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                                                                                                           Review of Literature 
resulted major fractions were purified by size-exclusion chromatography and analyzed by 
sugar composition and glycosyl linkage analyses. The investigations were also supported 
by 
1
H and 
13
C NMR spectroscopy analysis. The results showed that the major fraction of 
WSF consisted of an arabinan. The backbone contained α-(1→5)-linked arabinofuranosyl 
residues with high percentage of arabinose units substituted at O-2. The predominant 
fractions from CSF and CASF were related to rhamnogalacturonan type I which 
consisted of a disaccharide repeating unit→2)-α-L-Rhap-(1→4)-α-D-GalpA-
(1→backbone with α-(1→5)-linked arabinan side-chains attached to O-4 of the 
rhamnosyl residues. Kossori et al. (1998) reported fiber composition of prickly pear fruit 
hemicellulose (9.95±0.58), cellulose (83.2±0.25), pectin (6.69±0.46) and lignin 
(0.19±0.04) as percentage of total fiber. 
 
Lipids 
Ramadan & Morsel (2003) compared seeds and pulp of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus indica 
L.) in terms of fatty acids, lipid classes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins and β-carotene. Total 
lipids (TL) in lyophilized seeds and pulp were 98.8 (dry weight) and 8.70 g/kg 
respectively. High amounts of neutral lipids were found (87.0% of TL) in seed oil while 
glycolipids and phospholipids occurred at high levels in pulp oil (52.9% of TL).  
Ennouri et al. (2005) investigated fatty acid composition and physicochemical parameters 
of the seed oil from Opuntia ficus indica and Opuntia stricta fruits. The main fatty acids 
of prickly pear seed oil were C16:0, C18:0, C18:1, C18:2. With an exceptional level of 
linoleic acid up to 70% the content of unsaturated fatty acids was high, at 88.5% and 
88.0% for O. ficus indica and O. stricta respectively. Wei Liu et al. (2009) investigated 
supercritical carbon dioxide extraction of seed oil from Opuntia dillenii Haw. and its 
antioxidant activity. The maximum extraction yield of 6.65% was achieved at 46.96 MPa, 
46.51ºC, 2.79 h and 10 kg/h of pressure, temperature, time and CO
2
 flow rate 
respectively. The chemical composition of the seed oil was analysed by GC–MS. The 
main fatty acids were found linolenic acid (66.56%), palmitic acid (19.78%), stearic acid 
(9.01%) and linoleic acid (2.65%). The antioxidant activity of seed oil was assessed by 
means of 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical-scavenging assay and β-carotene 
bleaching test. Both methods demonstrated notable antioxidant activity of seed oil which 
 
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was nearly comparable to the references ascorbic acid and butylated hydroxytoluene. The 
antioxidant activity of the seed oil was also found to be concentration dependent. 
 
2.3.4 Ethanopharmacological Action 
Opuntia  species has been used by humans for thousands of years. Besides being 
consumed as food or beverages, most portions of the plants have been used as medicine 
and in modern times have also been prepared as juice, jam, flour, frozen fruit, juice 
concentrate, and spray-dried juice powder (Smith, 1967; Stintzing & Carle, 2005, 2006; 
Feugang et al., 2006;). A remarkable number of cacti are used by indigenous people of 
the New World for healing. According to Parmar and Kaushal (1982), Kirtikar & Basu 
(1999) and Patil et al. (2008), the plant is bitter, laxative; stomachic, carminative, 
antipyretic. Cures biliousness, burning, leucoderma, urinary complains, tumours, loss of 
consciousness, piles, inflammations, anaemia, ulcers, respiratory disorders like asthma 
and the enlargement of the spleen. The flowers cure bronchitis and asthma. Medically 
related used of some species are discussed here. The Shoshoni make a poultice from the 
inner part of the stem of Opuntia basilaris and apply it to cuts and wounds for pain 
(Moerman, 1998). Grenand et al. (1987) report that Opuntia cochenillifera is widely used 
in Mexico and Central America as an antifungal agent. People throughout Asia employ 
Opuntia dillenii for a variety of purposes. In India, it is used to treat sores, pimples, even 
syphilis (Jain and Tarafder, 1970). Curtin (1949) reports that the Pima apply the heated 
stem segment of Opuntia engelmannii and Opuntia phaeacantha to a new mother’s 
breasts to stimulate the flow of milk. The Okanagan-Colville and the Shuswap make a 
poultice from the stem of O. fragilis and use it to treat sores, including sore throat. They 
also eat the stems as a diuretic (Moermann 1998). Moore (1989) reports that various 
species are used as drawing poultices, for gum infections and mouth sores, as an 
analgesics for such problems as painful urination, even that prickly pear juice reduces the 
discomfort of honeymoon cystitis. Dried flowers are useful in treating ailments 
characterized by inflamed mucous membranes such as chronic colitis, asthma, vaginitis, 
and diverticulosis. Some species are effective in reducing the adverse consequences of 
adult-onset or insulin-independent diabetes. This may result from the presence of 
 
