Can You Drink Cactus Water for Survival? (2022)

You don’t really know a survival situation until you’re faced with one. There have been far too many cases of people getting injured or lost on a day hike in the desert, and within hours becoming depleted of their water supply. For the fortunate who make it out alive, hydration has been the greatest influencing factor to their survival.

Water is the most important substance that will keep your body alive and functioning, that is why it’s your priority to find a source of potable water when you’re in survival mode.

So what if you’re thirsty in the desert? Will a cactus be a good source of water to help you stay alive?

If you grew up watching cowboy movies, you may remember they used cactus water as a refreshing desert drink. But don’t believe everything you see. That may have worked on a movie set, but it will do you no good in real life.

Is cactus water safe to drink?

Cactus is not a safe substitute for potable water. Drinking cactus water on an empty stomach will give you diarrhea or make you vomit, therefore dehydrating you even more. This is because the moisture inside of the cactus pulp is highly acidic. Your body will have to work harder to process the alkalis in the cactus water so it’s best that you don’t drink any.

In an extreme situation, you could drink a few sips of fishhook barrel cactus. The Seri Indians used this cactus as emergency water, but they reported pain in their bones and vomiting when drinking it on an empty stomach.

(Video) Cactus Eating -Desert Survival- Food & Water

Different type of cacti

There are over 2,000 different types of cacti in the world. Proper identification can sometimes be difficult in situations where the varieties resemble each other. It’s advised that you become somewhat familiar with the types of shrubs, succulents and cacti available in the region you’re exploring or living in.

Which cacti are safe to drink water from?

The only option to drink cactus water straight out of the cactus is the Fishhook Barrel Cactus. This is to be ingested in small quantities and in dire situations only. Fishhook barrel cactus is said to be the least problematic of the cacti family when used as a water source. Either way, you would be risking your health. In a situation where you’re severely dehydrated, you may consider drinking this to soothe your thirst, however you could face other problems. Cactus water is very acidic and some varieties contain toxic alkaloids. Like any ingested substance, your body will have to process it through, requiring your body to expel more energy than you would otherwise gain from it and likely cause you to experience body aches, vomiting and diarrhea. In a desperate situation, it’s up to you to decide what is the better end result - risking dehydration or becoming sick.

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Can humans drink the liquid extracted from squeezing a succulent?

No. For the same reasons described above, water extracted directly from a succulent is not safe to drink, especially on an empty stomach. This water should be purified before drinking.

Can desert cactus be used to purify water?

Without getting too off topic, I found this information interesting and appropriate.

Several studies have been made in regards to purifying general drinking water with cactus mucilage. This is a process that is commonly practiced in Latin America using the prickly pear cactus. The process would begin with boiling the cactus pads, which they used for eating. The liquid water gel that remains after boiling the pads would be poured into their drinking water supply. Within five minutes, the contaminants would fall to the bottom of the container and the water on the top could be used for drinking. When the cactus mucilage was left for 36 hours, half of the arsenic originally present had been cleared out.

(Video) SOS: How to Survive - Cacti Full Of Water?

What kind of cactus can you eat from?

Fishhook Barrel Cactus produces a yellow fruit which can be eaten. The fruit is ripe between the months of November and March. Carefully pull the fruit away from the cactus and eat. The black seeds inside are also nutritious and safe to eat.


Hedgehog Cactus
is safe to eat. White thorn is safer than the red thorn. To get to the meaty part, cut a sliver off the top of the cactus. Then, carefully peel it like you would a cucumber.

  • In hot weather it can be eaten raw.
  • In colder weather it must be cooked. To cook it, cut the cactus in small pieces, then add it to a pot of water. Boil it for 15 minutes until the liquid becomes gel-like. Drink the liquid but do not eat the fruit.


Prickly Pear Cactus is safe to eat- both the pads and the fruit (more information about the fruit below). This is the cactus that is often found in Mexican grocery stores and restaurants.

