Bioactive compounds and functional potential of pequi (Caryocar spp.), a native Brazilian fruit: a review




Bioactive compounds, Caryocaraceae, Fruit, Health benefits, Oleic acid


Pequi is an indigenous word that means “thorny covering” and is used to describe fruits from the Caryocar spp. These fruits are widely consumed as food and used in traditional medicine by Brazilians in the savannah (Cerrado biome) and the Amazon region. The fruit is rich in lipids, mainly oleic acid, and other bioactive substances including carotenoids, phenolics, and tocopherols. The oil extracted from the pulp or “almond” (seed) has a high local socioeconomic impact and is associated with nutritional and therapeutic benefits. A wide array of health benefits such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antimicrobial effects, improved cardiac function, as well as an increased lymphocyte-dependent immunity have been attributed to the pequi fruit, especially its pulp. This review provides a comprehensive overview on the edible parts of pequi fruits (pulp and almond), more specifically the oil produced from these parts, as a source of functional compounds with biological activity. Moreover, it considers the differences among the three more commercially-important species from the genus Caryocar.


Download data is not yet available.


Afonso SR, Angelo H, de Almeida AN. 2015. Caracterização da produção de pequi em Japonvar, MG. Floresta 45, 49–56.

Aguilar EC, Jascolka TL, Teixeira LG, Lages PC, Ribeiro AC, Vieira EL, Peluzio MC, Alvarez-Leite JI. 2012. Paradoxical effect of a pequi oil-rich diet on the development of atherosclerosis: balance between antioxidant and hyperlipidemic properties. Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res. 45, 601–9. PMid:22570088 PMCid:PMC3854266

Aguilar EC, Queiroz MdGMN, Oliveira DAd, Oliveira NJFd. 2011. Serum lipid profile and hepatic evaluation in mice fed diet containing pequi nut or pulp (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.). Food Science and Technology (Campinas) 31, 879–83.

Alabdul Magid A, Voutquenne L, Harakat D, Pouny I, Caron C, Moretti C, Lavaud C. 2006. Triterpenoid saponins from the fruits of Caryocar villosum. J. Nat. Prod. 69, 919–26. PMid:16792411

Almeida MR, Aissa AF, Ursula Hermogenes Gomes TD, Darin JD, Chisté RC, Mercadante AZ, Antunes LM, Bianchi ML. 2013. In vivo genotoxicity and oxidative stress evaluation of an ethanolic extract from piquiá (Caryocar villosum) pulp. J. Med. Food. 16, 268–71. PMid:23444962

Almeida MR, Darin JD, Hernandes LC, Aissa AF, Chisté RC, Mercadante AZ, Antunes LM Bianchi ML. 2012. Antigenotoxic effects of piquiá (Caryocar villosum) in multiple rat organs. Plant Foods Hum. Nutr. 67, 171–7. PMid:22562095

Ascari J, Takahashi JA, Boaventura MAD. 2010. Phytochemical and biological investigations of Caryocar brasiliense Camb. Boletin Latinoamericano y del Caribe de plantas medicinales y Aromaticas 9, 20–8.

Ascari J, Takahashi J, Boaventura M. 2013. The phytochemistry and biological aspects of Caryocaraceae family. Revista Brasileira de Plantas Medicinais 15, 293–308.

Azevedo-Meleiro CH, Rodriguez-Amaya db. 2004. Confirmation of the identity of the carotenoids of tropical fruits by HPLC-DAD and HPLC-MS. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 17, 385–96.

Barreto GP, Benassi MT, Mercadante AZ. 2009. Bioactive compounds from several tropical fruits and correlation by multivariate analysis to free radical scavenger activity. Journal of the Brazilian Chemical Society 20, 1856–61.

Batista J, Silva A, Rodrigues C, Costa K, Oliveira A, Paiva E, Nunes F, Olinda R. 2010. Avaliação da atividade cicatrizante do óleo de pequi (Caryocar coriaceum wittm) em feridas cutâneas produzidas experimentalmente em ratos. Arq. Inst. Biol. São Paulo 77, 441–7.

