Cactus cure for bad hangovers

The cure to a stomach-turning hangover may be growing in the Arizona desert. Prickly pears are a cactus fruit, and studies show they help reduce symptoms when taken before drinking. Fox’s Aalia Shaheed has the story.

A night of holiday-party drinking doesn’t have to be painful the next morning, thanks to a common desert plant.

The fruit of the prickly pear cactus is a lean, mean hangover-fighting machine.

Grown in Mexico and in the Southwestern U.S., researchers believe that prickly pear extract can reduce inflammation in the liver caused by a night of heavy boozing –elevating headaches, nausea and other symptoms.

One study, led by Dr. Jeff Wiese at the Tulane Health Sciences Center in 2004, found that participants who took the extract before a night out drinking said that their nausea, dry mouth and aversion to food were all significantly less severe the next morning.

But Natalie McGee, the owner of Arizona Cactus Ranch, knew about the prickly pear’s healing qualities long before then. Since 1991, she has lived and worked on the ranch harvesting prickly pear to be used in various consumer products, and says the extract has improved her overall health.

“I’m seventy-five, I look fifty, I feel twenty and I act ten. And I have to attribute this to prickly pear,” McGee told

Stephanie Jones, a Tucson-based dietitian with EastSide Nutrition Services, says the cactus also has other health benefits.

“Studies have proven prickly pear to be very effective in balancing cholesterol, as well as blood sugar,’ said Jones.

But its power to help prevent hangovers is more well known.

“This plant would protect the liver from the toxicity of the alcohol, and you would never get a hangover…but it would never affect your buzz,” said McGee.

The extract usually is found in pill or liquid form.

Jones recommends taking the extract at least five hours before you begin drinking to get the best effects.

If you happen to find yourself in an arid Southwestern state where prickly pear grows in abundance, McGee suggests you try an easy-to-make juice.

Click here for the recipe.

She recommends peeling the pears, putting them in a juicer, boiling it, and adding a bit of sweetener. Then, just cool it in the fridge.

McGee also makes jams and juices that are available online.

She transports her prickly pears from her ranch to a warehouse in Tucson, where she makes her signature ‘Hangover Terminator’ product. It is a nectar made of prickly pear juices make at a certain pH level. Once the acidity level is where it needs to be, she heats up the juice, bottles it, cools it and ships it out.

Prickly pear extract may not be able to prevent hangovers from happening altogether, but according to McGee, it to can give you significant relief from those post-holiday party blues.

Effect of Prickly Pear on Symptoms of the Alcohol Hangover


A study that was approved by the institutional review boards at Tulane University and University of California found that an extract of the Prickly Pear (Opuntia Ficus Indica) plant has a moderate effect on reducing hangover symptoms.

What’s The Science Behind The Research

Conclusions of the study (from JAMA Internal Medicine) state that symptoms of a hangover are largely due to alcohol activating inflammation in the body. And apparently the Prickly Pear works by inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators, therefore reducing the hangover. Alcohol impurities (congeners) is what can produce the heightened inflammatory state, also the metabolic byproducts of alcohol metabolism can contribute as well. There were 55 Tulane graduate students that the scientists studied ranging between the ages of 21 to 35. None of them had any medical history of hypertension, liver disease or cardiac disease, nor smoked. They all had some prior hangover experience though.

Hangover Symptoms That Were Helped

The placebo-controlled, crossover trial found hangover symptoms such as nausea, dry mouth, and anorexia, to be moderately reduced. Overall, Prickly Pear (Opuntia Ficus Indica) reduced the severity of a hangover by half. To further prove the conclusions, 10 of the worst hangovers occurred in the subjects that were given the placebo. Prickly Pear juice is how some prefer to take the fruit, and the plant itself is particularly popular in Latin America because it’s high is fiber, antioxidants and carotenoids. If you’ve tried Prickly Pear before, please let us know your thoughts and results of taking it.