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saponins in these species. The extracts of O. ficus-indica were effective in treating 
abdominal cancer (Cruse, 1973). 
 
1.
 
Analgesic & Anti-inflammatory 
Park et al. (2001) studied the various fractionation of the methanol extract of stems of 
Opuntia ficus-indica Mill. for anti-inflammatory action using adjuvant-induced pouch 
granuloma model in mice and identified β-sitosterol as an active anti-inflammatory 
compound. Lyophilized aqueous extract (100–400 mg/kg, i.p.) of the fruits of Opuntia 
dillenii (Ker-Gawl) Haw was evaluated for analgesic activity using writhing and hot plate 
test in mice and rat, respectively and also anti-inflammatory activity using carrageenan-
induced paw edema in rats, the results exhibited dose dependent action (Loro et al., 
1999).  
 
2.
 
Anticancer 
Most recent studies suggests that the cactus pear fruit extract (i) inhibits the proliferation 
of cervical, ovarian and bladder cancer cell lines in vitro, and (ii) suppresses tumor 
growth in the nude mice ovarian cancer model in vivo. These experiments showed that 
inhibition was dose- (1, 5, 10 and 25% cactus pear extract) and time- (1, 3 or 5 day 
treatment) dependent on in vitro-cultured cancer cells. The intra-peritoneal administration 
of cactus extract solution into mice did not affect the animal body weight, which 
indicated that cactus did not have a significant toxic effect in animals. Growth inhibition 
of cultured-cancer cells was associated with an increase in apoptotic cells and the cell 
cycle arrest at the G1-phase. Moreover, the induced growth inhibition seems dependent 
on the P53 pathway, which is the major tumor suppressor. Annexin IV was increased and 
the VEGF decreased in the tumor tissue obtained from animals having received the 
cactus solution. The antiproliferative effect of betanin, isolated from the fruits of Opuntia 
ficus indica, was evaluated on human chronic myeloid leukemia cell line (K562). The 
results show dose and time dependent decrease in the proliferation of K562 cells treated 
with betanin with an IC
50
 of 40 µM. Further studies involving scanning and transmission 
electron microscopy revealed the apoptotic characteristics such as chromatin 
condensation, cell shrinkage and membrane blebbing. Agarose electrophoresis of 
 
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genomic DNA of cells treated with betanin showed fragmentation pattern typical for 
apoptotic cells. Flow cytometric analysis of cells treated with 40 mM betanin showed 
28.4% of cells in sub G0/G1 phase. Betanin treatment to the cells also induced the release 
of cytochrome c into the cytosol, PARP cleavage, down regulation Bcl-2, and reduction 
in the membrane potentials. These studies demonstrate that betanin induces apoptosis in 
K562 cells through the intrinsic pathway and is mediated by the release of cytochrome c 
from mitochondria into the cytosol, and PARP cleavage. The mechanisms responsible for 
executing the antiproliferative effects include: (i) induction of alterations in the cell 
differentiation pattern, which plays a vital role in the invasiveness and metastatic 
progression of the tumors, (ii) blockade of pre neoplastic cell expansion or induction of 
apoptosis, and (iii) intervention of metabolic activation of carcinogens by scavenging 
ROS (Sreekanth et al., 2007).  
 
3.
 