  • When foraging for cactus pads, make sure to pick the ones that are bright green and firm (the older ones are dry and more difficult to chew).
  • Cactus pads can be harvested any time of the year but the acid-content is much lower in the mid-morning.
  • This cactus pads can be eaten raw, although most people prefer it when it’s cooked. It can be cooked over fire embers. The younger pads are best because they do not contain as much fiber as the older pads. When cutting the cactus pad off, make sure you use a knife and don’t touch the spines. Let the pad fall to the ground and then move it with your knife. Bring it to a flat area, and hold the pad down with a stick so it doesn’t move around as much. Meanwhile, use the knife to scrape off all the spines, on each side. During this time you should have your fire going. Once your fire is down to embers, put the cactus pads on top and cover it with the surrounding embers, that way it can cook the pads evenly. Allow it to cook for 15 to 20 minutes. When the time is up, carefully uncover the pads and shake off any remaining embers or dust. Allow a few minutes for the cactus pads to cool off, and then eat!
  • If you have access to water, you can boil the cactus pads in water. Once they’re soft, remove them from the boiling water and rinse under cold water. As previously mentioned, the remaining water (or cactus mucilage) left from boiling the pads can be used as a water purifier.

Take caution when handling cactus leaves

When handling cacti, you must be careful with the spines. Cactus spines will hook themselves onto the skin and you will need tweezers to remove them. If you don’t have tweezers, you will have to wait a few days until they come out on their own. Be careful to keep the wound clean so it doesn’t become infected and make matters worse.

Can you eat cactus fruit?

(Video) What If Can You Drink Cactus Water for Survival?

The fruit you see growing on the tips of the cactus pads are healthy, especially as a survival food if you’re in the wild. They are safe to eat raw and provide lots of nutrients to strengthen your bones and boost your immune system. The fruit contains high levels of concentrated water which will aid in preventing dehydration.

Be careful when handling the fruit of the Prickly Pear cactus because the outside is covered in glochids, which are tiny needles (or hair-like spines) that will cause irritation upon contact with the skin. To reach the edible part of the fruit you’ll need to peel the skin off. If you have gardening gloves, you could wear them while peeling the fruit to prevent the spines from touching you. Otherwise, hold the fruit down with a fork and peel it using a knife.

In conclusion

The typical advice you hear when going hiking or exploring the outdoors is to take enough water. In desert places where the temperature can get past 115 degrees F, having extra water is absolutely necessary.

What we oftentimes forget to plan for is accidents. In those times, our human instinct for survival will have us rationalize and do things differently than we would in calm situations. In desperate times of thirst, drinking cactus water might sound like a brilliant idea. Don’t make this mistake! The relief you will experience is often followed by illness, weakness and more dehydration. Your best option in this situation would be to eat the cactus fruit (hopefully it’s the right season), but it’s still not enough to keep you fully hydrated.

When preparing to go on any outdoor adventure, plan ahead for emergencies that may arise throughout the day. If you’re stranded in the summer desert heat for over 48 hours without water, your chances of survival will greatly diminish.

Don’t become a victim of your environment. Carry twice as much water as you normally would. Also take electrolytes, nutritious food, and proper tools and first aid items to help you in case you are injured. Finally, make sure you tell a trusted friend or family member where you are going prior to your excursion- if you become lost or hurt, a search and rescue team might be the best gateway to your survival.

FAQs

What happens if you drink too much cactus water? ›

Health Risks of Cactus Water

Mayo Clinic notes that cactus water may have some side effects, including diarrhea and nausea. Adds Retelny, “Cactus water may cause gastrointestinal distress due to its laxative nature.” It may also cause headaches and hypoglycemia.

Is drinking cactus water good for you? ›

Cactus water is also healthy overall because it provides potassium to balance out sodium levels in your body, helping with muscle recovery after an intense workout. Some cactus waters even contain antioxidants which fight free radicals and help reduce inflammation!

What cactus is safe to drink? ›

The Fishhook Barrel Cactus

This cactus is the only one safe to drink water from in an emergency desert situation. Though you may not find yourself in that position anytime soon, it is helpful to know. The fishhook barrel cactus is native to the American Southwest and goes by a variety of names.

Are cacti 95% water? ›

A healthy cactus plant contains a surprising 95% water, but under drought stress they can remain living after 80% of that moisture is lost.

What happens if you drink cactus? ›

These chemicals are usually too acrid for most humans to tolerate and are taxing on the kidneys if ingested. The flesh of some cactus species can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, or temporary paralysis—none of which is conducive to your survival in an emergency situation.

