Can You Drink Water From A Cactus? {Safe or Not?}

If you have been watching those survival videos on YouTube or the series on TV, you might have noticed that they show you people drinking water from cactus. Ever wondered if Cactus water good for you? Can you drink water from a Cactus? Let us try finding out.

It is not safer to drink cactus water as such. It may be highly acidic. Cactus water may also have high level of alkaloids. in some situations, drinking cactus water may cause the issues such as diarrhoea and vomiting. Instead of quenching your thirst, these issues may make you more dehydrated. If you want to be safe, you can consider drinking water from fishhook barrel cactus which is safe.

Drinking water from cactus
Photo: YouTube

As you all are aware that cactus can be found abundantly all around the desert; therefore, being stranded and confused, you might want to try having the juice of cactus in order to quench your thirst. But is it safe? Can you drink water from a cactus? Here in this article, we will be talking about it in depth.

Can you Drink Water from cactus?

Contray to what those survival videos make you believe, drinking water from cactus is never safe. The cactus water is likely to cause severe illness. Of course, we know that almost every plant does contain acids in the water contained in them.  But the amount of acids contained in cactus is severely high.

Cactus is a plant that lves in the highly arid conditions. This leaves them rely on a process called CAM photosynthesis  or crassulacean acid metabolism photosynthesis. The process involves the cactus keeping their stomata or pores open during night to help them retain more water. carbon dioxide is stored as organic acid, more of it as Malic acid.

This malic acid is commonly found in most of the plants, but cactus contains a huge amount of malic acid. This is what makes the cactus water unsafe to drink.

What issues Can Cactus Water can Have?

Drinking cactus water can result in severe issues. It is quite likely to expose you to several risks and dangers. In fact, the acids and alkaloids in the cactus water can make you extremely sick.

Some of the issues that cactus water can cause would include

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • in rare cases, a temporary paralysis.

If you are looking at drinking cactus water for survival when you get stranded in desert, these symptoms can be very dangerous. They may leave you more dehydrated than you actually were.

If you can identify the cactus that is safe to drink water from, it can help you see yourself from the emergency situations. However, it is   recommended not to drink water from just about any cactus you find. Cactus-like plants found in southern Africa and Madagascar deserts are poisonous and belong to the Euphorbiaceae family. 


Key Takeaway- Yu can Eat cactus fruit

When drinking cactus water can be dangerous, eating cactus fruit is never harmful. Eating a cactus fruit can provide you several benefits. It can help you with several nutrients. You have over 2000 different varieties of cactus and almost all of them are safer to at for humans.


What Does Cactus Water Taste Like?

Cactus water is slightly sweet in taste. If you have eaten berries or tart beans, you will find them tasting almost on same lines. In most of the cases, cactus water provides you smoother and mellow flavour. Some even consider the taste of the cactus water being somewhat equivalent to that of watermelon juice. 

These compounds are typically too acrid for most humans to take in, and ingesting them puts a strain on the kidneys. So if you are there with an empty stomach and are savoring the meat of a cactus, it won’t end well for you. 

Also, you must keep in mind that Cacti come in approximately 2,000 different varieties around the world. In circumstances where the types are similar, proper identification can be challenging. So you might not even know which one would be seriously poisoning and life-threatening for you. 

If the milky sap of these plants gets into your eyes, it can burn your skin and mucous membranes and cause irreversible blindness, so you can imagine what would happen to you if you actually devour them. But if you are lucky enough to come across an edible cactus, you must be having the question in your mind that –

What does Cactus taste like?

 Cactus can be of a unique taste, and it can taste a mix of sweet and sour. In most of the cases, you would find it offering a slightly citrus like taste along with a sour tone. Some cacti may have a taste quite similar to reen vegetables, such as okra, green beans, and asparagus. 

If you thought cactus tastes something like coconut, you are in for shock, or should I say, disappoint. Most of the people who have had the opportunity to taste cactuses have reported that the meat or the internal portion of a cactus has a sticky and slimy texture. Also, when you dissect a piece of its stem, removing its thorns, the water or the flesh tastes like a melon or a cucumber without the sweetness or any other taste for that matter. 