Other names for Prickly Pear: Barbary-fig Cactus, Cactus Fruit, Cactus Flowers, Cactus Pear Fruit, Figue d’Inde, Fruit du Cactus, Fruit de l’Oponce, Figuier de Barbarie, Indian-fig Prickly Pear Cactus, Indien-Figue, Nopal, Nopal Cactus, Nopales, Nopol, OPI, Oponce, Opuntia, Opuntia ficus, Opuntia cardona, Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia Fruit, Opuntia fuliginosa, Opuntia streptacantha, Opuntia hyptiacantha, Opuntia lasciacantha, Opuntia macrocentra, Opuntia megacantha, Opuntia puberula, Gracemere-Pear, Opuntia velutina, Opuntia violacea, Tuna Cardona, Westwood-Pear, Prickly Pear.

4 Responses

Jennifer Elise Hildenbrand

April 08, 2019

I just want to share that prickly pear has decreased my liver function blood lab results from near failure to normal range.
I had a double lung transplant almost 2 years ago and I’ve done exceptionally well. he anti rejection meds wreak havoc on the kidneys and liver. I definitely give a lot of the credit to the prickly pear. I believe it will keep me from needing a kidney transplant which is very common after transplant.
I will say that taking it at least five hours early is the key to alleviating hangover symptoms.
please keep studying its effects and other health benefits.


January 30, 2019

Thank you Tiffany for sharing that! We agree, and based on science too, Prickly Pear is pretty amazing on the difference it can make 🙂


January 30, 2019

I take prickly pear capsules before and after a night of drinking. My mom heard about it from a lady at the health food store. It’s changed my life. On the rare occasion I overindulge, I don’t wake up feeling like I need to be sick. Instead, it’s mild nausea and I can actually eat something in the morning. Mind you, I still experience a slight headache and malaise, but compared to the nights I forget to take it when drinking, the difference is night and day for me. Highly recommend!!


December 12, 2015

Thank you Genine, I am in Australia where Prickly pears grow like pests once they are planted. In the house binehd us Italian gardener planted the prickly pears. I have tried the fruit and loved it but generally see them as pests because they grow to about 8 foot tall and the paddles fall off and in our back yard. Then I worry about the grandchildren standing on them. You have given me a new apreciation of the plant in it’s native environment … I will look on them more fondly in future.

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5 Favorite Recipes: Super Bowl Snacks

For people who have inadvertently overindulged in alcohol, the dreaded hangover may be eased by consuming extract from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, according to researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans. They found that volunteers who took the extract a few hours before drinking reduced their hangover symptoms by as much as 50 percent compared with drinkers who took a placebo.

The study, conducted with assistance from University of California, San Franciso, was published this summer in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers theorized that the primary cause of a hangover is the “heightened inflammatory state induced by alcohol impurities” known as congeners, byproducts of fermentation and distillation. Dehydration and alcohol’s effects on hormone levels may exacerbate the condition. The scientists wanted to find out if reducing tissue inflammation would also help reduce hangover symptoms.

Extracts of the prickly pear fruit, a round, reddish berry covered with tiny hairs, have been shown in prior studies to reduce inflammation by accelerating the production of “heat shock proteins,” which are a reaction to environmental stress.

The scientists studied 55 Tulane graduate students, aged 21 to 35, who didn’t smoke, had prior hangover experience and did not have a medical history of hypertension, liver disease or cardiac disease. They used a prickly pear extract called Tex-OE, which was donated by Extracts Plus, now known as Perfect Equation.

In a supervised environment, subjects followed a set regime. At 2 p.m., vital signs were measured and blood and urine samples were taken. At 3 p.m., roughly half the subjects were given the Tex-OE capsule, with the others took a placebo. At 6 p.m., the subjects were fed a dinner of cheeseburgers and fries with a soda. Students were given a choice of spirits: gin, rum, vodka (all three of which are fairly low in congeners), bourbon, scotch and tequila (which are higher in congeners). From 8 p.m. to midnight, the subjects consumed up to 1.75 grams of alcohol per kilogram of their body weight (varying from around five to 10 drinks per person). Previous studies have shown this amount of alcohol will produce a hangover safely, the researchers said.

