Opuntia ficus-indica is a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant important in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world. It is thought probably to have originated in Mexico. Known as Prickly Pear or Barbary fig Seed Oil this is the 'Holy Grail' in the world of seed oils, with the amazing Argan Oil being it's first cousin. Prickly pear seed oil is extracted during a very time-consuming and laborious procedure. The production of 1-liter prickly pear seed oil takes 36 hours of manual labor, and about 1 million prickly pear seeds are needed. These seeds are cold pressed ensuring absolutely no chemicals are added during the oil extraction process, or heat, which damages the active plant compounds, making this one of the most expensive seed oils in the world.
Prickly Pear is a cactus and a member of the plant family Cactaceae, a family comprising about 127 genera with some 1750 known species of the order Caryophyllales. The word "cactus" derives, through Latin, from the Ancient Greek κάκτος, kaktos, a name originally used by Theophrastus for a spiny plant whose identity is not certain.
Many live in extremely dry environments, cacti show many adaptations to conserve water. Almost all cacti are succulents, meaning they have thickened, fleshy parts adapted to store water. Unlike many other succulents, the stem is the only part of most cacti where this vital process takes place. Most species of cacti have lost true leaves, retaining only spines, which are highly modified leaves. As well as defending against herbivores, spines help prevent water loss by reducing air flow close to the cactus and providing some shade. In the absence of leaves, enlarged stems carry out photosynthesis.
Why is Prickly Pear oil so healing for your skin?
Vitamins // Antioxidants // Essential Fatty Acids // Source of Bioactive Compounds - and large doses of them, it soothes, moisturises, and reduces inflammation that damages collagen...
Lets take a closer look at a breakdown of the different compounds:
- Essential fatty acids (EFA) Very high amounts (88%) in natural compound - the high fatty acid content plumps the skin, reducing wrinkles and adding firmness
- Omega 6 fatty acid - 70% of linoleic acid - This is a polyunsaturated Omega 6 fatty acid and is considered as an essential fatty acid, i.e. this fatty acid is absolutely indispensible for many different metabolic processes of the human organism, which is not able to produce this acid itself.
- Linoleic acid - Is essential in stimulating healthy cell production and turnover
Calcium - Vital for healthy bones and teeth, muscle function blood pressure and helps to regulate skin cell production and repair. A skin strengthener.
Potassium - Helps to control the balance of fluids in the body and is required for proper nerve and muscle function helps to protect against dehydration.
Phosphorus - Along with calcium, is one of the most important minerals in the body for maintaining bone structure and strength. In fact, more than half of all bone is made from phosphate. Phosphors helps form bone mineral density that prevents bone fractures, breaks and osteoporosis. A general immune system booster and important for energy levels.
Magnesium - A stress busting nutrient, helps to reduce stress and relax muscles with helps with good quality sleep also helps to maintain moisture levels.
Sodium - The body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume. Your body also needs sodium for your muscles and nerves to work properly.
Zinc - Helps reduce redness and inflammation of acne lesions and decrease oil production.
AMINO ACIDS //
Prickly pear oil is rich in amino acids, which stimulate collagen production to help refine, brighten, and tone skin.
Phenylalanine slows down melanin transfer helping to promote an even skin tone.
Amino Acids: Glutamic Acid // Asparaginic Acid // Leucine // Serine // Lysine // Arginine // Valine // Phenylalanine // Glycine // Alanine // Tyrosine // Histidine // Isoleucine
Vitamin E - Rich in tocopherols (720 mg/liter). Tocopherol is the generic term for at least eight chemically similar structured compounds. Prickly pear seed oil consists of:
Provides protection and helps skin retain moisture is a free radical scavenger and increases cell renewal. Most of the time, the term vitamin E is wrongly used for alpha-tocopherol – the most studied form of vitamin E. Vitamin E is used as general term for a group of sixteen liposoluble chemical compounds, which differ in their strength of efficacy. Those compounds also include all tocopheroles alpha, beta & gamma tocopherols.
Vitamin K1 - Helps even out skin tone and reduce spider veins and broken capillaries.
Tocopherols are responsible for the impressive effectiveness of prickly pear seed oil as natural antioxidant. Tocopherols are in charge of protecting all valuable unsaturated fatty acids against the destruction by free radicals. Free radicals are known to promote the skin ageing process.
Polyphenols - Not only do they have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties, but they also fight oxidative stress—an imbalance between free radical production and the body’s ability to defend against them. Like tocopherols, they are also free radical scavengers. Polyphenols prevent and treat sun damage, and can help with redness and irritation.
Flavonoids - exhibiting both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are a diverse group of plant pigments. These substances are responsible for color in many fruits, vegetables and flowers. In addition to providing color that attracts insects or animals, these pigments protect plants from environmental stress. In addition to being potent antioxidants, some flavonoids have antiallergic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activity. Over 4,000 flavonoids have been characterized and classified, but only a few have been researched.
Tannins - These plant polyphenols are potent antioxidants that may protect against free radical damage caused by exposure to UV light and, in turn, reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
FREE RADICALS // originate from:
- Cigarette smoke // also from passive smoking
- Environmental poisons // ionized radiation: televisions // computers// mobile phones // ultraviolet rays // smog // ozone
- Alcohol // drugs // physical strain.
Anti-inflammatory - Phytochemicals, namely plant sterols, campesterol, stigmasterol, beta-Sitosterol and flavonoids that have an anti-inflammatory action helping to reduce inflammation that damages collagen.
Phytosterols - Are similar to cholesterol, as it binds to water. When applied topically, water-binding phytosterols help the skin retain moisture, making for a strong, healthy skin barrier. They also assist in collagen production phytosterols - abundant in prickly pear seed oil encourage new collagen production according to a German study. This revolutionary discovery indicates that prickly pear oil can improve the skin’s vitality over time, despite the natural aging process.
We uncompromisingly only use Certified Organic Prickly Pear Seed oil sourced directly from a sustainable, family owned and operated co-op in Morocco, which helps to support a local community of women. We use Prickly Pear Seed Oil as our foundation oil in our Australian Certified Organic Hero Serum [face] launching late 2018.
Until next time..
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Prickly Pear Seed Oil and the Skin - Billie A. Leyendecker:
Aromatic Scholars Program Graduate with The School for Aromatic Studies
- Nopal Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) as a Source of Bioactive Compounds for Nutrition, Health and Disease.
Molecules 2014, 19, 14879-14901; doi:10.3390/molecules190914879
- Ramadan, M.F., & Morsel, J.T. (2003). Oil cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica L.). Food Chemistry 82(3), 339-345.
- Moβhammer, M.R., Stintzing, F.C., & Carle, R. (2006). Cactus Pear Fruits (Opuntia spp.): A review of processing technologies and current uses. Journal of the Professional Association for Cactus Development, 8, 1-25.