalists may relate the plants nature with its healing power, for example, that having adaptive qualities to thrive in difficult environmental conditions is thought to increase the body’s level of resistance to disease (Knishinsky, 2004). Believers of the Doctrine of Signatures may interpret that the thorns of the prickly pear relate to its defensive posture indicating the plants usefulness as a healer of wounds  (Knishinsky, 2004).  Mrs. Grieve (1931) describes that in homeopathy, a tincture is made from the flowers and wood for spleen troubles and diarrhoea.

Prickly pear was eaten in the Americas as far back as 65 BC (Niethammer, 2004).  Spanish conquerors of Mexico recognized the benefits of the prickly pear fruits as a partial cure for scurvy that plagued the sailors (Knishinsky, 2004). The prickly pear is a staple food in the diets of those native to the southwestern portion of the United States and those settled throughout Central and South America as well as parts of Europe and the Middle East (Knishinsky, 2004). The driving force behind the prickly pears use and popularity is its ability to function as both food and medicine. For generations the prickly pear has played an important role in the pharmacopoeia of native healers in Mexican and Southwestern Native American tribes (Niethammer, 2004). An Aztec herbal book from 1552 includes a picture of a prickly pear pad and a prescription for a burn ointment that combines cactus juice, honey and egg yolk (Niethammer, 2004). Aztecs used the sap of the pads to expel intestinal parasites and to increase the excretion of urine. It has been widely used for wounds, burns and sunburn by the Native American tribes (Niethammer, 2004).  In Sicily it was used to reduce the itch of measles and in China the split pad was bound on dog bites. The Pima Indians of Arizona have used heated split pads to soothe sore breasts from nursing (Niethammer, 2004). Various Native American tribes drink an infusion of smashed pads to facilitate childbirth or use the mucilage to lubricate the midwife’s hand for placental removal (Knishinsky, 2004).

Further traditional uses of the pads and fruits are as an analgesic, and anti-inflammatory diuretic, and antirheumatic (by rubbing warm juice on the wound), as a hemostat and also use the poultice to a swollen throat (Knishinsky, 2004).

Chiron Organic Health is the only certified organic producer of Prickly Pear in Australia. We create a range of interesting products using the Prickly Pear cactus which can be found here.


Grieve, M. (1931). A Modern Herbal. Penguin Books, London, England.
Knishinsky, R. (2004). Prickly pear cactus medicine. Healing Arts Press, Vermont, USA.
Niethammer, C. (2004). The Prickly Pear Cookbook. Rio Nuevo Publishers, Arizona, USA.

Prickly Pear Cactus: Uses and Benefits

The prickly pear cactus has flat, fleshy pads that are shaped like large pears, and covered with clusters of tiny spikes (glochids) hence its name. The pads are modified stems that function as water storage, photosynthesis and flower production. The fruits resemble large eggs and are red, green, yellow, orange or white.

Prickly Pear CactusOur farm has approximately 1,500 prickly pear cactus plants and proudly is one of the largest in Australia.

One main interest of prickly pear is due to its ability to function both as food and as medicine. With its ability to survive in the harshest desert areas, prickly pear was able to provide much needed food and water. Additionally, at a time before penicillin and vaccinations where only natural medicines were available, prickly pear was used as a healer for many ailments.

Current medical research is focusing on validating the traditional uses of the prickly pear. Some areas receiving this interest include the management and treatment of type II diabetes, hyperlipidemias, obesity, viruses, inflammation and wound healing.

Each part of the prickly pear cactus, the pads, fruits and flowers, can be used for their health benefits.

The pads are high in vitamin A and C which have been shown to be effective in preventing the oxidation of arterial cholesterol and reversing arterial damage. The pads also contain a large range of amino acids, providing a source of high quality protein.

Recent medical studies have verified their use as an antibacterial remedy by decreasing glucose absorbtion. The high content of flavonoids in plants contribute to their abilities to reduce undesirable low density lipids, also known as “bad” cholesterol.

When sliced, the pads have a sticky substance that oozes out. This is a dietary soluble fibre that stimulates an immune response.

The prickly pear fruit is packed with calcium, magnesium, and potassium which also boosts immunity. They contain a large proportion of antioxidants. Similarly pectin in the fruit has also been known to decrease low density lipoprotein and that it can modulate the body’s glucose response.

During times of drought, prickly pear pads can keep sheep and cattle alive due to their high water and nutrient content.

When burning the spikes from the pads, the nutritional value is greatly increased and the cost to feed the animals is cheap.

Prickly pears also provide a wide variety of products in the culinary arena. They can be used to make beverages, dressings, jams, sauces, main dishes, desserts as well as wines and liqueurs.

The featuring of prickly pears in cooking on Masterchef Australia will undoubtedly increase the interest in this superfood.

As a scientist, I hold strong beliefs in the effectiveness of the healing properties of prickly pears. My aim is to keep developing products that benefit the health of consumers as well as work with other scientists in validating new or ongoing studies.