At 1 a.m., blood samples were taken. The volunteers were then sent home via a car service to rest and returned at 10 a.m. to have their vital signs measured again and to fill out hangover reports. The study was repeated with the same volunteers on another occasion, with similar results.

Hangover severity was self-reported in a survey that has also been used in previous studies; volunteers rated the severity of several symptoms — such as headache, nausea, weakness, diarrhea and dizziness — on a 7-point scale, with 0 being no symptoms and 6 being “worst possible symptoms,” requiring one to miss work or school. The scientists then averaged these numbers to create a “hangover index.”

The scientists wrote that they found “hangover symptom severity to be moderately reduced by an extract of the prickly pear plant.” They also noted that the 10 worst hangovers occurred in subjects who were given the placebo.

On average, placebo takers recorded 2.7 points on the hangover severity index, while extract takers recorded an average of 1.2 points. The type of spirits consumed did not statistically alter the severity of the hangover. The researchers also adjusted for hangover severity by measuring levels of inflammatory markers in the blood and urine; these levels were undetectable in 49 percent of the extract takers, but only 24 percent of the placebo takers. With all factors taken into account, the scientists concluded that taking the extract may lead to a 50 percent lower chance of developing a hangover.

The authors acknowledged that the study has limitations. For example, younger people often experience less-severe hangovers than older people, so the results may not pertain to the general population.

Lead author Dr. Jeff Wiese also added that wine drinkers may not benefit from using the Tex-OE extract, because wine contains extra components that may lead to increased inflammation. “Wine, more so than other alcohols, is full of nonvolatile congeners, i.e., tannins, fusel oil, cask oil, etc., which is nice for taste, or can be, but may make the hangover worse,” he said.

Perfect Equation, the manufacturer of Tex-OE, has been using the study results to promote its “Hangover Prevention Formula,” a commercially available product that it claims is more effective than Tex-OE alone because it also includes B-vitamins that are depleted when alcohol is consumed. (The Tulane study noted that vitamin B6 supplements reduced hangover symptoms in previous research.) The company’s Web site touts: “A clinical test by independent researchers at Tulane University proves it: HPF prevents hangovers!”

Wiese had no comment on Perfect Equation’s use of his study as a marketing tool, but the study said the authors had no financial interest in the article. The research also noted that hangover preventatives are not intended to encourage overconsumption of alcohol and the authors did not encourage their use. The report added, “The best prevention for the hangover would obviously be abstinence from alcohol.”

# # #

For a comprehensive look at the potential health benefits of drinking wine, check out senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson’s feature Eat Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer: The Science Behind A Healthy Life With Wine

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  • Prickly pear extract may ease hangovers

    Soothing teas, fizzy drinks and little pills all claim to fix what ails you after a night of heavy drinking.

    But Dr. Jeffrey Wiese, who last week reported that prickly pear cactus could reduce some hangover symptoms, says that a wonder cure is probably a myth. “I doubt there will ever be a hangover cure unless you could make alcohol not do what alcohol does,” said Wiese, an associate professor of medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans.

    That doesn’t stop people from trying to develop the perfect therapy.

    Previous research has found that vitamin B-6 and tolfenamic acid, an anti-inflammatory drug prescribed for migraines, each relieved imbibers from some of their day-after symptoms. But a 2003 study by Dr. Max Pittler of the Peninsula Medical School in Britain found that artichoke extract didn’t help hangovers.


    In the prickly pear study, 55 people ate dinner and then consumed five to 10 drinks of gin, vodka, rum, bourbon, Scotch or tequila. Some of them took a supplement of prickly pear cactus two hours before drinking, while others took a sugar pill.

    People who took the supplement were half as likely to suffer severe hangover symptoms and reported less nausea, dry mouth and loss of appetite than people who took the sugar pill.

    The study found that the supplement, sold over the Internet, primarily helps relieve one hangover symptom: inflammation. It did not help with dehydration or sleeplessness, the other likely contributors to a hangover.

