Studien zur Prostata-Wirkung des Feigenkaktus (Opuntia ficus
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, September 1994
of Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy with Opuntia ficus-indica (L.)
Dan Palevitch, Gideon Earon and Israel Levin
Studies indicated that a dry flower preparation of the cactus
Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Miller cv. Offer, commonly known as
the Indian-fig prickly pear, improved subjectively the discomforts
associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy. The mode of action
is not yet known.
Studien mit einer Zubereitung aus den getrockneten Blüten
des Kaktus Opuntia ficus indica (L.) Miller, allgemein bekannt
unter dem Namen Feigenkaktus, haben eine Verbesserung verschiedener
subjektiver Beschwerden der gutartigen Prostatahypertrophie gezeigt.
Der Wirkmechanismus dieses Präparats ist noch nicht genau
Barbary fig cactus, cactus flowers, herbal remedies, Indian-fig
prickly pear cactus, urination.
Feigenkaktus, Kaktusblüten, Heilpflanzen, Opuntia, Harnlassen
prostate, an organ of the mammalian male reproduction system which
contributes secretions to semen, surrounds the neck of the bladder
and the proximal portion or the urethra. In middle-aged and older
men, this organ, consisting of both muscular and glandular elements,
frequently enlarges, causing a condition commonly known as benign
prostatic hypertrophy where the enlargement pressing on the urethra
obstructs urination (8). Depending upon the degree of enlargement,
the obstruction can be a simple annoyance or serious medical problem.
Several herbal, folk medicine remedies and modern herbological
preparations are said to ease the situation. Of these remedies,
the most widely used are fruit from saw palmetto (Serenoa repens),
seeds from pumpkin (Curcubita pepo), vegetative tissue from horsetail
(Equisetum arvense) and roots and fruit from parseley (Pet-roselinum
crispum) (1,5,9). Urgenin (Madaus International), a commercial
preparation of Echinacea angustifolia and Serenoa repens, is a
highly praised, natural remedy used in ortho-dox medicine to relieve
prostatic prob-lems and other urinary ailments (9).
Another plant that enjoys a reputation as a remedy for urination
problems is Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Miller. In Israel a decoction
made from the flower of this plant is widely used as a strong
diuretic (3). In North Africa the flowers of Opuntia ficus-indica
are combined with barley seeds and cornsilk to treat urine obstruction
(2). The Cladodes of Opuntia species are used in Mexico for treating
diabetes, hyperlipidemia and obesity (4). Flowers of Opuntia species
are recommended for treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy
in the British Herbal Pharmacopeia (1).
genus Opuntia consists of 300 species of which the Indian-fig
prickleypear, Opuntia ficus-indica, has the greatest economic
importance. The plant, native to Mexico, grows in semi-tropical
and tropical regions and has become distributed throughout southern
Europe, the Mediterranean region, Africa, South and Central America,
India and the south western United States. In Israel the cactus,
grown for centuries as a field edge or windbreak, is cultivated
for the edible fruit. The cultivated plants, Opuntia ficus-indica
cv. Offer become two to three metres tall with cladodes 30 to
40 cm long and 15 to 25 cm wide. The cultivar Offer, a spineless
type, has yellow flowers at full bloom that change to bright orange
at maturity (2), flowering usually starts in mid-May and lasts
until mid-June but autumn flowering can also be achieved by fertilisation
and irrigation (6). Flowers remain open for 36 to 48 hours and
are highly attractive to pollinators, especially bees. After pollination,
the unattached flower dries, and if not picked, eventually becomes
destroyed by the wind. The fruit harvesting seasons is in August
The objective of our studies was to conduct a preliminary evaluation
on the potential clinical application of Opuntia flowers in the
treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy.
flowers of Opuntia ficus-indica were collected on May 24, 1988,
from the Prior Plantation at Nizzanim in Israel. The collected
flowers were sun-dried, ground to powder and packed into hard,
gelatine capsules (supplied by Assutech, Inc., Rehovot, Israel)
(250 mg dried flower/capsule) for use in treatment of patients.
The effectiveness of dried flowers for treatment of benign prostatic
hypertrophy was evaluated in two clinical trials: 58 patients
of a private clinic and 30 patients that visited the Urology outpatient
Clinic of the Soroka Medical Centre. Each patient, three times
per day, took orally two of the gelatine capsules containing the
ground Opuntia flowers. Non-treated controls, patients receiving
placebos in place of the Opuntia flowers, were not included due
to the preliminary nature of these studies.
The evaluation trials lasted six to eight (private clinic) and
two (outpatient clinic) months and patients were questioned at
the end (private clinic) or beginning and end (outpatient clinic)
to a set of subjective questions regarding symptoms of benign
prostatic hypertrophy. In addition, the medical history of each
patient was collected and the subject underwent a physical control.
Urine was checked for blood and the diameter of the urinary tract
was measured by ultrasound. Urodynamic and microbiological tests
were also used with the outpatient clinic patients to evaluate
urinary tract function.
both trials, patients reported im-provement in the symptoms of
benign prostatic hypertrophy following treat-ment with dries flowers
of Opuntia ficus-indica cv. Offer (Table 1). A large number of
patients reported a decrease in the urgency to urinate, emergency
urinations and a feeling of fullness in the bladder. Not all patients
received relief from symptoms following treatment, however, and
the response to different symptoms was mixed.
No deterioration in urinary function was detected for any of the
patients in the clinical trials. Kidney performance and the urodynamic
parameters did not change in the treated patients (data not shown).
subjective alleviation of discomforts associated with prostatic
hypertrophy was noted by patients using dries flowers of Opuntia
ficus-indica, Indian-fig prickly pear cactus. These results are
encouraging and suggest that the cactus may have clinical application
in treatment of enlarged prostate glands. If adopted for treatment,
use of Opuntia ficus-indica flowers could benefit patients affected
with benign prostatic hypertrophy and provide a new market for
farmproduced plant material. A double-blind crossover, placebo
controlled trial and 100 patients lasting eight to 12 months is
now in progress.
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