Antidiabetic 
The prickly pear cactus stems have been used traditionally to treat diabetes in Mexico 
(Domínguez López, 1995). Nowadays, Opuntia  species  is amongst the majority of 
products recommended by Italian herbalists that may be efficacious in reducing glycemia 
(Cicero et al., 2004). The hypoglycemic activity of broiled stem of Opuntia streptacantha 
Lemaire was demonstrated using different extract preparation and dosed in diabetic and 
non-diabetic human volunteers by Meckes-Lozyoa and Roman-Ramos (1986), Frati et al. 
(1989, 1989a, 1990, 1991), and Roman-Romas et al (1991). Some studies have 
demonstrated the hypoglycemic activity of the prickly pear cactus extract on non-
diabetics and diabetic-induced rats or diabetic humans (Ibanez-Camacho et al., 1979, 
1983; Frati et al., 1988, 1990a; Trejo-González et al., 1996). The anti-hyperglycemic 
effect of 12 edible plants was studied on rabbits, submitted weekly to subcutaneous 
glucose tolerance tests after gastric administration of a juice of stems of Opuntia 
streptacantha (dose, 4 ml/kg) which decrease significantly the area under the glucose 
tolerance curve and the hyperglycemic peak (Roman-Ramos et al., 1995). The 
hypoglycemic activity of a purified extract from stems of Opuntia fuliginosa Griffiths 
was evaluated on Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Blood glucose and glycated 
hemoglobin levels were reduced to normal values by a combined treatment of insulin and 
 
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Opuntia extract. When insulin was withdrawn from the combined treatment, the prickly 
pear extracts alone maintained normoglycemic state in the diabetic rats. The magnitude 
of the glucose control by the small amount of Opuntia  extract required (1 mg/kg body 
weight per day) to control diabetes contrast with the high quantities of insulin required 
for an equivalent effect (Gonzfilez et al., 1996). Plasma glucose concentrations in 
Streptozotocin-induced diabetic and non-diabetic rats were reduced by the orally 
administration of O.  megacantha leaf extracts (20 mg/100 g body weight). The results 
suggest that leaf extracts not only reduce blood glucose levels, but may be toxic to the 
kidney as shown by the elevation in plasma urea and creatinine concentrations and the 
reduction of plasma Na
+
 concentration (Bwititi et al., 2000). The seed oil from fruits of 
Opuntia ficus-indica is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids with an exceptional level of 
linoleic acid (700g/kg). In this study, evaluated the effect of seed oil supplemented diet 
on rats, the results indicated a significant decrease in serum glucose concentration (22%) 
over the control group and an increase in the concentration of glycogen in liver and 
muscle. Blood cholesterol and low density lipoprotein-cholesterol decreased in the 
treated group and high density lipoprotein-cholesterol concentration increased during the 
treatment. These findings support the nutritional value of cactus pear as a natural source 
of edible oil containing essential fatty acids (Ennouri et al., 2006, 2006a).  
 
4.
 
Anti-hyperlipidemic & - Hypercholesterolemic 
Experimental evidence suggested that cactus pear reduces cholesterol levels in human 
blood and modify low density lipoprotein composition (Fernandez et al., 1992; Frati, 
1992; Gurbachan & Felker, 1998). Galati et al. (2003) have found that the cholesterol, 
low density lipoprotein and triglyceride plasma levels of rats were strongly reduced after 
30 days of a daily administration (1 g/kg) of lyophilized cladodes of Opuntia ficus-indica 
L. Mill. Sterols which comprise the bulk of the unsaponifiables in many oils are of 
interest due to their ability to lower blood low density lipoprotein-cholesterol by 
approximately 10–15% as part of a healthy diet (Jones et al., 2000). Ennouri et al. (2006, 
2006a, 2007) investigated the effects of diets enriched with cactus pear oil and seeds on 
serum and liver parameters, the results indicated a significantly decreased blood 
 
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cholesterol and low density lipoprotein-cholesterol and increased high density 
lipoprotein-cholesterol.   
 
5.
 
