How to Get Water From Cactus? {Find Water in Desert}

Imagine a situation where you are in the midst of a desert and thirsty. But, there is not the sight of any water anywhere around you. What would you do in such a situation? One of the best options that e would suggest, based on our experiences (even when we have not been in the dessert) is to look a cactus for its water. Wondering how to get water from cacti? Let us try finding answers to those questions.

The simple way to get water from a cactus is to cut it like  you would do a cucumber. Wrap it in a bandana and twist and wring it to extract the water from the cactus. You should get enough water to keep you going until you get to an oasis and get a good amount of water to drink. 

water in desert
Photo: Wikihow

Cacti grow in unique shapes and sizes. The stem and the spine that you see are actually the modified leaves of the cactus. The task that the leaves handle in other plants is taken care of by the stem in cacti. The stems take up the task of photosynthesis and respiration. The stem also stores the water for the days when it may have no water available. This is exactly what would help you get enough water in the desert. 

How to Get Water From  Cactus?

Getting water from cacti is simple. The water is always available in the stem. You simply need to get rid of the spines and access the mucilage inside for extracting water from it. You can put the mucilage inside a cloth, press it and find the water oozing out. You can now consume the drops of the water. 

All the cacti have more or less the exact mechanism of sustaining and storing water in their stem. Thus you can perceive that extracting water from cacti is almost the same irrespective of the species. The difference may come only from the size and shape of the cactus that you may consume upon.

How to Get Water From Different Cacti Species?

How To Get Water From Barrel Cactus

Barrel cacti are those species of cactus that generally don’t have branches. They are seldom barrel-shaped—as the name implies— or spherical. These cacti have a broad stem ensuring greater water content stored in them. Thus, barrel cacti are generally considered as a source of water in deserts during a crisis. However, not all barrel cactus have water suitable for humans. Fishhook Barrel Cactus is the best cactus to have water from.

How To Get Water From A Fishhook Barrel Cactus

Let us look into the steps to get water from the fishhook barrel cactus in the following:

STEP 1. Look at the shape of the cacti to decide how to severe it. If it is long enough, then you should sever its tip. If it is round, you need to slash it with full pressure to fall into two pieces.

STEP 2. Once you get exposed to the interior flesh, you need to take the flesh out of it. To do that, you need to cut off the skin with spines ensuring you easily access the internal flesh.

STEP 3. Take off a reasonable amount of flesh by cutting them to pieces if needed. 

STEP 4. Put the flesh in a cloth pouch or on a cloth. Then wrap it well.

STEP 5. Apply pressure as required till water starts oozing out of the fabric. This water is ready to collect or drink. Make sure you need to drink it in small amounts to withstand it.

How To Get Water From A Saguaro Cactus?

If you are looking at a cactus at the height of a tree, you are probably looking at a saguaro cactus. These cacti may need almost 200 years to turn into full-grown. These cacti are tall and have branches to them. The bigger size of the saguaro cacti makes it easier to access water.

Here are steps to get water from a saguaro cactus:

STEP 1. Try finding a giant plant with branches to make the process easy. Please select a branch and cut the tip of it. You can sever to take away a branch for convenience.

STEP 2. Carefully remove the flesh on either side by taking a grip on the exposed part of the cactus flesh.

STEP 3. Collect the flesh in a cloth pouch or a cloth. Wrap the collected flesh.

STEP 4. Apply pressure and press as required till water starts oozing out of the fabric.

How To Get Water From A Prickly Pear Cactus?

The prickly pear cactus has advantages over the others by having edible fruits. Thus one can use the fruit to obtain water from it. However, the pads or segments of this plant can also be used to get water. 

Here is the procedure to get water from prickly pear cactus:

STEP 1. Take a pear fruit or a pad by gently cutting off the plant. Take care of the spines

STEP 2. Take off the skin gently to access the flesh. 

STEP 3. Collect the flesh in a cloth pouch or a cloth. Wrap the collected flesh.

STEP 4. Apply pressure and press as required till water starts oozing out of the fabric.

Is The Cacti Water Suitable For Drinking?

The cactus water can result in laxative effects in some of you. It is also known to lower the blood sugar levels. If you are consuming medications for lowering your blood sugar levels, it may be good to avoid consuming a large amount of cactus water. The cactus water may have some side effects such as diarrhea and nausea. 