Castro AJ, Grisolia CK, de Araújo BC, Dias CD, Dutra ES, Nepomuceno JC. 2008. Recombinogenic effects of the aqueous extract of pulp from pequi fruit (Caryocar brasiliense) on somatic cells of Drosophila melanogaster. Genet. Mol. Res. 7, 1375–83. PMid:19065773

Chisté RC, Freitas M, Mercadante AZ, Fernandes E. 2012. The potential of extracts of Caryocar villosum pulp to scavenge reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Food Chem. 135, 1740–9. PMid:22953916

Chisté RC, Mercadante AZ. 2012. Identification and quantification, by HPLC-DAD-MS/MS, of carotenoids and phenolic compounds from the Amazonian fruit Caryocar villosum. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60, 5884–92. PMid:22612541

Colombo NB, Rangel MP, Martins V, Hage M, Gelain DP, Barbeiro DF, Grisolia CK, Parra ER, Capelozzi VL. 2015. Caryocar brasiliense camb protects against genomic and oxidative damage in urethane-induced lung carcinogenesis. Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res. 48, 852–62. PMid:26200231 PMCid:PMC4568814

Costa JG, Brito SA, Nascimento EM, Botelho MA, Rodrigues FF, Coutinho HD. 2011. Antibacterial Properties of Pequi Pulp Oil (Caryocar coriaceum Wittm.). International Journal of Food Properties 14, 411–6.

Da Silva Quirino G, de Oliveira Leite G, Rebelo LM, da Rocha Tomé A, da Costa JGM, Cardoso AH, Campos AR. 2009. Healing potential of Pequi (Caryocar coriaceum Wittm.) fruit pulp oil. Phytochemistry Letters 2, 179–83.

Dauchet L, Amouyel P, Dallongeville J. 2009. Fruits, vegetables and coronary heart disease. Nature Reviews Cardiology 6, 599–608. PMid:19652655

De Morais Cardoso L, Reis BDL, Hamacek FR, Sant'ana HMP. 2013. Chemical characteristics and bioactive compounds of cooked pequi fruits (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) from the Brazilian Savannah. Fruits 68, 3–14.

De Oliveira Sousa AG, Fernandes DC, Alves AM, De Freitas JB, Naves MMV. 2011. Nutritional quality and protein value of exotic almonds and nut from the Brazilian Savanna compared to peanut. Food Research International 44, 2319–25.

De Oliveira FF, de Araújo JC, Pereira AF, Brito GA, Gondim DV, Ribeiro ReA, de Menezes IR, Vale ML. 2015. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of Caryocar coriaceum Wittm fruit pulp fixed ethyl acetate extract on zymosan-induced arthritis in rats. J. Ethnopharmacol. 174, 452–63. PMid:26341615

De Oliveira MEB, Guerra NB, Barros LDM, Alves RE. 2008. Aspectos agronômicos e de qualidade do pequi. Embrapa Agroindústria Tropical-Documentos (INFOTECA-E).

De Oliveira ML, Nunes-Pinheiro DC, Tomé AR, Mota EF, Lima-Verde IA, Pinheiro FG, Campello CC, de Morais SM. 2010. In vivo topical anti-inflammatory and wound healing activities of the fixed oil of Caryocar coriaceum Wittm. seeds. J. Ethnopharmacol. 129, 214–9. PMid:20332017

Facioli NL, Gonçalves LA. 1998. Modificação por via enzimática da composição triglicerídica do óleo de piqui (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.). Quim. Nova 21, 16–9.

