Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus – It’s all about Adaptability

Living in Australia, I don’t normally get to write about cacti. The other day when cycling past the train line near the Prahran Market, here they were (!), the bright yellow flowers of Prickly Pear Cactus. Mind you, I’ve been living in the area for many years now but have never noticed the cactus growing there before. When the striking flowers caught my eye, I knew that I’d find a reference for Prickly Pear Cactus amongst the Desert Alchemy essences.

Native to the Americas Prickly Pear Cactus Oputina is a genus of about 200 species and is also known under the names of Paddle Cactus or Nopales. They are one of the hardiest succulents and therefore survive cold weather better than other cacti, so have adapted to locations with colder climates. They have two kinds of spines, large smooth fixed spines and hairlike prickles, called glochids, who penetrate the skin and then detach from the plant easily.

In Australia, Prickly Pear Cactus has been introduced by the early settlers of Australia according to Wikipedia.

‘The first introduction of prickly-pear into Australia can be definitely ascribed to Governor Philip and the earliest colonists in the year 1788. Brought from Brazil to Sydney, they remained in Sydney, New South Wales, where it was rediscovered in a farmer’s garden in 1839. The farmer’s wife gave cuttings to neighbors and friends, who planted it not only in their gardens but also as hedgerows. So began the Australian invasion that caused major ecological damage in the Eastern states.”

Prickly Pear Cactus

When writing about flowers and plants I am rarely prepared for what I find regarding their healing properties, so I was very surprised reading about the multitude of health benefits of various Prickly Pear species. All parts of the plant, flesh, flowers and fruit have nutritional and/or medicinal properties and is referred to as ‘natural healer of the desert’. Here is a brief overview of the health benefits:

  • ability to treat type II diabetes
  • reduce cholesterol
  • the fruit juice has antioxidant properties
  • studies are underway to confirm findings of anti-cancer benefits, especially ovarian, bladder and cervical cancer cells
  • benefits for the prostate
  • a 1996 study published in Antiviral Research by Ahmad et al has demonstrated antiviral properties of the Opuntia streptacantha species.
  • rich in minerals, vitamins (E, C, B1, B6, Niacin) and other phytonutrients
  • the fruit pulp is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Nutritionally, Prickly Pear Cactus contains most of the vitamins and minerals required for the body, though in small quantities. The young pads can be fried or prepared fresh for a salad. The fruit can be eaten or juiced. Here is a recipe for a sorbet made with the fruit including safe handling techniques to remove the spines.

If you’re very keen to find out more have a look at this comprehensive overview on medical and nutrition research published by Frontiers in Bioscience Vol 11 in 2006.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Given the plants ability to survive colder climates ‘Adaptability’ is the key word for the flower essence Prickly Pear Cactus Oputina phaecantha var. discata, available through the Desert Alchemy range. Adaptability, in terms of the adapting to life’s circumstances, going with the flow and stepping out of old patterns and behaviours.


“Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.” ― Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do


I love the description of ‘active surrender to what is’ by essence maker Cynthia Anthina Kemp Scherer and she follows saying ‘It supports our awareness in being synchronous with the events in our lives. When we are in harmony, our actions don’t come before our feelings, and our thoughts don’t direct our actions. All of our actions are based upon an inner assessment that includes our feelings, our thoughts and our intuition.’

We’re cutting ourselves off from the universal interplay if we approach life with rigidity when anxiously trying to control outcomes from our mind.  I know from my own experience that it takes incredible strength, trust and centredness to navigate life from a state of surrender especially when faced with difficulties – health, financial and/ or relationships. Having the ability and adaptability to be the flow of life allows us to engage ALL of the creative resources within ourselves and tap into the wealth of what IS at any given moment beyond our small view finder of seeing the world.

The ability of Prickly Pear Cactus, with its amazing wealth of health benefits, to adapt and survive in different environments shows us the possibility of living life within our fullest potential.

© 2014, Annette Zerrenthin

 C. A. Kemp Scherer. The Alchemy of the Desert. Desert Alchemy Editions, 2003.
 Gardening Australia's Flora. ABC Books, 2013.

After life

In Autumn, when life has drained out of flowers, their seeds dispursed into the ground, I watch their bleached, frozen froms in nature.


Each flower head a transient sculptural masterpiece, a three dimensional shadow play in monochrome.


A reminder of the impermanence of  life.

There are times when our old ways of being in the world are dying and we enter a transient stage, not knowing where to go and the next step required. Life seemingly comes to a standstill. Used to a busy daily schedule, being in limbo feels threatening, survival fears and axieties surface. Our beings sitting in the unknown of all things possible with nothing physically manifested but minds racing, grasping for security.

RIMG0046Allow yourself the space to surrender to time for seeds to germinate and blossom into a new cycle of life.

Who can wait quietly until the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?