Well, if you try to drink the water from a cactus in the midst of a desert when you are hungry and thirsty, you may probably end up with diarrhea and vomiting. Want to know why? 

The cactus water that you might have seen in the movies is not the water per se. It is a jelly like fluid that may be highly acidic. It may contain acids and alkaloids and thus may be quite harmful. Since you are already dehydrated and exhausted, your kidneys may need to work really harder to break down the fluid that you drink. That can perhaps put you in deep trouble. But, drinking water from the safer varieties of cactus may be a good pick.

Thus, it is essential to note that cactus water is not a replacement for potable water. The only cactus whose water is better than all other cacti is the Fishhook Barrel Cactus. 

In emergencies, one can find a Fishhook Barrel Cactus and sip its water in small amounts to be in a safer position. However, some people complain of pain in bones and vomiting after drinking Fishhook Barrel Cactus water too. 

The video below should give you a better idea into whether getting water from cactus is a good idea or not –

Which Cactus Can You Drink Water From?

The Fishhook Barrel Cactus is the best cactus to drink your share of water from. It is the only cactus species that you can drink water from, but even then, you need to ensure that you are consuming a moderate quantity of the cactus water to let you move through until you find the actual water to drink. 

You would also find the Saguaro Cactus and Prickly Pear Cactus to be the other varieties of cactus that you can use to drink water from. The Nopal Cactus is also used for drinking. But it is widely used for food preparations in a safer environment than in a desert where you are already dehydrated and weak and almost in a vulnerable condition.

Is Commercial Cactus Water Still Harmful?

The commercial cactus water is not harmful for humans. In fact, there is a huge difference between the commercial cactus water and the cactus water that you extract in a natural environment. The commercially sold cactus water is refined and does not have any harmful ingredients left in the water. The water is completely safer for human consumption. 

The cactus water has gained a lot of popularity of late and has become one of the most widely sold plant based drinks and belongs to the same genre as the coconut water and aloe vera water (also sold as juice). The cactus water sold commercially is low in sugars but comes with health-boosting nutrients and powerful antioxidants. The commercially available cactus water is best suited for the athletes as it contains a considerable amount of electrolytes.

Uses of Cactus Water

Most edible cacti are rich in various nutrients like carotene and rich in fibers, and antioxidants. mful ingredients This is the reason why commercial cactus water is claimed to have rich properties even beneficial for athletes. Commercial cactus water is made from extracts of prickly pear fruits.

However, it is to be remembered that naturally occurring cactus water is not safe for humans. The commercial cactus water is processed from regular prickly pear water to make it suitable for human consumption. The commercial cactus water can be consumed due to its numerous health benefits, such as low calories, high electrolyte content, etc. 

Separate the Facts from the Fiction

Can you drink water from a cactus? The movies and TV series have made it appear as if you can drink water from a cactus as easily as you would drink a glass of water from your water urifier simply by opening a tap. That isnt so. The way the cactus water is shown in the movie is not how it goes in eal life. The western movies have exaggerated the concept of the drinkability of the fishhook barrel cactus.

It is not possible to simply come out in the open and drinks plenty of fresh potable water. The cactus water is definitely NOT the normal water. In fact, it is not water in the first place. It takes lot to extract the water from the cactus, and we do not recommend consuming the water unless it is absolutely necessary to keep you hydrated and safer until you get enough water to drink. But, yes – the commecially availble cactus water is completely safe to drink. It is filtered and all the harmful ingedients from the water are removed.

The Wrap Up

Cactus can be a source of water. But naturally, no cactus is ready to offer fresh water. They are basically acidic and thus create a vomiting sensation. The procedure of the extraction of water is simple on paper. However, one has to take care while cutting off the skin of cacti with spines to avoid injury. 

A few FAQs

Can you extract water from cactus?

Yes, you can comfortably extract water from a cactus, but we do not recommend doing it unless absolutely necessary. It can be harmful to consume the water extracted from the cactus as it can cause nausea and diarrhoea.

Is cactus juice good for you?

The cactus juice may be helpful in shaping up your digestive, skin, and cardiovascular health. It may be a good remedy for cramps and inflammation. It is also a good source of antioxidants which can help avoid the damage caused by the free radicals.

Is cactus water OK to drink?

The water from the cactus plant may be acidic and can also contain the toxic alkaloids. They can have sevee laxative effects on some. It can also cause the temporary side effects such as paralysis, vomiting and diarrhoea. If you are already dehydrated, it can further make you too weak.


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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