Update 7/4/20. Nopalea Juice – also called Prickly Pear Cactus – is said to be a “superfruit concentrate” that “helps put out the fire of inflammation.” Cellular inflammation has gotten a lot of attention lately because research has noted that it plays a role in many diseases. But, does Nopalea work or is it a scam? More specifically, does Nopalea reduce cellular inflammation and reduce the risk of disease? In this TriVita Nopalea Juice review, you'll learn what Nopalea is as well as the research on this supplement and one of its main compounds- betalains. Is Nopalea cactus juice the real deal or a scam? Let's see what we can discover.
Who Makes Nopalea Juice?
Nopalea cactus juice is made by TriVita (TriVita.com), which sells many health supplements such:
The TriVita company has been in business since 1999. The company is located at 16100 Greenway Hayden Loop #950 Scottsdale, AZ 85260 and their phone # is (480) 337-4000.
According to the Better Business Bureau, they give Trivita a rating of A+ as of 7/4/19. The company is a BBB accredited business. See the BBB file for updates and more information.
There are a LOT of ingredients in TriVita Nopalea juice. Just a few include grape seed extract, agave nectar, raspberry and strawberry extracts, and many other things that I won't touch on here. Rather, I want the focus of
this Nopalea review to be on its “main ingredient” – the ingredient discussed most on TriVita Nopalea TV commercials and websites.
That ingredient is the Nopal cactus fruit. They call it “Opuntia concentrate” on the Nopalea bottle but it also goes by the name Prickly Pear Cactus and Nopal cactus. Its scientific name is Opuntia ficus-indica. It is this ingredient on which I will focus in this review.
What Does Nopalea Mean?
Nopalea is not just the name of this TriVita supplement. It's a real word. Nopalea means cactus. In taxonomy, it refers to the genus of the Nopal cactus plant which has deep red flowers.
How Is Nopalea Supposed to Work?
If you watch the Nopalea juice TV commercial, they say that Nopalea is derived from the Nopal cactus and that this plant has compounds (they call them betalains) that reduce inflammation in the body.
By reducing chronic inflammation, Nopalea juice is supposed to reduce the risk of disease and – maybe – improve health problems that people have right now.
Nopalea TV Commerical video
Nopalea Juice Research
On the website nopalea.com there are 12 research studies listed that testify to the benefits of the Nopal cactus (Prickly Pear Cactus) extract at helping chronic inflammation, boosting the immune system, and protecting the brain. One interesting point is none of the studies contained the word “Nopalea.” In other words, it doesn't look like any of the studies were conducted using the Nopalea wellness drink itself.
While Nopalea.com only lists the studies, I want to directly link to them so you can see the research for yourself. They all sound very impressive and technical so I'll also give brief commentary, where needed, to put the research in perspective.
The studies are grouped together as follows:
Anti-toxin Activity Studies
- Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) protects against oxidative damage induced by the mycotoxin zearalenone in Balb/C mice. This is a mouse study.
- Opuntia ficus indica extract protects against chlorpyrifos-induced damage on mice liver. This is a mouse study.
- Opuntia ficus indica (L.) Mill. fruit juice protects liver from carbon tetrachloride-induced injury. This is a rat study.
- An anti-inflammatory principle from cactus.”. This is a mouse study.
- Antioxidant betalains from cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) inhibit endothelial ICAM-1 expression. This is a test tube study.
What About Hangovers?
In one human study researchers noted that extracts of the Nopal cactus seemed to reduce alcohol-induced hangover symptoms. The researchers speculated that the Nopal cactus extract worked because of its anti-inflammatory effects. This study of hangovers appears to be the main study cited to support the anti-inflammation benefits of the Nopal cactus – and hence Nopalea juice.
Immune System Boost Studies
Betalains a betacyanin pigment purified from fruits of Opuntia ficus-indica induces apoptosis in human chronic myeloid leukemia Cell line-K562. Apotosis means “cell death” and K562 cells are a type of cancer cell. This is a test tube study where researchers basically found that extracts of the Nopal cactus destroyed cancer cells in a test tube — not in a human.
When I say “test tube study” I am making a general statement about a study that took place outside of a living organism like animals or humans. Technically they are called “in-vitro studies.” There are some advantages of these types of investigations but they are not as “real life” as those that take place in animals or—especially— in humans. We are much more complicated than what goes on in a test tube.
- Antioxidant betalains from cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) inhibit endothelial ICAM-1 expression. This is basically a test tube study.
