If you find yourself stranded in the desert without access to clean water, you may be wondering if there are any cacti you can drink from to quench your thirst. The good news is that there are several species of cacti that contain potable water that is safe for human consumption. In this article, we will explore which cacti you can drink from, how to harvest water from them, and the precautions you should take to avoid potential risks.
Why Drink Water from Cacti?
Drinking water from cacti can be a lifesaver in arid regions where other sources of water are scarce or contaminated. In addition, some species of cacti have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. For example, the prickly pear cactus has been traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, burns, and stomach issues.
Types of Cacti You Can Drink From
While not all cacti are safe to drink from, there are several species that contain water that is safe for human consumption. Here are some of the most common types of cacti that you can drink from:
The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) is one of the most iconic cacti of the American Southwest. This tall, branching cactus can grow up to 50 feet tall and can live for over 150 years. The saguaro cactus contains a significant amount of water in its fleshy stem, which can be harvested in emergencies.
Note: It is illegal to harm or remove a saguaro cactus in most areas, so make sure to only harvest water from fallen or damaged saguaros.
Prickly Pear Cactus
The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.) is a common sight in arid regions around the world. This flat, paddle-shaped cactus is covered in spines and contains a large amount of water in its fleshy pads. To harvest water from a prickly pear cactus, simply remove the spines and cut off the top of the pad.
The barrel cactus (Echinocactus spp.) is a round, spiny cactus that can grow up to 10 feet tall. This cactus contains a large amount of water in its thick stem, which can be harvested by cutting into the top of the cactus and scooping out the flesh.
The fishhook cactus (Sclerocactus spp.) is a small, cylindrical cactus that grows in clusters. This cactus contains water in its stem and can be harvested by cutting off the top of the cactus and squeezing the water out.
How to Harvest Water from Cacti
Harvesting water from cacti requires some preparation and caution to avoid injuring yourself or damaging the cactus. Here are some steps to follow when harvesting water from a cactus:
Step 1: Find a Suitable Cactus
Look for a cactus that is in good condition and has not been damaged by animals or humans. Make sure to only harvest water from cacti that have fallen over or have naturally dried out, as it is illegal and harmful to harvest water from healthy cacti.
Step 2: Prepare Your Tools
You will need a sharp knife, a container to collect the water, and gloves to protect your hands from the cactus spines. Make sure to sterilize your knife before using it to avoid introducing any bacteria or contaminants into the water.
Step 3: Cut into the Cactus
Cut into the top of the cactus using your knife, making a deep incision into the flesh. Be careful not to cut too deeply or too close to the center of the cactus, as this can damage the plant and make it more vulnerable to infections.
Step 4: Collect the Water
Hold your container under the incision and wait for the water to flow out. You may need to press on the cactus or use a spoon to scoop out the water if it is not flowing freely. Be sure to collect only the water and avoid any sap or other fluids that may be present.
Step 5: Filter the Water
After collecting the water, filter it through a cloth or coffee filter to remove any debris or impurities. Boiling the water for a few minutes can also help to kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present.
Precautions to Take
While drinking water from cacti can be a lifesaver in emergency situations, it is important to take some precautions to avoid potential risks. Here are some things to keep in mind when drinking water from cacti:
Avoid Toxic Cacti
Some species of cacti contain toxic compounds that can cause illness or even death if ingested. Avoid drinking water from cacti that you are not familiar with or that have a bitter taste.
Avoid Contaminated Cacti
Cacti that have been damaged or contaminated by animals or humans can harbor harmful bacteria or parasites that can make you sick. Only harvest water from cacti that are in good condition and have not been damaged or contaminated.
Boil or Treat the Water
Boiling the water for a few minutes can help to kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present. You can also use a water treatment kit or iodine tablets to purify the water.
Drinking water from cacti should be a last resort when no other sources of water are available. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before resorting to drinking water from cacti.
Why can’t I drink cactus water?
Not all cacti are safe to drink from. Some cacti contain toxic compounds that can cause illness or even death if ingested. It is important to know which cacti are safe to drink from and to take precautions to avoid potential risks.
What type of cactus is edible?
There are several species of cacti that are safe to drink from and are edible. These include the Saguaro cactus, the Barrel cactus, the Fishhook cactus, and the Prickly pear cactus.
How often can you drink cactus water?
Cactus water should only be consumed as a last resort when no other sources of water are available. It is not recommended to drink cactus water on a regular basis as it can cause stomach upset and other health problems if consumed in excess.
Knowing which cacti you can drink from can be a valuable skill to have in emergency situations. While not all cacti are safe to drink from, there are several species that contain potable water that is safe for human consumption. By following the steps outlined in this article and taking the necessary precautions, you can safely harvest and drink water from cacti when other sources of water are not available.