    Researchers believe the prickly pear extract, taken from the skin of the fruit, increases the production of proteins that help reduce the inflammation caused by impurities in alcohol. Wiese and his colleagues used prickly pear supplements from Perfect Equation Inc., a nutritional supplements firm, but the researchers were not paid by the company. The results were published in the June 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.


    Cactus extract lessened the symptoms of a hangover

    If you want to drink but you don’t want a hangover, a plant extract could be the answer, a study suggests.

    US researchers at Tulane University found extracts of a prickly pear cactus lessened hangover symptoms such as nausea and a dry mouth.

    They believe the extract works by reducing stress caused to the body by impurities in alcoholic drinks.

    Experts said the findings, reported in Archives of Internal Medicine, should not detract from alcohol’s dangers.

    Dr Jeff Wiese and his team asked 55 volunteers aged between 21 and 35 to take part in an experiment.

    Dummy tablets

    Half of the volunteers were given extracts from the skin of a type of prickly pear cactus called Opuntia ficus indica, five hours before consuming alcohol.

    The other half were given a dummy tablet that contained no extract. Neither group knew which tablet they had received.

    For a long time, science has held that the hangover is solely due to dehydration. This research suggests there’s an inflammatory component as well
    Lead researcher Dr Jeff Wiese

    The volunteers were given dinner an hour later and then four hours later were asked to drink a quantity of alcohol that is known to produce a hangover.

    One hour after the drinking had ended, the researchers tested the volunteer’s blood alcohol levels.

    The volunteers were driven home and asked to return the next day for testing.

    The following morning, each volunteer was asked to rate any hangover symptoms and their overall well-being.

    Two weeks later, the volunteers were asked to repeat the experiment, except those who had been given the cactus extract were given the fake tablet and vice versa.

    Dr Wiese’s team found three hangover symptoms – nausea, a dry mouth and loss of appetite – were significantly reduced by the cactus extract.

    The people who took the cactus extract also had higher scores of well-being than those who had taken the dummy tablet.


    Levels of a protein produced by the liver in response to stress and inflammation, called C-reactive protein, were also reduced by the cactus extract.

    The volunteers who received the fake drug had C-reactive protein levels 40% higher than those of the volunteers who took the cactus extract.

    Dr Wiese’s team believe the extract reduces inflammation caused by impurities in alcoholic beverages and by-products produced when alcohol is broken down by the body.

    This may be useful information for other medical conditions other than hangovers, which are self-inflicted. The obvious thing is not to drink too much
    Dr Guy Ratcliffe, medical director of Medical Council on Alcohol

    “For a long time, science has held that the hangover is solely due to dehydration. This research suggests there’s an inflammatory component as well,” said Dr Wiese.

    “The next study for scientists will be to elucidate exactly what is happening in the hangover period with respect to inflammation,” he said.

    Dr Wiese hopes their findings can be used to protect people against the health hazards of alcohol.

    “We are not interested in alleviating hangovers so people can drink to impunity. We want to understand the process so we can provide better counselling advice for patients.

    “We know that in patients who have an increased risk of heart attack, being frequently hung-over doubles the risk of mortality,” he said.

    Dr Guy Ratcliffe, medical director of the Medical Council on Alcohol, said the study appeared to be well conducted and that it was not unreasonable to think that an extract might have such effects.

    He said its action on C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, was particularly interesting.

    “This may be useful information for other medical conditions other than hangovers, which are self-inflicted.

    “The obvious thing is not to drink too much,” he said.

    Alcohol warning

    Mr Andrew McNeil, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “It is quite possible that they are on to something, but it’s not the complete answer.

    “It’s more magical than it actually is and if it were magical then it itself would be problematic given that hangovers are nature’s way of saying you have had too much,” he said.

    Alcohol Concern said: “Drinkers should be very wary of any product purporting to provide a miracle cure for hangovers and which appears to give the green light to drink large amounts with no after-effects.

