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February 2017 Newsletter


Plaque-busting plants take on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
by Michael Franco
January 9th, 2017

(Thanks to Bill Pritchard for sending me this article.)

The fight against the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases may have just gotten a new weapon from both a land-based and sea-based plant in the Mediterranean basin. Researchers at the University of Malta (UM) have found that an extract from the prickly pear cactus and brown seaweed known as peacock's tail – which both grow in the region – might help disrupt a key process in which both diseases take hold.
Sticky proteins known as beta-amyloid plaques have previously been shown to play a role in Alzheimer's disease in the brain by interrupting the nervous system, so finding something that can blast them from the body, or keep them from forming in the first place, would be a boon to fighting the disease.

To test out the effectiveness of the extracts in doing just that, the researchers gave a yeast colony a healthy dose of beta-amyloid clumps and then treated the colony with the prickly pear and seaweed extracts, which dramatically improved the health of the yeast.

Next, the researchers moved on to fruit flies that were genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's symptoms. Sure enough, the extracts worked once again. When given the seaweed extract, the median lifespan of the flies was extended by two days. When the prickly pear extract was used, the life extension doubled to four days. "Considering that one day in the life of a fruit fly is equivalent to around one year in humans, the results are dramatic," says a UM report on the study. "Interestingly, the mobility of sick flies was improved by about 18 percent after treatment, highlighting a significant improvement."

Next, the researchers figured out that in flies whose brains were stacked with alpha-synuclein, a sticky protein that plays a role in Parkinson's disease, treatment with the natural substances again prolonged their lives. They concluded that the extracts limit the buildup of the sticky proteins into large clumps that can harm the nervous system, thereby helping to keep both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's at bay.

Clinical trials will follow but, as lead study author Ruben J. Cauchi points out, the compounds are already available for use by consumers.

We believe that the discovery of bioactive agents that target pathways that are hit by multiple neurodegenerative conditions is the most viable approach in our current fight against brain disorders," he said. "A clear advantage of the drugs used in this study is that, in view of their excellent safety profile, they are already on the market as nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals."

The study Cauchi co-authored appears in the journal Neuroscience Letters.
Source: University of Malta via ScienceDaily


In the January, 2017, Newsletter I announced that we were so lucky that a hard freeze hadn’t hit our area, which was unusual for us. Well, short-ly after I sent out the newsletter, we were hit by a very hard freeze. Many orange trees in town were apparently totally destroyed, many still with oranges. I suffered tremendous loss with my spineless cactus (which is usually not killed in the winter). And of course my bananas trees were wiped out as they are every year. Luckily they will sprout and grow during the Spring and Summer. Rose bushes in town were not bothered by the cold weather. My Chaya tree was destroyed as was my beautiful Angel’s Trumpet. I’m not sure if they’ll sprout this Spring.

And the pear burner has been connected and we’ve been burning cactus for the cattle. Cactus and hay are being fed. I’ll be getting the cattle some mineral. A few cows have dropped calves. Somehow the cold weather does not seem to bother them. Cows are smart mothers and know how to protect their babies in the heavy brush and creeks.


Pollo con Nopales (Chicken and Cactus)

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 fresh tomatillos, husks removed
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded
1 (16 ounce) jar canned nopales (cactus), drained

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the chicken breasts in the boiling water until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Once cool, shred the chicken into small strands.

Fill the pot again with water and bring to a boil. Cook the tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, and nopales in the boiling water until the vegetables are all tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
Blend the tomatillos and jalapeno peppers in a blender until smooth; pour into the pot with the shredded chicken and place over medium heat. Cut the nopales into small dice and add to the mixture. Allow the mixture to simmer until completely reheated, about 5 minutes.

Stewed Nopales

3 nopales
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 onions
1 clove garlic
1 arbol chile
2 tablespoons diced tomatoes

Nearly fill a large pot with water, leaving 3 or 4 centimeters at the top. When it comes to a boil, add the salt, baking soda, and nopales. Cook until soft, for approximately 20 minutes.

Drain the nopales and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a hot skillet, saute the onion, garlic, tomatoes, and arbol chile. Once the onion has softened, add the nopales and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Serve with baked beans, Spanish rice and cheese.


The Texas Cactus Council decided at the last meeting to meet every other month. The meeting for February, 2017, will be at Jerry’s Diner in San Diego, Texas, at 6:00 p.m. on February 9th. You may bring a door prize if you wish. The president announced that we will have a program at each meeting.

J. T. Garcia


Beautiful Cactus Blooms





Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas



January 2017 Newsletter

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and that the New Year brings you much success, joy and good health. There is one amazing thing that I have observed and that is that we are already in the new year and we have not had a frost yet. My banana trees are still full of green leaves. This is a tree that is easily killed by cold weather. We usually get a freeze by late November or early December. The buffelgrass at the ranch is very green and lush. The cattle are really happy and are eating heartily. I cannot remember this ever happening. Now this is in my part of South Texas (between Corpus Christi and Laredo). Some parts of the state have been hit by cold freezing weather. How long will this good luck last? Don't know. Hopefully it will last for a while.

The prickly pear cactus is also in very good shape. Should the need arise for feeding it to cattle, we'll burn off the spines and let the cattle enjoy it. As I've mentioned before there are plenty of quail. They built their nests under the cactus pads. The cactus offers them shelter and protection from predators. Some farmers south of here have told me that they have seen many pheasants in their ranches. Apparently someone brought some of these birds and released them - - - and they have multiplied. A game warden told these farmers that they can shoot the pheasants whenever they want, that they are not protected. I encourage all of them not to shoot them. Let them increase in numbers even more.



Lentil and Cactus Soup (Mom's Recipe)

14 cups water

TIP! To enhance the flavor of your dish, use Swanson® Chicken Broth in place of water.

3 cloves garlic, cut into thirds

1 pound lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 1/2 tablespoons chicken bouillon (such as Knorr®)

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon (such as Knorr®), or to taste

1 cup cooked diced nopales (cactus), drained

3 small potatoes, peeled and chopped

Bring the water to a boil in a soup pot with 3 cloves of garlic. Stir in the lentils and 1 1/2 tablespoons of chicken bouillon. Simmer over medium-low heat until lentils are almost soft, about 1 hour.

Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet, and cook and stir the onion and 2 chopped cloves of garlic until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato and continue

to cook and stir until the tomato releases its juice, about 5 more minutes. Stir the tomato mixture into the lentil soup along with cumin and 2 more teaspoons of chicken bouillon, or to taste. Bring the soup to a simmer, stir in the nopales and potatoes, and cook over low heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.



Nopalito tacos

Sprinkle evenly with minced cilantro, and fold in half.


Thanks to those members who have paid up their membership dues.


The Texas Cactus Council will meet on Thursday, January 12, 2017, at El Charro Restaurant in Alice, Texas (1011 W. Front 78332) at 6:00 p.m. They have a great menu. Invite your family and friends. You may bring a door prize if you wish. I will bring some spineless cactus pads for those who want to start their cactus gardens.

See you all in Alice.

J. T. Garcia



Webmaster: Chumbe Salinas




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