(Last Updated on : 10-12-2013)
Prickly Pear bears the scientific name of Cactaceae, together with other names in indigenous dialects, like: nagphana and phenimama in Bengali; chorhathalo and zhorhatheylo in Gujarati; hathhathoria, wathhataria, nagphana in Hindi; chappatigalli, dabbugalli, mullugalli. papasakalli, papasukattale in Kannada; nagamulla, nagatali, palakakkalli in Malayalam; chapal, nagaphana, samar in Marathi; nagophe-nia, nagopheni, poturiyasiju in Oriya; chhittarthohar in Punjabi; kanthari and vidara in Sanskrit; manjarnagadali, mullukkalli, nagadali, nagathali, sappathikalli in Tamil; nagadali, nagajanadu, nagajemudu, naga-mullu in Telugu; and, nagaphani and thuar in Urdu.
The Indian medicinal plant Prickly Pear was first introduced into India during the 18th century. The plant has its common habitat in scrub forests, along roads and on degraded lands throughout peninsular India. Prickly Pear is also often cultivated as a hedge plant. Having an appearance that is erect, this historical Indian medicinal plant also appears like a succulent branching shrub, that is typically 2 to 4 inches tall. The joints are dull bluish-green in colour, with the leaves being obovate in shape, going up to 22 centimetres in length with numerous areoles. Each of the leaves of Prickly Pear bear 4 to 6 flattened, usually somewhat curved yellowish spines, with the flowers measuring 8 centimetres in length that possess bright yellow petals tincted with red. The fruit or berry of this aboriginal Indian medicinal plant is globular or pear-shaped, bearing spines near the apex, which are fleshy from inside. The fruits however turn deep reddish-purple when ripe and are very much edible. Flowering of Prickly Pear in central India occurs within April and September, with the fruits ripening in November and December.
As with several other Indian medicinal plants, Prickly Pear also bears vital medicinal properties and uses. The fruit of the plant is considered a cooling agent and finds usefulness in the treatment of gonorrhoea. The baked fruit is purportedly used in the treatment of whooping cough, with the syrup of the fruit believed to increase secretion of bile and controlling of spasmodic cough and expectoration. The mashed joints of Prickly Pear are used as a poultice to relieve inflammation and the heated joint is applied to boils to accelerate suppuration. In the form of a poultice, they are used to promote healing of guinea-worm abscesses. These usefulnesses are just not enough for this exceedingly valuable Indian medicinal plant. The pulped joint is also supposedly used as an external application for treating opthalmia. In Siddha, the plant, the joint and the fruit are used together to treat poisoning, cough, leucorrhoea and constipation.