    “Our advice to drinkers is to stick to the medically recognised limits of 2-3 alcohol units a day for women and 3-4 for men.”

    The Real Prickly Pear Extract For Hangover Prevention

    (PRWEB) August 18, 2004

    Many mainstream media outlets in America and throughout the world have reported that ordinary Prickly Pear Cactus extract can prevent hangover symptoms– as a result of the clinical study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine. Because of this reporting, people everywhere have been misinformed because ordinary Prickly Pear Cactus or its extracts will not prevent hangover symptoms.

    It is true that the extract administered and clinically proven in the study at Tulane University was derived from Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia ficus indica). However, it was a specially-processed, patented extract obtained by a patented process, called Tex-OE(R). And it provides biological activity that is much different from ordinary Prickly Pear Cactus extract. Tex-OE contains special bio-active molecules that other Prickly Pear Cactus extracts do not contain. Because of this, the patented extract does something no other Prickly Pear Cactus extract can do. Tex-OE rapidly accelerates the synthesis of Heat Shock Proteins (HSP), a natural protective and restorative mechanism in the human body in response to the stress caused by the toxicity of alcohol. In doing so, it prevents hangover symptoms and provides improved cognitive function the morning following alcohol consumption, as reported in the AMA journal.

    Tex-OE is the product of ten years of research and development by a renowned cell biology and pharmacology team. The team believed that because of the Prickly Pear Cactus’ ability to survive extremes of high and low temperature and drought it likely possessed active molecules that would help protect and restore cells in humans as well. They were right.

    Unlike ordinary Prickly Pear Cactus extract, Tex-OE delivers special active molecules derived from the skin of the fruit of the Prickly Pear. It is these special molecules that provide the protective and restorative benefits that other Prickly Pear extracts simply cannot provide.

    To do what Tex-OE does, the manufacturer of a Prickly Pear extract would have to mimic the discovery and use the patented process developed to produce the patented version of the extract. The manufacturer would have to:

    1. Identify the specific molecules that have the ability to synthesize Heat Shock Protein.

    2. Know how to separate them from the plant and its cellulose while maintaining their activity

    3. Know how to test for them chemically

    4. Know how to test for their activity in cell culture bioassays to prove their activity in a biological system

    5. Adhere to a routine cell culture activity quality control specification

    6. Test every lot to prove it has the necessary bioactivity

    Tex-OE is the only cactus extract with bio-activity that is proven in cell culture bioassays on every extract. This is to ensure that the active molecules are present in efficacious amounts and that they have been properly captured and separated from cellulose, so they can be absorbed and continue their beneficial activity in the human body. (Humans do not have an enzyme that can digest the cellulose and so the active molecules would pass through the system without absorption unless they are removed from the cellulose). Unlike Tex-OE, common Prickly Pear Cactus extract is taken from the cactus pads (nopales, tunas, or cladodes as they are called)—not the skin of the fruit like Tex-OE. Common Prickly Pear Cactus Extract is bound to cellulose that would prevent proper absorption of any active molecules (if they were present).

    In the original clinical report written by the research team at Tulane University, Tex-OE, the patented extract, extracted by the patented process, was initially named throughout the report. However, when the final, peer-reviewed study was published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, common Prickly Pear Cactus or its Latin genus, Opuntia ficus indica, was cited in the title and throughout the text as the effective extract. (Only one reference to the actual extract used, Tex-OE, is on page 1335 under the title– Intervention. Consequently many of the media reported the name of the extract as published throughout the medical journal– Prickly Pear Cactus extract, instead of Tex-OE).

    There is a significant difference between Tex-OE and common Prickly Pear Cactus extract.

    To add to this, the lead investigator stated, “Tex-OE was the extract administered in the study. If people generalize anything from the study to their own lives, they should realize that to get the same results from the study they need to use the same extract– Tex-OE.”

    The manufacturer, Perfect Equation, Inc., believes that the media did not realize that Tex-OE and common Prickly Pear Cactus are completely different extracts. While this error was inadvertent, the error should be noted and corrected so that people are not misinformed.