Can I drink cactus juice? ›

Cactus juice offers a good dose of nutrition to everyone. Along with admirable levels of potassium, calcium, manganese, copper and iron, it is also replenished with various vitamins and phytonutrients. It is also a rich source of antioxidants, flavonoids, omega 3 fatty acids, amino acids and beta-carotene.

Can I drink cactus water? ›

Is cactus water safe to drink? Cactus is not a safe substitute for potable water. Drinking cactus water on an empty stomach will give you diarrhea or make you vomit, therefore dehydrating you even more. This is because the moisture inside of the cactus pulp is highly acidic.

What are the benefits of drinking cactus juice? ›

Cactuses contain vitamins C, E, A, iron, calcium, and more. This wide range of nutrients and more can help reduce inflammation in the body. Research found that taking cactus extract after drinking five to seven alcoholic drinks resulted in fewer hangover symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, or dry mouth).

Is cactus water better than coconut water? ›

The leading coconut waters have about 70 calories and more than 15g of sugar. In contrast, cactus waters have half the amount of calories and sugar and are packed with antioxidants and electrolytes.

How do you prepare a cactus for drinking? ›

Scoop the flesh of the prickly pear fruits out of their peels and into the cheesecloth. Allow the liquid from the fruit to strain through the cheesecloth and collect in the bowl or cup. You can squeeze the cheesecloth to speed this process. Optionally, you can add sugar or sweetener to your cactus juice.

What does cactus water taste like? ›

As for the taste, cactus water has a tart watermelon flavor, with hints of bubblegum.

Can you extract water from a cactus? ›

The cactus meat will be like a sticky cucumber. Try to avoid the central core because it is stringy but you can eat the cactus meat. Wrap the meat in a bandana, squish it and wring it out to extract the water from the cactus.

Is cactus water sustainable? ›

Unlike corn, cactus needs no fertilization and irrigation. This helps reduce the impact of polluting chemicals on soil and saves precious drinking water.

How much percent water is cactus? ›

Cactus often contain 90 to 94% water when fully hydrated. Edible pads of prickly pear cactus average 85% water.

What is cactus water drink? ›

Cactus water is a plant-based beverage derived from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus and packed with incredible health and skin benefits. Think coconut water, but even better. There, we said it. Cactus water is typically made with half the calories and sugar than lots of coconut water products sold on the market.

How do people survive in the desert without water? ›

How to Survive in the Desert without Water - YouTube

Is cactus safe to eat? ›

It is safe to eat the fruit of all true cactus. Some varieties such as prickly pear, cholla, and dragon fruit cactus are edible as vegetables after removing the spines. However, some other types of cactus including peyote, Bolivian, and San Pedro cactus are toxic and should not be eaten.

How much cactus water should you drink a day? ›

If you're feeling a little sick, aim for a minimum of 64 oz of fluids daily. If you want, you can make half or more of these fluids cactus water.

Is cactus water good for your skin? ›

Cactus water contains antioxidants: Cactus water also contains antioxidants that can help flush out your system and your skin of any toxins. The blend of electrolytes, antioxidants, and vitamins present in cactus oil help to protect your skin from aging, sun damage and even help replenish your skin's collagen levels.

What does cactus do to your hair? ›

Cactus water is commonly found in shampoo and conditioner recipes to turn dull, dry hair into shiny, bouncy healthy hair. It has properties that help revive hair because it's high in amino acids and iron, which are essential for hair growth.

Is cactus water sweet? ›

Cactus water is the perfect mix for any fruity cocktail or mocktail. Try it in your favourite cocktail this weekend. Cactus water's sweet fruity flavour pairs well with vodka or tequila based cocktails.

What can you drink in the desert? ›

Consider swapping an 8-ounce glass of water for an electrolyte-enhanced beverage such as Gatorade, Powerade or coconut water to replenish electrolyte levels and achieve a state of euhydration—the technical term for optimal hydration. Coogan does not recommend drinking a gallon of water in one sitting.

Do cactus have milk in them? ›

Cactus produce a white secretion that oozes from different parts of the parts of the plant. The milk is a white sap that flows when the plant is injured or broken.

How long does cactus juice last? ›

Cactus Juice has a guaranteed shelf life of 12 months at room temperature (below 85° F) from the date it is shipped. You can extend the shelf life significantly by keeping it in a refrigerator.