Faria-Machado AF, Tres A, van Ruth SM, Antoniassi R, Junqueira NT, Lopes PS, Bizzo HR. 2015. Discrimination of pulp oil and kernel oil from pequi (Caryocar brasiliense) by fatty acid methyl esters fingerprinting, using GC-FID and multivariate analysis. J. Agric. Food Chem. 63, 10064–9. PMid:26506457

Ferreira BS, de Almeida CG, Faza LP, de Almeida A, Diniz CG, da Silva VL, Grazul RM, Le Hyaric M. 2011. Comparative properties of Amazonian oils obtained by different extraction methods. Molecules 16, 5875–85. PMid:21750480

Figueiredo R, Maia G, Figueiredo E. 1989. Propriedades físico-químicas e composição dos ácidos graxos da fração lipídica da polpa e amêndoa do pequi (Caryocar coriaceum Wittn.). Ciência Agronômica 20, 135–9.

Figueiredo PRL, Oliveira IB, Neto JBS, De Oliveira JA, Ribeiro LB, De Barros Viana GS, Rocha TM, Leal LKAM, Kerntopf MR, Felipe CFB, Coutinho HDM, De Alencar Menezes IR. 2016. Caryocar coriaceum Wittm. (Pequi) fixed oil presents hypolipemic and anti-inflammatory effects in vivo and in vitro. J. Ethnopharmacol. 191, 87–94. PMid:27321275

Garcia C, Franco P, Zuppa T, Antoniosi Filho N, Leles M. 2007. Thermal stability studies of some cerrado plant oils. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry 87, 645–8.

Ge?cze K, Barbosa L, Fidêncio P, Silvério F, Lima C, Barbosa M, Ismail FM. 2013. Essential oils from pequi fruits from the Brazilian Cerrado ecosystem. Food research international 54, 1–8.

Gunstone FD, Padley FB. 1997. Lipid technologies and applications: CRC press. PMid:9397410

Guedes AMM, Antoniassi R, Faria-Machado AF. 2017. Pequi: a Brazilian fruit with potential uses for the fat industry. J. Oleo Sci. 24, 1–4.

Katan MB, Zock PL, Mensink RP. 1994. Effects of fats and fatty acids on blood lipids in humans: an overview. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 60, 1017S-1022S. PMid:7977143

Kishimoto Y, Tani M, Kondo K. 2013. Pleiotropic preventive effects of dietary polyphenols in cardiovascular diseases. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 67, 532–535. PMid:23403879

Khouri J, Resck IS, Poças-Fonseca M, Sousa TM, Pereira LO, Oliveira AB, Grisolia CK. 2007. Anticlastogenic potential and antioxidant effects of an aqueous extract of pulp from the pequi tree (Caryocar brasiliense Camb). Genetics and Molecular Biology 30, 442–8.

Leite GLD, Veloso RVSV, Zanuncio JC, Azevedo AM, Silva JL, Wilcken CF, Soares MA. 2017. Architectural diversity and galling insects on Caryocar brasiliense trees. Scientific reports 7, 16677. PMid:29192234 PMCid:PMC5709441

Li Y, Zhang J-J, Xu D-P, Zhou T, Zhou Y, Li S, Li H-B. 2016. Bioactivities and Health Benefits of Wild Fruits. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 17, 1258. PMid:27527154 PMCid:PMC5000656

Lima A, Silva AO, Trindade RA, Torres RP, Mancini-Filho J. 2007. Composição química e compostos bioativos presentes na polpa e na amêndoa do pequi (Caryocar brasiliense, Camb.). Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura 29, 695–8.

Macedo A, Santos R, Pantoja L, Santos A. 2011. Pequi cake composition, hydrolysis and fermentation to bioethanol. Brazilian Journal of Chemical Engineering 28, 9–15.

Machado MT, Mello BC, Hubinger MD. 2013. Study of alcoholic and aqueous extraction of pequi (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) natural antioxidants and extracts concentration by nanofiltration. Journal of Food Engineering 117, 450–7.

Mariano RGdB, Couri S, Freitas SP. 2009. Enzymatic technology to improve oil extraction from Caryocar brasiliense camb. (Pequi) Pulp. Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura 31, 637–43.