We currently have the following products that are based on prickly pear:

The Chiron barrier cream is honestly the best product I have ever used. A very small amount rubbed over the backs of my dry cracked (overworked!!!) hands and I had instant results. I now use it twice a week and my hands are smooth and soft – just like a baby’s bottom! Only a small amount is needed. I cannot recommend it enough.

Jane – Premium Nappies


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Free Shampoo- introductory offer!

Your Baby's Shampoo & Body Wash

Organic shampoo & body wash

We have recently launched our organic shampoo and body wash in a convenient 50ml travel size.

After an amazing response to the fresh botanic aroma and the way it soothes the skin and cleanses the hair, we are extending a special offer to all our customers. For each Your Baby’s cream or powder purchased from any of our stockists, you will receive a shampoo/body wash absolutely free. We know you will love this product as much as our cream and powder. You will notice the response to your scalp and skin from using a mild non-drying formula with pure Australian botanicals.

Ask in-store for your free tube of Chiron Your Baby’s Shampoo and Body wash with every purchase as this special offer is only valid for a limited time.

Chiron Your Baby’s Shampoo and Body wash is made with olive oil, St. John’s Wort, Petitgrain, Sage as well as Lemon Balm to gently cleanse and nourish both hair and skin.

There is absolutely no sodium laureth sulphate, cocamidylpropyl betaine or other synthetic surfactants, formaldehydes, phthalates, parabens, phenoxyethanol or other artificial preservatives, synthetic colours or fragrances and no animal testing or animal ingredients.

It is formulated by a scientist with her own organically certified farm who understands the human body and how out of balance it can get. All ingredients are natural and help to promote skin healing. All our products contain non-genetically modified oils and botanicals which are hand harvested from our farm without the use of pesticides.

Sometimes the combination of deodorant, shaving and sweat gives my sensitive underarms a rash.  I put the Chiron cream on Friday night, and not only did it help, but since then I’ve been using it (and no deodorant) and I’ve had no body odour.  I’m pretty amazed by this.  I’m wearing it now, I haven’t worn deodorant since Friday, and I don’t smell.  I even exercised on Saturday, and of course I did sweat but had no body odour!

There must be something magic in that cream!

– Jacqueline P.



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Free tickets to The Baby and Toddler Show

Once again we will be at The Baby and Toddler Show. This runs from next Friday to Sunday (March 30 – April 1, 2012) The Baby and Toddler Show Melbourne 2012at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, 2 Clarendon Street, South Wharf. This year we will not only have our newly released “Your Baby’s Shampoo and Body Wash” but also our amazing healing soaps made from extra virgin olive oil and cactus coming straight from our organic farm. We would like as many people as possible to visit us and are fortunate enough to have some free tickets to give away.

Tell your friends as well as entry is through our facebook page. To be in the running to win grab a ticket, please become a fan of our page and  post “I would like a free ticket to the Baby and Toddler Show”. On Friday, 25 fans will be chosen at random and winners posted on our wall.


I found the Chiron baby cream at last year’s Baby and Toddler Show in Melbourne, and I was so impressed by its effectiveness – couldn’t wait for this show to buy more.

I use the product for all sorts of ailments and it works wonderfully. Can’t recommend it enough!

Carol Anderson


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Shampoo launch at the Antipodes Festival this weekend!

Your Baby's Shampoo & Body WashWe are proud to announce the release of our organic shampoo and body wash. Read on to see how you can get your hands on a free tube.

This product has been created by Chiron’s founder and scientist Dr Natalie A and is made with Australian botanicals and pure essential oils.

The handy 50ml travel size will gently cleanse and nourish your hair as well as your skin. This mild shampoo is perfect for people with sensitive skin.

Antipodes Festival Lonsdale Street





Again this year we will be at the Antipodes Festival this weekend at Lonsdale Street in Melbourne.

Come and find us at our stand “Chiron Health Products”.

For our Facebook friends, with every purchase of Your Baby’s Cream or Your Baby’s Powder, you will receive a free Your Baby’s Shampoo and Body wash.

I tried the this product on my newborn baby with nappy rash. The rash was welts. I used the Chiron baby cream. It cleared up within hours. I swear by this product.

Kelsey Robinson


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Coburg Greek Festival

Hello all! A little bit last minute, I know but tomorrow Sunday Feb 5 we are once again going to be at the Coburg Greek Festival. We love going and meeting people and soaking up the community atmosphere.

Come see us at

Coburg Lake Reserve, Murray Road, Coburg.

Another reason we are excited is because we are launching a very special, totally organic soap that does not exist on the market. Our soaps are the closest thing you will find to old fashioned luxury where ingredients were pure and products made the authentic traditional way. One of our amazing soaps is made not only with extra virgin olive oil but the special ingredient of prickly pear cactus gel. Another special soap launched tomorrow is also with extra virgin olive oil and prickly pear fruit.

When you try the soap you really will feel the difference and we are so excited to finally get them out there. Did you know that olive oil is great for sensitive skin, helps reduce scars and dark spots as well as moisturizes the skin. And did you also know that prickly pear is high in vitamin A, C and D. This helps to protect the skin against premature ageing and has strong antioxidant properties.