Antioxidant 
The antioxidative action is one of many mechanisms by which fruit and vegetable 
substances might exert their beneficial health effects. The presence of several 
antioxidants (ascorbic acid, carotenoids, reduced glutathione, cysteine, taurine and 
flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin) has been detected in the 
fruits and vegetables of different varieties of cactus prickly pear. More recently, the 
antioxidant properties of the most frequent cactus pear betalains (betanin and 
indicaxanthin) have been revealed (Tesoriere et al., 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2005a; 
Stintzing et al., 2005). Numerous in vitro studies have demonstrated the beneficial effect 
of phenolics and betalains. These are generally attributed to the ability of antioxidants to 
neutralize reactive oxygen species such as singlet oxygen, hydrogen peroxide or H
2
O
2
, or 
suppression of the xanthine/xanthineoxidase system, all of which may induce oxidative 
injury, i.e. lipid peroxidation. Regular ingestion of prickly pear (Opuntia robusta) is able 
to significantly reduce in-vivo oxidation injury in young patients suffering from familial 
isolated hypercholesterolemia and oxidation injury determined via 8-epi-PGF

 in 
plasma, serum and urine. The findings on a decrease of 8-epi-PGF

 were more 
pronounced in females than in males, the highest significance being found in urine, while, 
in contrast, the effects on total- and low density lipoprotein-cholesterol were more 
pronounced in males. Thus, this may have a significant cardiovascular benefit (Budinsky 
et al., 2001). Kuti (2004) investigated antioxidant compounds in extracts from four 
Opuntia species (O. ficus-indica, O. lindheimeri, O. streptacantha, O. stricta var. stricta
fruit. ZEN is one of the most widely distributed fusarial mycotoxins which are 
encountered at high incidence in many foodstuffs. In this study, the effect of a single dose 
of ZEN (40 mg/kg b.w.) alone and with extract of cactus cladodes (25, 50 and 100 mg/kg 
b.w.) on the induction of oxidative stress was monitored in kidney and liver by measuring 
the MDA level, the protein carbonyls generation, the catalase activity and the expression 
of the heat shock proteins (Hsp). The results clearly showed that ZEN induced significant 
alterations in all tested oxidative stress markers, while the combined treatment of ZEN 
 
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with the lowest tested dose of cactus extracts (25 mg/kg b.w.) showed a total reduction of 
ZEN induced oxidative damage for all tested markers (Zourgui et al., 2008). 
Su-Feng Chang et al. (2008) investigated the antioxidant activity and inhibitory effect of 
extracts from Opuntia dillenii Haw fruit on low-density lipoprotein peroxidation. The 
results indicated that the antioxidant activity of methanolic extracts in Trolox equivalent 
antioxidant capacity and oxygen-radical absorbance capacity assays were in the order of 
seed > peel > pulp. Among the extracts, seed extracts 10 µg/ml) possessed the highest 
inhibitory effect on the formation of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and relative 
electrophoretic mobility and contained the highest amounts of polyphenols and 
flavonoids (212.8 and 144.1 mg/100 g fresh seed), respectively. 
 
6.
 
Antiulcer 
In Sicily folk medicine, Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. cladodes are used for the 
treatment of gastric ulcer and cicatrisant action. Galati et al. (2001, 2002a) studied the 
effect of lyophilized cladodes (1 g/kg) using ethanol-induced ulcer model in rat. In this 
study, the ultra structural changes were observed by transmission electronic microscopy 
confirming the protective effect exercised by administration of lyophilized cladodes. 
Probably, the mucilage of Opuntia ficus-indica is involved. 
 
7.
 
Antiviral 
An interesting study by Ahmad et al. (1996) demonstrated that administration of a cactus 
stem extract (Opuntia streptacantha) to mice, horses, and humans inhibits intracellular 
replication of a number of DNA- and RNA-viruses such as Herpes simplex virus Type 2, 
Equine herpes virus, pseudorabies virus, influenza virus, respiratory syncitial disease 
virus and HIV-1. An inactivation of extra-cellular viruses was also reported by the same 
authors. However, the active inhibitory component(s) of the cactus extract used in this 
study was not investigated, and as of yet, no further study dealt with this specific topic. 
Mtambo et al. (1999) evaluated the efficacy of the crude extract of Opuntia vulgaris 
against Newcastle virus disease in domestic fowl in Tanzania. 
 
 
 
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8.
 
Diuretics 
Galati et al. (2002) studied the diuretic activity of Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. waste 
matter in rat. Acute and chronic diuretic activity of 15% infusion of cladodes, flowers and 
fruits were assayed. Natriuresis, kaliuresis and the activity on fructose-induced 
hyperuricemia was also studied. The results show that Oficus-indica cladode, fruit and 
flower infusions significantly increase diuresis. This effect is more marked with the fruit 
infusion and it is particularly significant during the chronic treatment. The fruit infusion 
shows also antiuric effect. In this study, cladode, flower and fruit infusions showed a 
modest but not significant increase in natriuresis and kaliuresis. 
 