Mariano-da-Silva S, Brait JDdA, Faria FPd, Silva SMd, Oliveira SLd, Braga PF, Mariano-da-Silva FMd. 2009. Chemical characteristics of pequi fruits (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) native of three municipalities in the State of Goiás-Brazil. Food Science and Technology (Campinas) 29, 771–7.

Marx F, Andrade EHA, Maia JG. 1997. Chemical composition of the fruit pulp of Caryocar villosum. Zeitschrift für Lebensmitteluntersuchung und-Forschung A 204, 442–4.

Miranda-Vilela AL, Akimoto AK, Alves PC, Pereira LC, Gonçalves CA, Klautau-Guimarães MN, Grisolia CK. 2009a. Dietary carotenoid-rich pequi oil reduces plasma lipid peroxidation and DNA damage in runners and evidence for an association with MnSOD genetic variant -Val9Ala. Genet. Mol. Res. 8, 1481–95. PMid:20082261

Miranda-Vilela AL, Akimoto AK, Alves PC, Pereira LC, Klautau-Guimarães MN, Grisolia CK. 2010. Dietary carotenoid-rich oil supplementation improves exercise-induced anisocytosis in runners: influences of haptoglobin, MnSOD (Val9Ala), CAT (21A/T) and GPX1 (Pro198Leu) gene polymorphisms in dilutional pseudoanemia (sports anemia). Genet. Mol. Biol. 33, 359–67. PMid:21637495 PMCid:PMC3036864

Miranda-Vilela AL, Grisolia CK, Longo JP, Peixoto RC, de Almeida MC, Barbosa LC, Roll MM, Portilho FA, Estevanato LL, Bocca AL, Báo SN, Lacava ZG. 2014. Oil rich in carotenoids instead of vitamins C and E as a better option to reduce doxorubicin-induced damage to normal cells of Ehrlich tumor-bearing mice: hematological, toxicological and histopathological evaluations. J. Nutr. Biochem. 25, 1161–76. PMid:25127291

Miranda-Vilela AL, Peixoto RC, Longo JP, Silva e Cintra DeO, Portilho FA, Miranda KL, Sartoratto PP, Báo SN, de Azevedo RB, Lacava ZG. 2013. Dextran-functionalized magnetic fluid mediating magnetohyperthermia combined with preventive antioxidant pequi-oil supplementation: potential use against cancer. J. Biomed. Nanotechnol. 9, 1261–71.

Miranda-Vilela AL, Pereira LC, Gonçalves CA, Grisolia CK. 2009b. Pequi fruit (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) pulp oil reduces exercise-induced inflammatory markers and blood pressure of male and female runners. Nutr. Res. 29, 850–8. PMid:19963158

Miranda-Vilela AL, Portilho FA, de Araujo VG, Estevanato LL, Mezzomo BP, Santos MeF, Lacava ZG. 2011. The protective effects of nutritional antioxidant therapy on Ehrlich solid tumor-bearing mice depend on the type of antioxidant therapy chosen: histology, genotoxicity and hematology evaluations. J. Nutr. Biochem. 22, 1091–8. PMid:21273055

Miranda-Vilela AL, Resck IS, Grisolia CK. 2008. Antigenotoxic activity and antioxidant properties of organic and aqueous extracts of pequi fruit (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) pulp. Genetics and Molecular Biology 31, 956–63.

Moreno LG, Oliveira LG, Melo DS, Pereira LVC, Costa KB, Miranda JL, Vieira ER, Magalhes FC, Dias-Peixoto MF Esteves EA. 2016. Caryocar brasiliense fruit intake ameliorates hepatic fat deposition and improves intestinal structure of rats. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 10, 640–8.