- Modulation of intracellular calcium concentrations and T cell activation by prickly pear polyphenols. This is a test tube study.
Brain Protection Studies
- Inhibition of nitric oxide synthase expression in activated microglia and peroxynitrite scavenging activity by Opuntia ficus indica var. saboten. This is basically a test tube study.
- Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. This is the same study of alcohol hangovers mentioned above.
Interventions for protecting against or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. This study is basically a review of several previous studies that tried to determine if there was any good way to reduce the symptoms of an alcohol hangover. Researchers concluded that there was no good proof that the Nopal cactus (Prickly Pear Cactus) or anything else helps hangovers caused by drinking too much.
Neuroprotective effects of antioxidative flavonoids, quercetin, (+)-dihydroquercetin and quercetin 3-methyl ether, isolated from Opuntia ficus-indica var. saboten. This is essentially a test tube study of rat brain cells. Extracts of the Nopal cactus reduced free radical damage to isolated rat brain cells.
Summary of Research
I come to the following conclusions:
- None of them used the Nopalea supplement itself
- Most of the studies were test-tube studies and a few mouse/rat studies
- The only human study listed has to do with hangovers
TriVita Nopalea Research
Now let's dig a little deeper into the research on Nopalea juice itself. I searched the National Library of Medicine for “TriVita Nopalea” to see if any studies had been done using this supplement. None could be located.
But what about research on Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia ficus indica) —the type of cactus used in the TriVita Nopalea supplement?
TriVita websites and TV commercials say that Nopalea juice is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. In the study of Nopal cactus and hangovers, researchers speculated that it reduced hangovers because it reduced inflammation in the brain. They probably arrived at this conclusion because they noted that Nopal cactus reduced levels of CRP —a compound that indicates inflammation in the body.
Since CRP levels are also elevated in other inflammatory diseases, like arthritis, might extracts of the Nopal cactus also help these other conditions? TriVita hints that it will but they provide no direct proof.
Some research suggests opuntia ficus indica has antioxidant properties. One small human study (only 18 people) noted that consuming the pulp of the nopal cactus was a better antioxidant than vitamin C. The pulp of the cactus fruit has many compounds that likely act together to bring about a better antioxidant effect. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is just vitamin C.
This study used 500 grams (17.8 oz) of Nopal cactus pulp (and compared it to 150 mg of vitamin C). In theory, lesser amounts of Nopal cactus fruit might work too. I say this because I do not know how much Nopal cactus fruit or pulp is in a serving of TriVita Nopalea.
Other research studies suggest Nopal cactus may help diabetes. Some studies noted it might reduce blood sugar levels. The issue here is research often uses another species of Nopal cactus called Opuntia streptacantha and not the type of cactus used in TriVita Nopalea (which uses Opuntia ficus indica). Unfortunately, an investigation posted in 2019 notes a lack of quality human blood sugar research.
If TriVita Nopalea juice does help lower blood sugar, fantastic! Just remember that there is MUCH MORE evidence that exercise —even 20 minutes a day —can lower not only blood sugar but “A1C” levels too.
See the benefits of exercise for diabetes for more insights.
Nopalea And Weight Loss
Some have asked me if Opuntia ficus indica can help weight loss. Since the cactus pulp has fiber, it's possible, just as all-fiber foods can aid weight loss. That said, no human weight loss studies could be located. Like all foods, this cactus may have its place in a healthy diet but until somebody proves it enhances weight loss, be skeptical claims about Opuntia ficus indica (or Nopalea juice) was some magical weight loss secret.
See the XLS Medical review for more information on this topic.
What Are Betalains?
Betalains (bay-ta-linz) refers to a family of colorful phytonutrient plant chemicals. In plants, these pigments/nutrients help provide colors ranging from yellow to purple/violet. Betalines are present in various fruits and vegetables, such as beets and beet juice supplements.
There are 2 main types of betalains:
- Betacyanins: a deep red pigment
- Betaxanthins: a yellow/orange pigment
Where you find betalains, you also usually find other healthy plant compounds called anthocyanins.
Betalains Health Properties
Various studies – mostly involving lab animals and isolated cells – tell us betalains have a variety of health benefits such as:
Betalains and Cancer
Because the betalains of Prickly Pear Cactus seem to act as antioxidants, some may wonder if they might help prevent cancer or if they might be a natural alternative to chemotherapy. I don't recommend this for a couple of reasons:
1. I see no betalain supplement research concerning cancer treatment in humans.
2. Any antioxidant effects of betalains might —in theory —interfere with traditional cancer treatment.
Think about it. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and free radical damage is exactly how chemo and radiation therapy kills cancer cells. If you have cancer, PLEASE talk to your oncologist about this before experimenting with any antioxidant supplements.
