How to Get Water from a Cactus?

We have Hollywood to thank for making us believe we can survive by drinking from cacti if we are stranded in the middle of the desert. However, is cactus water safe for drinking?

What Cactus Can You Drink From

Not every cactus plant has water you can drink. However, you can drink from the Fishhook Barrel Cactus, also known as Candy Barrel Cactus or Arizona Barrel Cactus, but some risks are involved.

First, its pulp doesn’t have a lot of water, to begin with, and it doesn’t taste good either. Furthermore, this water may have some side effects. It is acidic and also contains toxic alkaloids.

Some side effects of drinking from a Fishhook Barrel Cactus plant are diarrhea, vomiting, and temporary paralysis. These conditions can worsen things, especially if you’re already dehydrated.

Moreover, these side effects could intensify if you drink this water on an empty stomach. Therefore, eating something before drinking from the Fishhook Cactus plant is better.

It is worth noting that there are five types of Barrel Cactus, and only one has drinkable water. Remember, drinking cactus water is always the last resort.

This plant also grows a yellow fruit which is an edible adventure. However, if you eat this fruit, watch out for the spines.

Drinking from the Saguaro Cactus: Is It Alright?

Saguaro is the most popular cactus plant on the planet. This cactus genus is found in the northwestern parts of Mexico and the southwestern parts of the US.

These plants are tall, and they have arm-like branches. They have water in them, but they aren’t the safest water source. In places like Arizona, this plant is protected, and cutting it can land you in legal trouble.

What About the Cactus Water Sold in Stores?

The cactus water in stores comes from something other than the Fishhook or barrel cactus. It is made from prickly pear fruit.

This cactus water is light-pink because it is diluted after extraction from the brightly-colored prickly pear fruit.

The prickly pear fruit comes from cacti and has several health benefits. It is also a necessary ingredient in many sports drinks.

Recently, people have started using it as an alternative to coconut water. It is abundant in Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Health Benefits of Cactus Water

Besides Vitamin C, cactus water from the prickly pear fruit is rich in amino acids and electrolytes. It also has antioxidant properties.

Most manufacturers refrain from adding extra sugar to the beverage. It naturally contains fructose which helps maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

However, drinking too much prickly pear water can result in hypoglycemia, and you may need meds to lower your blood sugar levels. Because it targets free radicals, prickly pear fruit water helps fight inflammation.

Do Prickly Pear Pads Help With Dehydration?

It is rare for hikers to get lost, but they do. When hikers are lost in desert-like environments, they are only left with two options.

Either they can drink from the Fishhook Barrel cactus, or they can consume the prickly pear fruit. The former is a tough decision, especially if they are hungry and dehydrated.

Prickly pear pads contain water and a pink-colored pulp that offers enough satiety when hiking. These pads are called nopales, so the plant is called Nopal Cactus.

These pads are harvested for food items like salads and tacos. The prickly pear pad contains vitamins and fibers, and 85% of it is water.

Despite the benefits of the prickly pear pads, you must be conscious of the sharp spines, which can hurt you if you don’t pay attention.

How to Get Water from Cactus?

Fishhook Barrel Cactus

Use its shape to decide how to cut it open. If it is long, start from the edges. However, cut it from the center to divide it into two equal parts if it is round.

Once the inner flesh is exposed, you can pull it out with a spoon or a putty knife. If the pad is big, break it into smaller parts to easily access the pulp.

Place the pulp in a pouch or a cloth. Wrap the fabric around the flesh, and pack it tightly. Now, apply pressure on the fabric containing the pulp until the water is squeezed. Fill the water in a container.

Only drink some of it at a time to avoid the intensity of the abovementioned side effects. Drink it in small quantities to see how you react to it.

Saguaro Cactus

Find a bigger plant that is easy to cut. Cut the arm from the tip. You can detach an entire branch for convenience.

Start removing the pulp from either side of the branch. As you did with the previous cactus, collect the pulp in a cloth, and seal it tightly.

Apply pressure on the cloth to ooze the liquid out of it. Fill it up in a container. However, check the local regulations surrounding Saguaro Cactus in your state. You don’t want to end up behind bars, after all.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Cut a pad off the plant, but don’t hurt your hand from the spines. Place the pulp on a cloth and tie it tightly.

Apply pressure to the fruit in the cloth, and allow the juice to drip. Fill it up in a container, and sip away.

With prickly pear cactus, you need not worry about the side effects you’d experience with the Fishhook barrel cactus.

How to Do Cacti Store Water?

Because of adaptation, the leaves on a cactus plant turn into a spine. Therefore, a cactus plant uses its stem and branches for photosynthesis, and that is where the water is stored.

Inside, a cactus is divided into two parts. The first part comprises the inner cells that store water. The outer layer performs photosynthesis through chloroplasts.

The inner cells have a flexible and thin wall. The wall can expand and contract easily when transferring water in and out of the cells.

Because they are desert plants, their roots are spread far and wide in search of water. 90% of the collected water is stored in the stem.

The waxy skin on the stem helps it store water. This waxy skin locks water in the stem and keeps it from evaporating. As a result, a cactus plant can survive in the desert for two years without any water.

The Saguaro cactus can store approximately 200 gallons of water in its stem and branches.

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Final Word

While cactus water is drinkable, not every cactus species should be drunk. There are a few things you need to consider.

First, determine if the water is safe and has no side effects. Secondly, the cactus shouldn’t have state protection in your locale, or you might get into legal trouble.

Lastly, don’t ignore the spines, as they are sharp. They can hurt you, and some can irritate your skin and mouth.

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