Does cactus have iron? ›

Cactus contains a range of nutrients and antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, A, iron, calcium, and carotenoids among many others which help reduce inflammation in the body.

Does cactus taste good? ›

The fruit of the plant has a sweet taste with crunchy seeds inside. It is juicy and is great for making juices and shakes. Edible cactus is a great source of vitamin C and calcium. It also contains a good amount of beta carotene, iron, antioxidants, and high fiber content.

Is there a substitute to water? ›

Water alternatives such as Sparkling Water, Infused Water, Aloe Vera Juice, Coconut Water, and even Cactus Water (Cactus? Odd, I know…but believe me, it's so good!) are not only tasty water substitutes, but they are sure to replenish and rehydrate just like regular water!

Is water better than coconut water? ›

While coconut water is low in calories, rich in potassium, and fat and cholesterol free, the evidence that it is actually better than plain water for simple hydration is unfortunately lacking. Compared to typical sports drinks, coconut water has fewer calories, less sodium, but higher amounts of potassium.

What does prickly pear cactus water taste like? ›

Surprising hints of pink bubblegum, finished with smooth and juicy watermelon notes. A taste of the oasis.

What diseases does cactus cure? ›

Prickly pear cactus — or also known as nopal, opuntia and other names — is promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers. It's also touted for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Can you make alcohol from cactus? ›

Yes, Spike Vodka is made from cactus.

What drink is made from cactus? ›

Pulque (Spanish: ['pulke] ( listen); Classical Nahuatl: metoctli), or octli, is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant. It is traditional in central Mexico, where it has been produced for millennia.

Why is cactus water pink? ›

Like the name suggests, cactus water comes from extracting the juice of prickly pear cacti. The resulting liquid has an attractive pink color, per Healthline.

Can you juice cactus pads? ›

Process cactus pads through juicer, if you do not have a juicer you can blend and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Juice oranges and lemons using a citrus juicer. Mix the cactus, orange and lemon juice with the coconut water until well combined. Serve and enjoy!

Is there water in cactus? ›

Cactus plants are actually quite juicy. Think of an aloe when you cut it open and the mucilaginous goo that is inside the leaves. Cactus plants actually hoard moisture in their plant cells so they have some water during extremely dry, drought-like conditions.

How do you drink water from a cactus? ›

SOS: How to Survive - Cacti Full Of Water? - YouTube

Can you drink from prickly pear? ›

The flesh of prickly pears is juicy, contains seeds, and has a sweet taste similar to that of watermelon. You can eat prickly pear flesh raw or cooked. It's often turned into juice and added to cocktails or cooked down into jams.

What happens if you eat a cactus with spikes? ›

Cacti are not poisonous to humans. The only time cacti are dangerous is if you eat them, which can cause stomachaches and diarrhea. Some people may have allergic reactions to the needles on cacti, so it's best to avoid touching or eating them.

Is eating cactus sustainable? ›

The nopal cactus is native to the Americas, where it has been a staple of the Native American diet since prehistory. It was one of the principal ingredients of the Aztec diet—and was recognized even then to be perhaps the most versatile and sustainable food.

Is Prickly pear cactus water good for you? ›

Prickly pear is packed with natural antioxidants and electrolytes like vitamin C, magnesium and potassium. Antioxidants help support our body's immune system, and all these nutrients are essentially squeezed into prickly pear water.

Are cactus pads healthy? ›

Supports Heart Health

The fiber is then excreted in your stool, bringing the cholesterol along with it and, in turn, helping to prevent high blood cholesterol levels, a major risk factor for heart disease. Cactus pads also contain carotenoids, which are antioxidants that, as you (hopefully!)

Is beer a cacti? ›

CACTI is a hard seltzer produced by Meadow Creek Beverage Co. in collaboration with Anheuser-Busch. This 7% ABV drink is made with 100% Mexican premium blue agave and comes in lime, strawberry, and pineapple flavors.

Is aloe vera a cactus? ›

Aloe vera may resemble a cactus, but taxonomically it's actually a member of the Asphodelaceae family, not the cactus family. While its botanical name is A. vera, various synonyms abound for this evergreen perennial: A.

Can you get sick from cactus water? ›

Cactus water is very acidic and some varieties contain toxic alkaloids. Like any ingested substance, your body will have to process it through, requiring your body to expel more energy than you would otherwise gain from it and likely cause you to experience body aches, vomiting and diarrhea.

