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              ** Featured Herb   – Prickly Pear Cactus
** Featured Herbalsit – Heather Ruff 
** Featured Business- Tangled Root Botanicals

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear– Optunia Engelmanni- Nopal, Nopalitos

Habitat and description:

  • Prickly pear can be found anywhere and everywhere from British Columbia to the Appalachian Mountains, however when we think of cactus, we think of the dry hot desert.
  • The plants can survive in numerous eco-systems including dry deserts, grasslands, and Juniper Oak woodlands. From coast to coast, there are dozens of different species but it is primarily a plant of the west but this amazing plant can also survive under a blanket of snow in Wyoming.
  • In Arizona, the 3000 to 4000 foot elevation range is the most colonized.
  • This cactus at maturity stands about 4’-6’ tall by about 8’-10’ wide. The plant has connected pad like stems. The green flat, round pads are covered with thorn clusters
  • New flower bud and pad growth happen in mid-spring, and each flower lasts only one day
  • Mid to late summer is when the dark red pear-shaped fruit develops.


  • Mid- September to early October is when the pear- shaped fruit is ripe.
  • The green pads can be gathered in the Spring, collect while they are flexible and bright green
  • Harvest the flowers for tea once they dry on the green fruit.
  • Long tongs are the best way to collect the pears and pads.


  • The pear-shaped fruit has small spines that can be burned or scraped off, and then peel and scoop out the seeds inside.
  • The flat green pads can be split open like a bagel and the gelatinous insides spooned out.

Medicinal uses:

  • Pads- for poultices –effective for drawing out…
  • Fruits for juices can be preserved in 25% grain alcohol and used for UTI’s
  • In Mexico the juice is used as an anti-inflammatory diuretic.
  • Pulp in the pad is anti-inflammatory and mucilaginous- has a cooling effect on the stomach and soothes gastric membranes ( not to be used long term)
  • Juice- high in vitamin C
  • Flowers are high in flavonoids. Flower infusion taken internally are good for fortifying tissues that are slow to heal. Flower tea tends to be diuretic and stimulates the kidneys – used to lessen uric acid kidney stones and gout conditions.

Too much of the raw pad can cause what is known as ‘Cactus fever’ – a feverish state with chills. It goes away without treatment … but is not good for plant survival situations.

Prickly pear is a host plant for Cochineal , a small, cottony-web forming insect. Years ago the British use the pigment derived from the insect to dye their army’s coats red. Crushed and applied to cuts and scrapes Cochineal is significantly antimicrobial. (Kane pg 205)

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Meet our Featured Herbalist

Heather Ruff
Owner of Pixie Potion Herbals
“Feeling Natures Rhythms”

Heather Ruff is Sonoran herbalist native to the Arizona Desert. Growing up she always knew that she wanted to help people in some way, and while working in corporate America, she came across information about herbalism and a local school. She decided to take the plunge and attended the Western Herbalism program through SWIHA in Tempe, AZ along with numerous herbal conventions.
Through her studies she found that she had a great affinity for Plant Spirit Medicine and the Doctrine of Signatures of plants. Her belief is that often when we display sickness or chronic pains this can be the spirits way of getting our attention. When working with people, she addresses the physical expression of dis-ease as well as the deeper spiritual misalignment. Heather is teaching and seeing clients through Tangled Root Botanicals in Downtown Glendale, AZ. You can also find her writings and upcoming product information through her website pixiepotionherbals.com.

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We are the West Valley’s Organic Apothecary!

Tangled Root botanicals carries organic, health-supporting, medicinal and culinary herbs to support body, mind and spirit.

We foster empowerment and love to educate people in the community by providing classes on holistic nutrition, herbal allies, aromatherapy and lifestyle to make meaningful, positive changes in your health.  We also partner with other Wellness Practioners to provide knowledge and services in classes and clinics offered here at the shop.  You can read about them here!

Tangled Root Botanicals is a family owned, local business in Glendale, Az. We believe in sustainability and preservation and promise to provide quality products for you and your family!

Merihelen Nunez is the owner and herbalist of Tangled Root Botanicals in Glendale, Az.

In her career as a Western Herbalist and Holistic Nutrition Specialist, she has worked as the editor for the book ‘Foundations in Western Herbalism’, authored by Joanne Sanchez, AHG. Other published works she has accomplished have appeared in ‘Natural Herbal Living Magazine’ and ‘Plant Healer Magazine’.

Merihelen was a featured instructor at the National Conference ‘Herb Folk: Medicine of the People‘ in 2014. She currently works out of her shop manufacturing her own line of wellness products and plant based body care while continuing to provide educational classes in the community.

She holds an Associates of Arts in Western Herbalism and Holistic Nutrition that she received from Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, Arizona, with an additional certification in Aromatherapy. One of her passions is to continue to speak, write and educate people of all ages about the healing properties of food and natural remedies.

You can visit Tangled Root Botanicals at  5731 West Glendale Ave, Glendale, AZ 85301


Contact us if you or your business would like to be featured in our next newsletter, We would love to know more about your upcoming events!
Also, if you have an awesome article you would like to share, we would love to post it!

Contact Heather at  heather@ecoflora.org

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