    Tex-OE, the extract in HPF Hangover Prevention Formula, is the extract that was tested and proven in the clinical study. Ordinary Prickly Pear extract will not prevent hangovers. Tex-OE is the unique extract proven effective in The Archives of Internal Medicine Report. To prevent hangovers, Tex-OE is only found in HPF Hangover Prevention Formula, sold on the internet at and The product can also be purchased at the company’s 24/7 call center, (800) 720-2970.

    Qualified distributor and investor inquiries are welcome.

    # # #

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    MULTI-PURPOSE REMEDY: Prevent hangovers by drinking Last Call just before bed or first thing in the morning! Or try it if you’re feeling dehydrated after a workout or a long day & need an extra boost!

    PATENTED DESIGN: For maximum potency & freshness, our formula is contained in a push cap to protect the active ingredients. To mix, break the cap’s airtight seal to release the powder into the water.

    DELICIOUS DETOX: Last Call is preservative-free, full of nutrients, & contains just 15 calories.

    AFTER-ALCOHOL MORNING RECOVERY: Enjoy the nightlife & detox quickly with this hangover cure featuring electrolytes for rapid hydration plus vitamins, plant extracts, & antioxidants to aid in recovery.

    Key Ingredients:

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    • Coenzyme Q10
    • Dandelion Root
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    • Rosemary Leaf Extract

    Every Bottle Is :

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    Ask the Diet Doctor: Hangover Cures


    Q: Can taking a B-vitamin supplement help you overcome a hangover?

    A: When a few too many glasses of wine last night leave you with a throbbing headache and a nauseous feeling, you’d probably give anything for a quick-fix hangover cure. Berocca, a new product full of B vitamins that recently hit U.S. shelves, has been considered one for many years. The belief that B vitamins will cure a hangover comes from the idea that alcoholics often have vitamin B deficiencies, yet assuming that restoring these nutrients will cure symptoms of a hangover is a rather large leap of faith-not science.

    B vitamins are effective at replenishing nutrients lost as a result of heavy drinking, but they won’t necessarily cure the symptoms of a hangover. So is there anything that will help? Despite almost 2,000,000 Google search results for the phrase “hangover cure,” science has yet to find a consistent and credible solution to curb the headache, nausea, vomiting, irritation, tremor, thirst, and dry mouth that can plague you after a night of drinking. However, there are some strategies that can help you out while we wait for this scientific breakthrough.

    1. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is one of the easiest ways to get a headache (post-drinking or not). Drinking ample water during your night out and when you wake up is key to reducing the negative effects of dehydration that come with a hangover.

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    2. Choose a headache medication with caffeine. Caffeine is added to many OTC headache meds, as it can make them nearly 40 percent more effective through driving faster uptake of the medication by your body. There is other research to suggest that caffeine itself may aid in headache relief, but the way in which it does this is not well understood. Also, keep in mind that different people are impacted by caffeine differently; for some it may make the headache worse.

    3. Take prickly pear extract. It probably won’t prevent a hangover, but this plant extract was shown in one clinical trial to reduce the severity of a hangover-specifically nausea, loss of appetite, and dry mouth-by 50 percent. When choosing a supplement, know that a dose of 1,600 IU is needed for the anti-hangover effect.

    4. Try borage oil and/or fish oil. The symptoms of a hangover are partly driven by inflammation from prostaglandins, a unique type of hormone-like compounds in your body that are made from long chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA (the ones that make fish oil so famous), the omega-6 fat GLA (found in borage or evening primrose oil), and arachidonic acid. Research from the early 1980s shows that when a person takes a drug that inhibits prostaglandin production, their hangover symptoms were all significantly reduced the next day. Since you don’t have prostaglandin inhibitor drugs at your disposal, the next best thing is a combination of borage oil and fish oil. This duo works at the molecular level to block the production of inflammatory prostaglandins while increasing production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

    • By Dr. Mike Roussell

    Prickly pear extract hangover

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