Nopalea Juice and NSAIDs?
Various TriVita websites hint that Nopalea juice can be a safer alternative to aspirin and other NSAIDs because of the natural anti-inflammatory effects of the Nopal cactus. But, as far as I can tell, this antiinflammatory effect has only been demonstrated in humans once —in the study of hangovers.
On 2/3/12 on the TV show “The Doctors” model, Cheryl Tiegs lists Nopalea cactus juice as one of her anti-aging secrets. Cheryl says she drinks Nopalea to help reduce inflammation. Cheryl Tiegs, definitely looks great but I wonder if she knows where the anti-inflammation research actually comes from?
Here is The Doctors TV segment:
On 3/29/12 Nopalea TV commercials featuring Ceryl Tieges started appearing.
Who is Doctor Becky Maes?
Dr. Becky Maes was featured on the Nopalea TV commercial I saw on 1/18/12. Back then, her Facebook page, stated she is an “an MD, Gastroenterologist, Entrepreneur, Author, Mother, and Nutritional Expert.” She is indeed a board-certified physician.
At one point, her Linkedin page stated she was affiliated with TriVita as a nutrition coach and One Star Director. Currently, her LinkedIn page states she is the medical director at ForeverGreen International Inc.
The Nopalea Wellness Challenge
You may have heard of The Nopalea Wellness Challenge. This is how it works. You drink 3-6 oz of Nopalea juice per day for 30 days and track your progress —how you feel ect. —on a form that TriVita gives you. The wellness challenge is free, but you do need to pay $9.95 for shipping and handling.
Each bottle of Nopalea has 32 oz so if you drank only 3 oz per day, 1 bottle of Nopalea would only last you only about 10 days.
But, during the Nopalea TV infomercial, some of the testimonials noted that it might take 3 months before any differences were noticed. If this is typical for most people, it means that you would need 3 bottles of Noplalea per month or about 9 bottles of Nopalea per 3 months.
How Much Does Nopalea Juice Cost?
Nopalea is not sold in stores. So I called TriVita and asked them how much Nopalea juice cost and this is what they told me.
There are several options:
- 5 Pack. Buy 4 get 1 free. Cost: $139.99 + 14.95 S/H = $154.94
- 3 Pack. Buy 2 get 1 free. Cost: $ 79.98 + 14.95 S/H = $94.93
- 2 Pack. Buy 1 get 1 free. Cost: $39.95 +$14.95 S/H = $54.90
- 10 Pack. Buy 8 and get 2 free. Cost. $279.98 + $29.90 S/H = $309.88
So, if you really wanted to do the Nopalea Wellness Challenge and were willing to give it 3 months, it would cost you about $300 to do it.
Most of these options have an auto-ship program where TriVita will send you a new batch of Nopalea juice every 30 days. You can “customize” the auto-ship so that they send it to you at intervals that work best for you, so be sure to do this if you order Nopalea to avoid stockpiling it.
Trivita Nopalea may be on Amazon for those who want to compare prices.
Trivita vs. The Competition
There are also several other brands of Nopalea juice on Amazon such as:
Because researchers usually don't compare one brand to another, it's difficult to say if either is better than another. A hunch is quality made brands may work similarly to each other although it will take clinical studies to know for sure.
Nopalea Side Effects
Nopalea juice is likely safe in most healthy people. It's been around a long time. Here are some basic things to keep in mind before using. This list is not complete:
- Start with less than recommended for the first week to see how you respond
- Stop taking Nopalea juice at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Ask your pharmacist and doctor first if you take any prescription drugs, like blood thinners or diabetes medicine
- Speak to your doctor if you are receiving cancer therapy like chemo or radiation
- To be safe, avoid take if pregnant or breastfeeding until more research is available
Some evidence hints Nopalea extract may lower blood sugar. In theory, this could mean it may interact with diabetes medicine but the degree to which it might do this needs more study.
One woman appears to have suffered obstruction of her airway after replacing her prednisone for Nopalea. This does not mean the cactus juice caused this condition. It's more likely this problem was because she stopped taking her medicine and because of her pre-existing sarcoidosis which can also obstruct breathing.
