Phytochemical content, nutraceutical potential and biotechnological applications of an ancient mexican plant: Nopal (Opuntia ficus-indica)

P. I. Angulo-Bejarano, O. Martínez-Cruz, O. Paredes-López*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Nopal is by far the most important cactus worldwide. Since its pre-Hispanic use for food and cochineal dye production, domestication of this plant was one of the most important inheritances left by ancient Mexicans. Nowadays, nopal research is increasing mainly due to the many nutraceutical properties that have been attributed to this plant. Its potential use against type 2 diabetes is gaining importance which has been related to its high antioxidant and dietary fiber contents. Even more, the consumption of nopal cladodes and fruits has been associated with anticancer properties or cancer chemoprevention issues. Other nutraceutical properties also elucidated include antiulcer activity, antiallergenic potential and helping long-term memory. Moreover, new biotechnological tools are now been applied in nopal such as in vitro tissue culture techniques and genetic plant transformation. Important industrial enzymes have been isolated, purified and characterized from nopal. Finally, food industry applications for nopal are increasing because of its nutraceutical properties and its potential use as a functional ingredient in the production of bakery products, bars and tortillas, among other interesting new technological uses. Therefore, the aim of the present review is to summarize the information generated in the last years around this important plant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-217
Number of pages22
JournalCurrent Nutrition and Food Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Bentham Science Publishers.


  • Biotechnology
  • Cacti
  • Opuntia health benefits


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