What are the benefits of drinking cactus juice? ›

Cactuses contain vitamins C, E, A, iron, calcium, and more. This wide range of nutrients and more can help reduce inflammation in the body. Research found that taking cactus extract after drinking five to seven alcoholic drinks resulted in fewer hangover symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, or dry mouth).

Is cactus water better than coconut water? ›

The leading coconut waters have about 70 calories and more than 15g of sugar. In contrast, cactus waters have half the amount of calories and sugar and are packed with antioxidants and electrolytes.

Is cactus good for your health? ›

It's high in antioxidants

Antioxidants can protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Nopal cactus is full of antioxidants, and a 2013 study found that the cactus is able to reduce oxidative stress.

How do you prepare a cactus for drinking? ›

Scoop the flesh of the prickly pear fruits out of their peels and into the cheesecloth. Allow the liquid from the fruit to strain through the cheesecloth and collect in the bowl or cup. You can squeeze the cheesecloth to speed this process. Optionally, you can add sugar or sweetener to your cactus juice.

Can you drink cactus juice in the desert? ›

Don't drink from a cactus.

You don't get 'water' from cactus; you get a stomachache and vomiting. In movies, you see a cowboy lop off the top of a barrel cactus—a big, beach ball-shaped cactus—dip his ladle in and get a drink of water. That's not water, though. It's a noxious fluid that's very high in alkalis.

What does cactus water taste like? ›

As for the taste, cactus water has a tart watermelon flavor, with hints of bubblegum.

How long does cactus juice last? ›

Cactus Juice has a guaranteed shelf life of 12 months at room temperature (below 85° F) from the date it is shipped. You can extend the shelf life significantly by keeping it in a refrigerator.

Can you purify cactus water? ›

According to a paper presented at the 251st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the inner mucilage of cacti is a powerful tool for purifying water—both for making safer drinking water, and for creating fish-farm environments that make fish taste better.

Is cactus water good for your skin? ›

Cactus water contains antioxidants: Cactus water also contains antioxidants that can help flush out your system and your skin of any toxins. The blend of electrolytes, antioxidants, and vitamins present in cactus oil help to protect your skin from aging, sun damage and even help replenish your skin's collagen levels.

Is cactus water sustainable? ›

Unlike corn, cactus needs no fertilization and irrigation. This helps reduce the impact of polluting chemicals on soil and saves precious drinking water.

Is there a substitute to water? ›

Water alternatives such as Sparkling Water, Infused Water, Aloe Vera Juice, Coconut Water, and even Cactus Water (Cactus? Odd, I know…but believe me, it's so good!) are not only tasty water substitutes, but they are sure to replenish and rehydrate just like regular water!

Is water better than coconut water? ›

While coconut water is low in calories, rich in potassium, and fat and cholesterol free, the evidence that it is actually better than plain water for simple hydration is unfortunately lacking. Compared to typical sports drinks, coconut water has fewer calories, less sodium, but higher amounts of potassium.

Is cactus good for the brain? ›

Nopales might be beneficial for your brain as well as your body! Study results have shown that moderate administration of nopal cactus might help long-term memory. Two antioxidant-rich flavonoids from the cactus might also have antidepressant effects.

Is cactus A Superfood? ›

Cacti are packed with vitamins and nutrients, proving they are worthy of the label “superfood.” The low-cost food is a mealtime vegetable mainstay in Latin American countries, but its popularity is increasing in the United States where you'll find it in Mexican grocery stores, produce markets, and farmer's markets.

What is cactus water drink? ›

Cactus water is a plant-based beverage derived from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus and packed with incredible health and skin benefits. Think coconut water, but even better. There, we said it. Cactus water is typically made with half the calories and sugar than lots of coconut water products sold on the market.

Videos

1. Man vs. Wild - Secret Water Sources
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2. Desert Survival: Cactus Water Container -Junkyard Fox
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3. Distilling Drinking Water Using a Cactus
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4. Survival Water Containers - Hold, drink and Purify Water with the Prickly Pear Cactus
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5. Survival! Eating cactus as an alternative to water on Snake Island
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6. Can You Drink Water from a Cactus | Survival tip to store water! | Kavitha | #Shorts
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