Nopalea and the FTC
In July 2014 the Federal Trade Commission reported the several Nopalea juice companies, including TriVita had agreed to refund consumers 3.5 million dollars stemming from claims that Nopalea juice could treat various diseases. Here is the FTC letter for those who want to read it. A May 2015 FTC Press Release offers further details on refunds being given to Nopalea customers.
To be fair, just because the FDA or FTC takes action does not mean something is a scam. Rather it may mean the company overstates what its products/supplements can do. In the US, supplement companies are not allowed to say their products treat/cure disease. This is true, even if there is evidence something works.
Does Nopalea Work?
I honestly don't know if Nopalea juice works or not. If you are really curious about it – and on a budget – try to get the free bottle of Nopalea from a distributor and see if that works before paying for the more expensive options. If you want to go the extra mile, you get your blood work done first – including CRP levels – by your doctor. Then, after a month or so, get your blood work done again —including CRP —to see if anything has changed.
What do you think?
Larry Faulks says
Betalains were first found in a plant that is known scientifically as “Beta vulgaris.” The word “betalain” is derived from the name of the Beta vulgaris plant. The Beta vulgaris plant has as much or more betalain than Nopal cactus, particularly in its root structure.
So, why do the infomercials promote the exotic Nopal cactus? Because “Beta vulgaris” plants are otherwise known as beets. I don’t think anybody would pay $30-$40 for a bottle of beet juice.
All of the above information can be verified by contacting your state’s agricultural extension or your local library.
Larry, that is a very good point about beets being a source of betalians. I have review on a beet supplement for those who want more info on those.
I have an Uncle that swears by this product. You couldn’t take it away from him if you tried. He has many issues including diabetes, COPD and others. He is 79 years old.
Thank you for sharing this info. I have fibromyalgia and was seriously considering buying this product. Now that I know it’s not a sure thing and the real cost to ‘try’ the product I’ve decided against it. I truly appreciate your site xx
Tracy, you are very welcome. Have you seen the research on ribose for fibromyalgia. While Id like to see better research, what I’ve seen is interesting and some people do say it helps.
Thank you for your review. I was just watching the infomercial and smelt a rat. Was a bit surreal to watch the claims on TV while reading counter arguments on my iPad.
The thing I find most concerning is the fact the drink isn’t completely cactus juice & perhaps water but contains a number of other items including naturally forming sugar which for a product that’s meant to be helpful in treating diabetes is a bit contradictory.
Michelle, Thanks for sharing and I’m happy that my review was of use to you.
TriVita was fined $3.5 million dollars back in July for making false and unsupported claims about their Nopalea juice.
Todd, thanks for that heads up! Ive updated my review with that information. Here is the FTC letter that discusses the refunds
I live in the southwest where these plants grow everywhere. I watched this infomercial and decided to make my own pure prickly pear juice, jelly and candy because I was in constant pain from two herniated disks in my lower back. I can’t say it definitely helped me or I just felt better naturally, but my pain did go away.
At first I drank my own homemade juice constantly until I was up walking, gardening and doing as I always did before my injury (it was after about 1 1/2 months). Since the fruits are only ripe for a few weeks a year I had to lower my intake for the remainder of the year, until this year I made mass amounts of it because I honestly at this point, believe it has helped me.
It is now a year later and I am still pain free (once in awhile I get slightly achy but that’s it) and my disks are still herniated. I opted out of having surgery because of the prickly pear juice I had made.
I can’t say anything about this product you reviewed because I never purchased it (I’m a do it yourself kind of girl). My juice is pure prickly pear juice mixed with sugar to make a syrup. I then mix it with either water or sprite for a fizzy drink.
LoL I meant fizzy drink not dizzy 🙂
Tina, Ha! Thanks for the heads up. I would have missed that one 😉
Tina, as long as you are pain free – and got out of surgery – I’m a happy camper 🙂
Hi, I was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis. But, before my diagnose I became very ill. My abdomen became swollen I looked as if I was nine months pregnant. My eyes were jaundice to the point everyone felt like they had to let know as if I didn’t look in myself in the mirror that day. I was itching so bad to the point it was almost in constant tears.
So I purchase Nopalea and within a couple all symptoms went away. Even now with the medication prescribed it doesn’t provide the relief I received with Nopalea. I had at least 20lbs of fluid and inflammation. What ever is in this drink it helped me feel better, swelling, itching and pain all went away.
I have a similar condition as your’s and I need to know if you’re still doing better with this juice???
Pat Scattone (husband Joseph) says
My husband just had to go to the hospital cause of a scrotal abscess pus and he didn’t have this until he started drinking this drink, I don’t think this is good for diabetes.