As you chew it, you will notice that it has a distinct grittiness added to it, as if somebody has sprinkled sand on it. You can have it raw or can roast it with the flesh on fire. To have it raw, you can cut the top of the cactus off and skin down the sides, removing the cactus spines. The cactus meat will have the consistency of a sticky cucumber. 

The stringy central core should be avoided, but the cactus flesh can be eaten. To extract the water from the cactus, wrap the meat in a cloth, smash it, and wring it out.

How To Handle A Cactus Plant For Consumption Purposes?

If you are looking to handle the cactus for the purpose of consumption, it is advisable to follow a few precautions –

  • Use leather gloves
  • Make use of kitchen tongs
  • Wrap the cactus in a paper or towel
  • Hold the cactus with a gentle grip

Normally, if you think about touching or going anywhere near a cactus, its thorns are the first thing that alerts you. But if you are in a dire situation, you would not have much choice left with yourself as you must quench your thirst and provide your body with the bare minimum nutrition required to survive. So if you are about to handle a cactus, you can follow these steps to consume any part of it.

Which Cactus Can You Drink Water From?

No cactus is safe to drink water from. However, Fishhook Barrel Cactus is one of the most common ccactus species that you can drink cactus water from. 

The Fishhook Barrel Cactus is the only cactus from which you can sip cactus water straight from the plant. However, this should only be consumed in limited amounts and in emergency conditions. When used as a water supply, the fishhook barrel cactus is regarded to be the least problematic of the cacti family. However, that should not mean it is the safest. You should consume the water only in sips just in cases when it it needed in emergency cases. 

Cactus water is acidic and contains harmful alkaloids of some types. If you’re severely dehydrated, you could think about drinking this to quench your thirst, but you might end up with other complications. Your body would exhaust more energy than you would otherwise receive any nourishment as you have ingested a chemical substance.  It will most likely result in bodily aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. It’s up to you to determine whether risking dehydration or becoming sick is a preferable situation you are fine with. But in dire situations, we fail to think logically and are willing to try absolutely anything that we can lay our hands-on.

What Are The Cactuses That You Can Eat From?

There are a few cactus species that may be safer to consume. Some of them would include Prickly Pear, Dragon fruits, Saguaro cactus, Organ pipe cactus, Stenocereus to name a few. Almost all cacti that belong to the category of Opuntia family are known to be edible and can be eaten. 

If you are hungry and without food, you might want to eat cactuses at some point in time, because, to state the obvious- If I could drink cactus water, I can eat the meat too. So let us talk about the Cactuses that you can eat from.

  • Fishhook Barrel Cactus: As discussed above, the meat from fishhook barrel cactus is safe to consume; you can make pieces out of the meat and consume it raw. Also, if you are lucky enough to have a source of fire, you can roast the cactus and then consume it.
  • Hedgehog Cactus: It is safe to consume prickly Hedgehog Cactus. All you have to do is cut off a thin part of the outer covering of the cactus and make pieces out of the meat. You can also roast the cactus stem and devour it if you have a provision of igniting a fire. 
  • Prickly Pear Cactus: It is safe to consume Prickly Pear Cactus. You can consume both the cactus pad as well as the central plant meat.

Can You Drink Water From A Saguaro Cactus?

Drinking water from Saguaro Cactus is not recommended. It can actually store around 200 gallons of water, but is can be toxic at times and may not be the right option for the humans. It can be extremely acidic and consist of a lot of potential alkaloids. They can be acrid for the humans to tell. They can also have severe effect on your kidneys. 

You would see them in Arizona in the United States. These are the long cactus plants growing beside roadways. With an average height of 40 feet and a width of 2 feet, these renowned Saguaro Cactus plants are the largest of their species in the country. Saguaro fruits are a well-known delicacy among American and Mexican cultures. 

They’re recognized for their sweet edible pulp, which makes jams, wines, and preserves. Primitively, The Hohokam people of Tucson used to knock down the ripe fruit from the tops of the plants. Then it would be gathered to eat. Presently, the fruits produced from Saguaro have multiple utilities. Saguaro seeds, which have high protein content, are frequently used as poultry feed. The edible fruits and seeds of the saguaro cactus are very popular. The saguaro fruit can be consumed in a variety of ways. 

