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A little prickle never hurt nobody… at least that’s what beauticians across the country are saying. They’re flipping the script when it comes to prickly plants with the new trend in self-care: cactus. Our very own Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa have turned what sounds like an oxymoron into a specialty with their Nopal Cactus Massage. We needed more information to get on-board with this trend, so you probably do too.

The Plant

The nopal cactus, also known as the prickly pear cactus, is commonly found in in the Southwest and Mexico, as it thrives in hot, desert-like conditions. The flat, round pads grow in trees up to 15-foot tall and blossom a vibrant, red fruit during the summer.

Mexican nopal plant with red prickly pear fruit

Both the pad of the cactus and the prickly pear fruit are edible and regularly used in Mexican cuisine, found in recipes like nopalitos cactus salad and prickly pear cactus margaritas. Similar in texture to okra, the pad is crispy and sticky with a tart flavor. Try using nopal in your next salad for an added crunch or grilling the nopals for 10 minutes to slice and serve. 

Prickly pear or cactus fruit cut with leaves.

As for the prickly pear, don’t let the name fool you—this pear-shaped fruit has no relation to a pear at all. The fruit, often referred to as “tuna,” has a sweet, mild flavor profile that tastes like a cross between a ripe melon and bubblegum. From juices to jams, prickly pear fruit can be served both cooked and raw to experience its unique taste.

The Nopal Cactus Massage

Now, onto what we know you’re all wondering about. The cactus massage trend is here to stick but fear not – that’s the only sticking related to this treatment. All cactus spines are removed before spa guests ever encounter the plant. The service begins by the spa attendant soaking six nopal pads in warm water to heat the pulp of the plant and loosen the skin. Once the pads are warm, the skin of the pads is removed, and the pulp is extracted. The warm, soothing nopal pulp is liberally applied to the back so that the muscles can fully-benefit from the heat and properties of the plant. While the pulp is drying, a cranial massage is given to deepen relaxation.

Women massaging cactus leaves on patron's back.

After the pulp has been fully absorbed, the excess is removed from the skin, and the juices from the nopal are used for an invigorating massage. Arnica, lavender oil and peppermint oil are added to the massage as an added aroma therapy experience for the senses.

Nopal Wellness Benefits

Packed with high doses of vitamins, calcium and fiber, it’s no wonder that this desert plant has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal and healing properties.

When ingested, the plant is known to have the following benefits:

  • Boosted immune system
  • Increased nerve protection
  • Regulated digestion
  • Increased metabolism
  • Fatigue management
  • Weight loss
  • Cured Hangover
  • Lowered cholesterol

If nopal plants aren’t your flavor of choice, there are plenty of alternative ways to reap the natural benefits that the plant has to offer like the options included below.

nopal powder

Nopal Cactus Powder

Try adding nopal cactus powder to your next smoothie, juice or glass of water. At 45 calories a serving, consumers will get around one-third of the daily recommended value for vitamin C, calcium and dietary fiber.

 

Nopal Cactus Tea

Sip on a warm glass of nopal cactus tea to further promote improved digestion from warm water. The cooling mint flavor soothes sore throats as an added bonus.

 

Nopal Cactus Capsules

If smoothies or tea aren’t for you, nopal capsules are an easy, on-the-go supplement to add to your morning routine. These can be found in the vitamin aisle of your local natural grocer and after often found under scientific name, Opuntia.

 

Topical Application Benefits

When applied topically, the plant serves as a soothing ointment great for dry, sun-damaged skin and can reduce bruises and swelling. Additionally, the pulp serves as a light 10 SPF sunscreen.

 “The Signature La Palmas Cactus Healing Massage is one of our most popular treatments due to its hydrating and anti-inflammatory qualities,” said Robert Seibel, spa director at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa. “The treatment is known to heal sunburns and help dry skin caused by the arid climate of Palm Springs.”

In addition to health benefits, this service benefits local farmers and the environment as the service uses an indigenous plant to the region. Nopal cacti are found throughout Southern California and using the plant instead of imported gels gives back to the local community and inspires green practices in the spa industry.

 

Cactus-inspired Home Remedies

 “Sadly, there’s not an easy-way to DIY this service at home due to its messy and intricate nature, but there are some incredible products that use cactus pulp to have similar results,” said Seibel. If you aren’t ready to book a flight to Palm Springs, we recommend trying these products to give yourself a cactus-inspired spa day at home.

Cactus water moisturizer

Cactus Water Moisturizer

Due to its hydrating properties, cactus water moisturizer works to give your skin a supple, healthy glow. Using this cruelty-free, clean moisturizer is a great way to introduce cacti in your daily beauty routine. 

 

Collagen Eye Cream

So Jelly Cactus Eye Jelly with Plant Collagen

This eye jelly cream works wonders on under-eye hydration for younger-looking, refreshed skin. The power-duo of cacti’s hydration and collagen’s anti-aging qualities make for a beauty must-have.

 

Tibetan Ginseng Hydrating Mist

Cactus Flower & “Tibetan Ginseng” Hydrating Mist

Not into thick moisturizers and creams? No problem – this hydrating mist can be used as a cooling pick-me-up to a fresh face or after your makeup is applied. With summer just around the corner, this poolside essential will keep you moisturized without the weighty feeling of topical products.

 

Nature Republic Soothing Gel

Nature Republic Soothing & Moisture Cactus 92% Soothing Gel

Next time you get a sunburn, consider reaching for Nopal pad pulp instead of aloe vera.

 

From your beauty routine to your diet, there are plenty of ways adopt the nopal plant into your life. This plant proves that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

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