9.
 
Immunomodulatory 
Schepetkin et al. (2008) provide a molecular basis to explain a portion of the beneficial 
therapeutic properties of extracts from O. polyacantha on human and murine 
macrophages demonstrated that all four fractions had potent immunomodulatory activity, 
inducing production of reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide, TNFα, and interleukin 6. 
Modulation of macrophage function by Opuntia polysaccharides was mediated through 
activation of nuclear factor κB. 
  
10.
 
Improve platelet function 
Prickly pear is traditionally used by Pima Indians as a dietary nutrient against diabetes 
mellitus. Wolfram et al. (2003) examined the effect of daily consumption of 250g in 8 
healthy volunteers and 8 patients with mild familial heterozygous hypercholesterolemia 
on various parameters of platelet function. Beside its action on lipids and lipoproteins, 
prickly pear consumption significantly reduced the platelet proteins (platelet factor 4 and 
β-thromboglobulin), ADP-induced platelet aggregation and improved platelet sensitivity 
(against PGI
2
 and PGE
1
) in volunteers as well as in patients. Also plasma 11-DH-TXB
2
 
and the WU-test showed a significant improvement in both patients and volunteers. In 
contrast, collagen-induced platelet aggregation and the number of circulating endothelial 
cells showed a significant response in patients only. Prickly pear may induce at least part 
of its beneficial actions on the cardiovascular system via decreasing platelet activity and 
thereby improving haemostatic balance. 
 
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11.
 
Neuroprotective 
Jungsook Cho et al. (2003) isolated the flavonoids quercetin, (+)-dihydroquercetin, and 
quercetin 3-methyl ether from the ethyl acetate fractions of the fruits and stems of 
Opuntia ficus-indica var. saboten and evaluated their protective effects against oxidative 
neuronal injuries induced in primary cultured rat cortical cells and their antioxidant 
activities by using lipid peroxidation, 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl, and xanthine 
oxidase bioassays. Quercetin was found to inhibit H
2
O
2
 - or xanthine / xanthine oxidase-
induced oxidative neuronal cell injury, with an estimated IC
50
 of 4–5 µg/ ml and no more 
protection at concentrations of 30µg/ml and above while (+)-dihydroquercetin 
concentration-dependently inhibited oxidative neuronal injuries, but it was less potent 
than quercetin. On the other hand, quercetin 3-methyl ether potently and dramatically 
inhibited H
2
O
2
 - and xanthine / xanthine oxidase-induced neuronal injuries, with IC
50
 
values of 0.6 and 0.7 µg/ ml, respectively. In addition, quercetin and quercetin 3-methyl 
ether were shown to inhibit xanthine oxidase activity in vitro, with respective IC
50
 values 
of 10.67 and 42.01 µg/ ml and quercetin-3-methyl ether appears to be the most potent 
neuroprotectant of the three flavonoids isolated from this plant. 
Jung-Hoon Kima et al. (2006) examined the methanol extract of Opuntia ficus-indica 
(MEOF) as a neuroprotective action against N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-, kainate 
(KA)-, and oxygen–glucose deprivation (OGD)-induced neuronal injury in cultured 
mouse cortical cells and also evaluated the protective effect in the hippocampal CA1 
region against neuronal damage evoked by global ischemia in gerbils. Treatment of 
neuronal cultures with MEOF (30, 300, and 1000 µg/ml) inhibited NMDA (25 µM)-, KA 
(30  µM)-, and OGD (50 min)-induced neurotoxicity dose-dependently. The butanol 
fraction of Opuntia ficus indica (300  µg/ml) significantly reduced NMDA (20 µM)-
induced delayed neurotoxicity by 27%. Gerbils were treated with MEOF every 24 h for 3 
days (0.1, 1.0, and 4.0 g/kg, p.o.) or for 4 weeks (0.1 and 1.0 g/kg, p.o.), and ischemic 
injury was induced after the last dose. Neuronal cell damage in the hippocampal CA1 
region was evaluated quantitatively at 5 days after the ischemic injury. When gerbils 
were given doses of 4.0 g/kg (3 days) and 1.0 g/kg (4 weeks), the neuronal damage in the 
hippocampal region was reduced by 32 and 36%, respectively. These results suggested 
 
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