Pat, so sorry to hear about what happened to your husband. I cant know either if the drink is related to what happened. I’ll say a prayer Joeseph gets out of the hospital soon.
I think saying a prayer for people you can’t personally reach out to is a tremendous way to help. Keep up the good work, Joe. Thanks.
Thanks Leo, I really appreciate that 🙂
You appear to be mistaken regarding dietary antioxidants and their effects upon cancer’s response to chemotherapy. It took me but 30 seconds to Google and find this:
“Antioxidants detoxify ROS (“Reactive Oxygen Species”) and may enhance the anticancer effects of chemotherapy.”
Please either do your research, or don’t address something that you’re not sure of, and are simply speculating on. Thanks! I almost sent this link to my friend who has Stage 4B lung cancer, all worried for her as she is drinking Trivita, and come to find out, it probably IS good for her! I’m so glad I didn’t send the link and tried to find out the actual facts, first.
Antonia, because cancer is an extremely complex process, as is the treatment, I prefer to be conservative and refer this to a qualified oncologist who understands the latest research. I’ve seen the study you mentioned before and I will point out that it was published in 2000. Regardless of its publication date, I am not aware of any evidence of how any form of concentrated cactus juice interacts with chemo or radiation therapies.
Believe me when I say I very much understand how people with cancer (and their families/friends) will be looking for natural/alternative answers to their problems. While some of these may help, others may not help, as is pointed out in this study, published in 2013, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22957409. That is not to say that Trivita juice has no effect. I don’t know either way. Because of that, I’d rather an oncologist make a call on what supplements his/her patients take.
patricia charles says
send me a sample
Patricia, I am not the TriVita company so I cant send you samples.
patricia charles says
how can I get a sample
Patricia, you will need to call the company. They may be able to give you a sample.
I have been reading your posts with interest.
I bought the 5 bottles and have started the challenge with 180ml per day.The reason I started looking for information on Nopalea is that after taking the juice for 6 days so far, my skin is breaking out on my face with pimples. I cannot say for certain it is the juice as maybe there is another explanation.I have also noticed an increase in bowel function and at the moment it seems to me an increase in muscle pain and stiffness.
I will continue the juice until I have finished the bottles and let you know the results.
Thank you for your information.
Thanks for your research on Nopalea. It was very enlightening. What are your thoughts on Noni juice? I ran into someone who just went on and on about Noni Juice.
Hey Jennifer, there is research on noni but most that Ive seen was test tube studies. If there is human research I don’t think there is much of it.
Sandy Webster says
I started taking Napalea 2 weeks ago. Within a day the puffy fingers were gone. I have OA and within a week my low back pain was a lot less. I own a farm and have injuries from working it for 45 years. Have been to doctors have muscle relaxants and pain meds. All of which I have cut down to taking none or very little. I also have more energy, wake up with no aches and pains. I also feel cleared headed. Can work in my garden for longer periods of time. Use very little ice on my back now. It has been amazing. Have started my 74 year old husband on this, too. His feet swell due to a serious injury 3 years ago. It has started to take the swelling down and he has only been on it for 3 days. You can buy the juice at most health food stores.
Thanks Sandy! Glad its helped you and your husband 🙂
It would be great to hear any feedback about this product in relation to Crohn’s disease.
Teresa Cole says
Best money I ever spent was on this Nopalea. My skin became so much clearer(face, red rash), stiffness and pain from OA reduced greatly. I do not know why or how but I actually lost about 15 pounds in 3 months. After initial phase taking 6 oz I actually work my self down to 1 oz a day which was 1 bottle a month. Simply love it.
Very informative, so many products on the market these days it’s good to get someone like yourself to give us a ‘heads up’ after all, if you tried all the products on the market you’d have to re mortgage the house!! Thanks again for the info
Roy, glad to help 🙂
Carol Rivermoon says
Prickly pear cactus juice eh ? If you live in the deserts of the Southwest, I’m betting you could find a recipe to make your OWN cactus juice…either that or buy some someone else has made for a lot less than this “nopalita” stuff. I know they made cactus jelly and cactus candy already. Prickly pear cactus aren’t rare plants by any means.
Pat Brown says
For me, I would like to see some research on conditions like crohns and IBS. A family member sells aloe products & has for many years and swears by them, my gastro doc said all it will do is give me an expensive clean out, which is not to good for me. I have had crohn since I was 20 and have had many bad flares and numerous surgeries and need to find something that will help not harm.