Is it a good idea get water from cacti? Short answer is "No".

Discussion in 'Herbalism - Medicinal, Practical, and other Uses' started by Correy, May 21, 2016.

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  1. Correy

    Correy Expert Member
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    Sure cacti retain a lot of water in otherwise dried out landscape like desserts, and while it is possible to eat some cacti for sustenance, it's not wise to try and cut up every cactus for that reason.

    Out of all the cacti, there are species that contain both dangerous alkaloids as well as psychoactive substances, that can cause symptoms from diarrea to epilepsy and death.
    There was once a report about a group of youths who got lost in the dessert and tried to eat random cacti, so they cut up a Ferocactus emoryi (which is this little guy: http://www.cactus-art.biz/schede/FE...moryi/Ferocactus_emoryi/Ferocactus_emoryi.htm) and ended up with severe diarrea and mild paralysis, eventually becoming more dehydrated instead of hydrated. That plant is called "barrel that kills" because people who ate it to quench their thrist ended up dead in the desert.

    Here's the story: https://arizonadailyindependent.com...-in-maricopa-county-survived-on-cactus-water/

    Because of their unique metabolism, the flesh of most cacti is generally rich in malic acid, but cooking the cactus can neutralise it. Another component of cacti that can be dangerous is oxalic acid, also a derivative of their fascinating metabolism, but quite risky for human consumption, as oxalic acid can bind with circulating calcium and form kidney stones, as the blood is filtered.

    There are some edible species of cacti and succulents, like the symbol of the west, the Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea). These species are either eaten cooked, or some of them are even eaten raw because of their lower content of oxalic acid.

    For the information of people who might like to try them as something gourmet:
    Additional edible species are:

    The Opuntia species, also known as the nopales, nopalitos, the cactus pear, or the paddle cactus:

    _uSA8bGnuFY6MCFdEDp0MoMYl3tm4hB5.jpeg

    The organ pipe cactus or ool (Stenocereus thurberi), that looks like a shorter version of Saguaro:

    _uSA8bGnuFY6MCFdEDp0MoMYl3tm4hB5.jpeg

    The fruits and flowers of barrel cacti:

    _uSA8bGnuFY6MCFdEDp0MoMYl3tm4hB5.jpeg

    The Hylocereus fruit, or dragonfruit:

    _uSA8bGnuFY6MCFdEDp0MoMYl3tm4hB5.gif

    Succulent plants, include some of the agave species like Agave tequilana (which is used to make tequila), as well as Purslane and Caralluma species. Another succulent group that is edible is "stonecrops" (or Sedum species).
     
  2. Sealpikachu

    Sealpikachu Member
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    I had no idea some were bad for you...vwhat woukd you recommend as a safer water supply in a desert? While the pictures are super helpful in identifying, I'm guessing in the moment it would be hard to distinguish amongst the dangerous ones, specially since plants don't always look exactly like they're supposed to. I wonder if there is a safer way getting water in case of an emergency.
     
  3. Correy

    Correy Expert Member
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    Well usually a plant or cactus that's very flamboyant looking and has intense colours is a "no-no". The safest species is the typical Saguaro cactus and all paddlecacti. These are also very recognisable.
    Unfortunately the safest water supply in the dessert is either your flask and your urine, or finding a hidden spring, although even the spring could be contaminated and give you a nasty case of parasytes and diarrhea. Hidden springs are usually surrounded by not-very-desertlike plants. Like if you see those tumbleweeds taking root there, or grass and small plants, that means there's humidity there. It could be really deep underground sometimes but even the shade that an oasis can give you is crucial to surviving.
     
  4. meganisonfire

    meganisonfire New Member
      8/23

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    Wow thank you for letting us know about cactus. I had no idea that some were bad either! I was told that if I got lost in a desert that I could eat a cactus and would be okay. That is crazy that the one you mention is particular can cause seizures and even death. That is the last thing you want to happen when you are lost in a desert!
     
  5. BeautifullyBree

    BeautifullyBree Active Member
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    I never knew cacti could be bad for you. In common media and TV shows drinking water from cacti in the desert is a common knowledge. Perhaps they should have made it more known so people wouldn't make a mistake.
     
  6. DaBozzLady

    DaBozzLady Member
      18/23

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    Thank you for the information and link. I have heard both ends of the spectrum, so its nice to know that there are facts to support it. I also have friends that eat nopales. I've never tried it but they seem to like it. While there are downsides, it is also key to note that some forms of cacti can be used to purify water as well as be used for first aid treatments.
     
  7. GrecianShamrock

    GrecianShamrock New Member
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    Didn't know that, thank you. Now if you happen to cut up and boil Ferocactus emoryi is it still dangerous? I know that some forms of cacti can be safe but didn't know if when boiled that form could be as well
     
  8. Correy

    Correy Expert Member
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    I think Ferocactus alcaloids (the harmful ingerdient) are heat resistant, so boiling them wouldn't do much. Many alcaloids are heat resistant, so I wouldn't recommend testing it out on random cacti.
     
  9. GrecianShamrock

    GrecianShamrock New Member
      1/23

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    Good to know. Thank you
     
  10. thePENofGODx0x0xz7

    thePENofGODx0x0xz7 New Member
      8/23

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    Good stuff, I have eaten Saguro as a jam with peanut butter in a sandwich.
    It was delicious.
    At the time I lived in Tuscon Arizona so it was a common occurrence.
     
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