You can eat the fresh fruit or make juice out of it. Alternatively, you can dry it and store it as dried fruit for later use. Wine, jam, and syrup are all made from saguaro fruit. However, the stems and the central plant meat of Saguaro cannot be consumed. So, you can’t have the water from the cactus stems directly; you would have to make a juice out of the fruit it produces.

Does Cactus Water Make You Hallucinate?

Most of the cactus plants may not cause the issues of halluciantions. However, there may be some species that may make you have the temporaary hallucinations – but only when you consume it in a higher quantity. A few examples for the cactus that can cause hallucinations can includde Peyote and San Pedro cactus.

The effects of the cactus such as Peyote and san Pedro can be equivalent to the effects produced by LSD. It has been observed that the species can cause the symptoms such as visual distortions. This is perhaps why it is illegal in several regions to grow or stock Peyote and San Pedro cactus.

Cactus is not a safe alternative to drinking water. As discussed earlier, drinking cactus water on an empty stomach will cause diarrhea or vomiting, dehydrating you even more. When stranded in the scorching heat, your body will anyway give out. On top of that, if you are vomiting, you are bound to fall seriously ill. However, if you are helpless and have to consume it, you could have water or the sap of the fishhook barrel cactus in an emergency. Seri Indians also used this cactus as emergency water, but when they drank it on an empty stomach, it caused agony in their bones and vomiting.

How Long Can Cactus Store Water?

Some cactuses, on the other hand, have roots that have been adapted to store water. Cactuses are known to store water in collapsible water storage cells. The collapsible water-storage cells appear in the stem as holes or crevices and can hold water for a long time. Furthermore, there are ribs/flutes, which allow the water to be retained. When the cactus is fully swollen, the ribs or flutes are hidden, becoming visible as the stem decreases. 

Cactus, like all living things, requires water to exist. Water is often sparse in the locations where it grows, though. This plant has developed a wide range of specific abilities to compensate for this and adapt to the scorching temperatures well, allowing it to store the little water it receives for a long time. Cacti have needle-like spines that protect them from predators and help prevent water loss by blocking air passage around the cactus. Some cactuses can store water for up to four months, especially in the winter, and they don’t need a lot of water during that period. Larger cactuses, such as the barrel cactus, can go months without holding the water it has absorbed. Some cactus species have the ability to hold water for up to two years. 

If you are hiking, you should carry twice the amount of water you usually require to avoid being stuck in a situation where you are left with no water. Also, you can carry canned food and other packaged food products that will help you through this period of struggle for survival. However, if you are unluckily stuck in a dire situation where you have no water, chances are you will be opting to drink water from a cactus. In that case, you would have to choose the cactus wisely in order to avoid facing some dire consequences.

The Concluding thoughts

Well, that was all we had about if cactus water is safe to drink for humans. However, there is one cactus or twwo taht can perhaps be consumed wiht no hassles. However, even then, you would also need to exercise caution not to consume the cactus water in high quality. If you are stranded and want to have some water to keep you safer, make sure that you have found the right cactus and drinking the water only in few sips.


Is Cactus water good kidneys? 

There is no study involved in whether cactus water is safer for kidneys. If you have any kidney related issues, you are not expected to consume the water from cactus. It can result in issues such as blaoting and gastrointestianl issues.

Is Cactus water better than coconut water?

No, Cactus water is not as safe as coconut water. of course, some cactus species may have the best options as it consists of natural antioxidants like vitamin C, betalains, polyphenols and flavonoids.

What are the side effects of cactus water?

Consuming cactus water in high quantity may result in issues such as diaahoea and vomitting. It can also result in issues such as temporary paralysis. It may also have laxative properties and thus cause the gastrointestianl distress in some cases.


Nikita is a Succulent lover. She really enjoys planting and nourishing them. She loves to share information about various Succulents on this blog to aware people more about these awesome plants.

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