Can You Drink Water Straight From a Cactus

Sometimes, our intrusive thoughts get the better of us, and we end up doing things that are probably not in our best interests. And drinking the water content from cactus – if you could call it water – is one such example.

To answer the titular question, no, you can not drink water straight from a cactus – at least not without requiring medical attention right away. But what if you’re faced with an emergency situation, say, stranded in a desert with no hope of rescue and dehydrated?

It’s Not Like the Movies

It’s really not like the movies where the protagonist nonchalantly cuts open a cactus with their bare hands and drinks from its fluid unscathed. Drinking cactus water in California can do more damage than good.

Sure, the fluid from cacti could stimulate the feeling you get from quenching your thirst, but things can quickly turn into a medical emergency.

For one, cactus water is protected with a lethal combination of acids and alkaloids that are very hazardous. When the cactus is done collecting and processing water, it ends up creating a liquid fluid that has the consistency of a jelly.

In trying times when you’re parched and starved, you need all the energy you can get until help arrives. But now your kidneys will be forced to work extra hard in a bid to break down the cactus fluid you just gulped. The kidney taps into your already depleted resources to extract what little water it can from the liquid, thus putting your life in even greater jeopardy.

Best case scenario? Your body violently expels the fluid by throwing up right away. And if you manage to quell your instincts and ingest the liquid, it will cause severe diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. And in the worst of cases, your body may end up shutting down in a dangerous case of temporary paralysis.

The last thing you want to face in a life-or-death situation is to make things worse than they already are.

The One Exception to the Rule

There is one exception to the above rule: you can drink water from a fishhook barrel cactus. But only in the case of an emergency, and you should be prepared for a few side effects, including diarrhea. These symptoms are exacerbated if you gulp the cactus water on an empty stomach.

What Does a Fishhook Barrel Cactus Look Like?

You need to know what a fishhook barrel cactus looks like if you’re going to drink from one. Also known as the Compass Barrel, the Fishhook Barrel Cactus is easy to identify because of its barrel-shaped body and longer-than-average spines with hooks – not exactly a welcoming image.

This plant has a diameter of about 2 feet and is 4 feet tall. It is also possible for this cactus to grow up to 10 feet tall with a diameter of a whopping 30 inches, but this is fairly rare. They often bloom colorful red and yellow flowers on its top. The flowers act like a distinguished cap, making the cactus stand out from the surrounding flora and fauna.

The fishhook barrel cactus only tends to grow along gravelly bajadas and desert washes. Other habitats, such as rocky slopes and valley floors, do not provide the ideal growing conditions for the plant.

You are more likely to encounter the fishhook barrel cactus if you are touring deserts in North Mexico and South-Central Arizona.

Populations of fishhook barrel cacti can also be found in parts of Western Texas and south New Mexico.

Commercially Available Cactus Water

The beverage industry is keen on capitalizing on everything ‘natural’ and ‘organic,’ and cactus water is part of their attempts to make headways into the natural beverage industry.

You can drink cactus water properly refined and processed for human consumption. But you may still notice a few side effects depending on how the fluid is refined. It is typical for manufacturers to produce cactus water from the juice of the prickly pear cactus (also known as the nopal cactus).

This fluid contains naturally high reservoirs of betalain, taurine, carotenoids, and various antioxidants that can prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals.

In addition, processed cactus water also contains essential electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which are important for maintaining the health of your nerves, kidneys, muscles, and bones.

Some individuals may benefit by drinking the fruit of prickly pear because its rich antioxidant profile can help with inflammation. If you’re struggling to meet your daily electrolyte intake, consider giving cactus water a shot.

Prickly pear cactus water has become quite popular among fitness enthusiasts after a workout. The fluid may be great at stabilizing blood sugar, speeding up muscle recovery, and preventing muscle cramps.

Moreover, the drink contains low calories, making it ideal for individuals who are on a diet and don’t want to increase their caloric intake.

Cactus water may also benefit the skin because of its rich antioxidant content. Many brands of cactus water advertise them as cosmetic and beauty products.