Lao Tzu

IMG_3435Flower essences can support us in phases of transition into a new way of life that takes place internally and/or externally. They can help to ease the letting go and transition at the end of life.

The Australian Bush Flower Transition Essence, a combination of eight flower essences, helps to cope with and move through major life change. When on a crossroad, it brings an awareness of one’s life direction or alternatively, it benefits if you know what you want but don’t know how to archieve it. “It eases the fear of death as well as helping one come to terms with it. This remedy, consequently, allows one to easily and gently pass over with calmness, dignity and serenity.”

Desert Alchemy ‘Transitions Formula’ brings a sense of peace and ease in times of great changes and transitions. ‘It creates a sense of protection, concentration and luminescence that helps us to focus on making a transformation or a transition without distraction.’ It addresses three stages of transition: Dissolving or Death of the Old, The Limbo and Accepting the New.

The combination formula includes Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus to allow us to be vulnerable and for us to recognize that we have all we need within ourselves. Pink Pond Lily brings a freshness of preception, to see ourselves with new eyes and rest in the knowing of trust and safety within us.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin

Kemp Scherer, Cynthia Athina. The Alchemy of the Desert. Desert Alchemy Editions, 2003.
White, Ian. Australian Bush Flower Remedies. Bush Biotherapies Pty Ltd, 2006.

Change, the only constant


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu

Beginning where I ended my last blog with this quote by Lao Tzu there is a flow taking place that is asking to write on change. It was sparked this week, when I listened to a program about astrological aspects of the current Uranus – Pluto square while initially wanting to write about Bottlebrush flower essence. Co-incidentally, both are about change.

The Pluto – Uranus square is about major changes that are shaking up all aspects of our lives – personal, political, institutional, banking and big corporations.  It allows for old patterns to be released, to clear them, for transformation to take place. Uranus apparently let’s us see new perspectives, allowing for new insights and therefore, to support the letting go of the old.  These planets moved into this position sometime in 2011, setting in motion the wheel of change. It impacted me personally late last year, when I resigned from a permanent job in the media I’ve had for 20 years to set up my own business in complementary health. Not having a regular income has brought with it anxieties, yet at the same time, I’ve never know myself being so congruent with what I do for a living and who I am, my interests and joys in life. Now my life has started to move again, to be in flow, where before I felt stuck and unmotivated, without direction. It is, as if the seed that has been planted a long time ago has taken hold of the earth, is sprouting and breaking through the earth to be seen.

The more often we are confronted with having to change, the more we learn to deal with and respond to constant change. This in turn allows us to be able to handle its dynamics and as a result, be in the flow of life. You can find out more on the astrological aspects when following the links below, while I will highlight some flower essences that can be of support when being confronted with change.


Bottlebrush, an essence from the Australian Bush Flower Essences (ABFE) range, helps you deal emotionally with major changes in life that may include starting school, getting a job, redundancy, marriage, divorce, buying or selling a house, retirement, moving interstate or to another country. Also including the two major changes in life … birth and death.  These events can involve feelings of uncertainty, apprehension or overwhelm. When taking the Bottlebrush essence, it allows a person to flow through life and its changes. It fosters the ability to let go of the past and move ahead into new experiences. Bottlebrush is also part of the ABFE Emergency Essence.

From the Desert Alchemy range, Prickly Pear Cactus encourages adaptability to situations and events in our life. It helps us find a state of active surrender to what is and supports our awareness in being synchronous with the events in our lives. The essence supports the harmony between feelings, thoughts and intuition and resulting in taking action when the time is right. “The strengths, calm and centredness that is fostered within us by Prickly Pear Cactus can allow us to wander the earth and always feel at home.” (Cynthia Athina Kemp Scherer in ‘The Alchemy of The Desert’)

You can take Bach’s Rescue Remedy for a sudden shock, emotional upset or in a stressful situation at work or home.

For further reading here are some websites on the Uranus – Pluto square.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin



The mystery of the Queen of the Night Cactus

On my recent visit to the Botanic Gardens in Potsdam, Germany I had the rare opportunity to witness the flowering of the Queen of the Night Cactus. The insignificant looking cactus produces huge flowers 15 cm in diameter that open once a year during the night only and fade at dusk. Its fragrance reminds of the irresistible combination of chocolate and vanilla.


The Shoshone Indians of the Death Valley use the root and stems as a cardiac stimulant, helpful for tachycardia arrhythmia, vague chest pain and shortness of breath that may be associated with overuse of tobacco and caffeine. They call the plant ‘pain in the heart’.

The Desert Alchemy flower essence range offers a Queen of the Night flower essence that supports feminine qualities of receptivity, subtlety, darkness, intuition, psychic vision, and deep feeling. It helps those who have difficulty connecting with their intuition or those who ignore / not honour what is instinctively felt to be right. It assists with being connected to all life through our inner mysteries.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin