Cactus extract reduces glucose levels
UN/DICYT How can cactus juice help reduce blood sugar levels? This was the topic of a research project headed by the UNal Laboratory of Natural Products. Although the cactus Opuntia cochenillifera was collected in the city of Ibagué, capital of the Province of Tolima, it is distributed in several areas through the Colombian territory, specifically in the Andean region.
What drew the researchers attention was to see how people peel off cactus skin, which is full of thorns and leave the pulp exposed; then they add water, place it in a mixer and drink the juice as an adjuvant for diabetes treatment.
After sending it to the UNal National Herbarium for its respective classification and establish its scientific name, researchers performed a literature review of the studies carried out with this plant. They discovered that other cactus of the same genus reported similar activity.
“We made an ethanol extract and assessed its capability to reduce glucose levels in animal induced diabetes blood, and found very interesting results, because indeed it reduced glucose levels,” said UNal Department of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Maritza Rojas.
When the glucose levels fell by 30% they found that in some way these results were related to what was reported by popular belief.
Furthermore they discovered a considerable reduction, compared to the mice control group (with no treatment), which maintained high glucose levels.
After obtaining these results with animal models they are now focusing on researching the chemical properties of these plants to become cognizant which components related to the reduction of glucose levels.
“We have carried out a general composition and identified secondary metabolites such as steroids, saponins and a good portion of polysaccharides,” said Rojas.
There are also records in Mexico where it is common to use cacti of the same genus but from other species as medicinal plants against glycaemia, inclusively some are consumed in salads.
Besides Professor Rojas, other professors such as Javier Rincón, Juan Camilo Marín and Miguel Ángel Torres, also participated in the tests. Other undergraduates from UNal Department of Pharmacy also participated in the project.