Other Potential Benefits of Cactus Water

Benefits of Cactus Water (commercially available)Details
May help with a hangoverSpeeds up liver recovery and can reduce hangover
Has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effectContains nutrients like vitamin C and betalain
It can help with muscle cramps.Restore the body’s electrolyte balance
Can prevent cellular damageContains powerful antioxidants that may prevent cellular damage

Cactus water derived from prickly pear fruits contains a rich antioxidant profile containing, betacyanin, isorhamnetin, and betanin, which have several health benefits. Besides preventing cellular damage caused by free radical molecules, they also alleviate stress and chronic inflammation.

One study found that drinking prickly pear cactus juice daily improved various health parameters, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.

Some cultures have used cactus juice as a natural treatment for conditions such as constipation, pain, and even type II diabetes. Scientists have also conducted studies on animal research to explore these benefits.

Many manufacturers also claim that their cactus water can help with a hangover or at least alleviate the symptoms. It has also been observed in animal studies that cactus water can reduce the liver damage attributed to alcohol.

With that said, more human studies are needed to verify these claims.

You should take medical advice from your doctor if you plan on using cactus water for medicinal purposes. This is especially important if you use medicines that cactus water could potentially interact with (making them less effective or much more potent, which is dangerous).

Could Help with Stomach Ulcers

Experts also believe that prickly pear juice could treat ulcerative colitis and stomach ulcers in the intestine. The juice works by slowing the rate at which stomach ulcers grow. Although this has only been demonstrated in rats, the antiulcer effects could be replicated in humans. Scientists attribute the antiulcer effects of cactus juice to their betanin content, a powerful antioxidant.

That said, readers should take this with a pinch of salt because these benefits haven’t been seen in human patients. More double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials are needed to fully observe the benefits of cactus juice and its impact on stomach ulcers in human patients.

The Laxative Effect Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Most brands make cactus water from the fluid of prickly pear cactus fruit, as discussed earlier. However, prickly pear has a laxative effect which can lead to gastrointestinal problems and diarrhea in some individuals. Therefore, you should not drink the beverage if you’re prone to these symptoms.

Drinking too much cactus water can also reduce your blood sugar levels. Combining them with blood sugar medication can potentially cause hypoglycemia, a life-threatening condition caused by low blood sugar levels.

Some brands may enhance the fluid’s flavor by adding sugar which can lead to weight gain, heart disease, and even type II diabetes. We recommend consulting with your doctor if you are at risk of these conditions.

You Can Make Cactus Water at Home

Did you know that you can make cactus water at home? You will need access to the following tools and ingredients:

  • Water
  • A few prickly pear cacti fruits
  • A saucepan, cheesecloth, and knife
  • Gloves

Always handle pear fruits with a pair of leather gloves to shield your hands from the pointed spines that grow on them. You could also purchase prickly pear fruits from a nearby farmer’s market or grocery store.

In any case, once you have access to the cactus fruit, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Properly wash the prickly pear fruit and cut both ends off.
  • Slice the fruit halfway through their diameter without cutting them in half
  • Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and toss the fruits once the water starts boiling
  • Cover the lid and allow the fruit to simmer for about 1 hour or until it is soft to the touch
  • Remove The contents from the water and allow it to cool
  • Now cover a bowl with cheesecloth.
  • Peel the prickly pear fruits and place their flesh into the cheesecloth
  • Strain the liquid from the fruit through the cheesecloth and collect it in a cup or bowl (you may speed up the process by squeezing the cheesecloth)
  • You should store the cactus juice in a refrigerator for about 3 days

Hint: You can also add a sweetener to the cactus juice to make the taste bearable. In its current form, the cactus water may be too strong for you to drink. Consider diluting the taste with sugar.

The amount of cactus water in California you can extract from the fruit depends on its size and softness after cooking.

Planet Desert Euphorbia polygona Snowflakes Cacti Cactus Succulent Real Live Plant

Wrapping Up

To summarize, you can not drink water straight from a cactus. This is especially true if you’re stranded in a desert and won’t be getting help any time soon.

But you may be able to quench your thirst by drinking water from the fishhook barrel cactus – if you can find one. It is also possible to make cactus fruit from home from prickly pears.

You should be prepared to handle the side effects of drinking raw cactus fruit, including diarrhea and vomiting. Always consult with your doctor before drinking cactus fruit for medical reasons.

Have you ever consumed cactus water without refining? Let us know your experiences and symptoms if any, and we may update this space with more information!