Oliveira LG, Moreno LG, Melo DS, Costa-Pereira LV, Carvalho MM, Silva PH, Alves AM, Magalhães FC, Dias-Peixoto MF, Esteves EA. 2017. Caryocar brasiliense oil improves cardiac function by increasing Serca2a/PLB ratio despite no significant changes in cardiovascular risk factors in rats. Lipids Health Dis. 16, 37. PMid:28179001 PMCid:PMC5299795

Oliveira MEBd, Guerra NB, Maia AdHN, Alves RE, Matos NMdS, Sampaio FGM, Lopes MMT. 2010. Chemical and physical-chemical characteristics in pequi from the Chapada do Araripe, Ceará, Brazil. Ver. Bras. Frutic. 32, 114–25.

Oliveira MD, Gusmão E, Lopes PSN, Simões MOM, Ribeiro L, Souto B. 2006. Estádio de maturação dos frutos e fatores relacionados aos aspectos nutritivos e de textura da polpa de pequi (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.). Ver. Bras. Frutic. 28, 380–6.

Palmeira SM, Silva PR, Ferrão JS, Ladd AA, Dagli ML, Grisolia CK, Hernandez-Blazquez FJ. 2016. Chemopreventive effects of pequi oil (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) on preneoplastic lesions in a mouse model of hepatocarcinogenesis. Eur. J. Cancer Prev. 25, 299–305. PMid:26287697

Passos XS, Santos SaC, Ferri PH, Fernandes OeF, Paula TeF, Garcia AC, Silva MoR. 2002. Antifungal activity of Caryocar brasiliensis (Caryocaraceae) against Cryptococcus neoformans. Rev. Soc. Bras. Med. Trop. 35, 623–7. PMid:12612745

Passos XS, Castro ACM, Pires JS, Garcia ACF, Campos FC, Fernandes OF, Paula JR, Ferreira HD, Santos SC, Ferri PH. 2003. Composition and antifungal activity of the essential oils of Caryocar brasiliensis. Pharmaceutical Biology 41, 319–24.

Pérez-Jiménez J, Neveu V, Vos F, Scalbert, A. 2010. Identification of the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols: an application of the Phenol-Explorer database. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64, S112-S120. PMid:21045839

Ramadan MF, Asker MMS, Tadros M. 2012. Antiradical and antimicrobial properties of cold-pressed black cumin and cumin oils. European Food Research and Technology 234, 833–44.

Ramos KMC, Souza V. 2011. Características físicas e químico-nutricionais de frutos de pequizeiro (Caryocar coriaceum Wittm.) em populações naturais da região Meio-Norte do Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura 33, 500–8.

Ramos MIL, Umaki MCS, Hiane PA, Ramos Filho MM. 2001. Efeito do cozimento convencional sobre os carotenóides pró-vitamínicos" A" da polpa do piqui (Caryocar brasiliense Camb). Boletim do Centro de Pesquisa de Processamento de Alimentos 19, 23–32.

Ribeiro MC, Boas V, de Barros EV, Riul TR, Pantoja L, Marinho HA, Santos ASd. 2012. Influence of the extraction method and storage time on the physicochemical properties and carotenoid levels of pequi (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) oil. Food Science and Technology (Campinas) 32, 386–92.

Roesler R, Catharino RR, Malta LG, Eberlin MN, Pastore G. 2008. Antioxidant activity of Caryocar brasiliense (pequi) and characterization of components by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Food Chemistry 110, 711–7.

Roesler R, Malta LG, Carrasco LC, Holanda RB, Sousa CAS, Pastore GM. 2007. Atividade antioxidante de frutas do cerrado. Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos 27, 53–60.

Saraiva RA, Matias EF, Coutinho HD, Costa JG, Souza HHF, Fernandes CN, Rocha JB, Menezes IR. 2011a. Synergistic action between Caryocar coriaceum Wittm. fixed oil with aminoglycosides in vitro. Eur. J. Lipid Sc. Technol. 113, 967–72.

Saraiva RA, Araruna MK, Oliveira RC, Menezes KD, Leite GO, Kerntopf MR, Costa JG, Rocha JB, Tomé AR, Campos AR, Menezes IR. 2011b. Topical anti-inflammatory effect of Caryocar coriaceum Wittm. (Caryocaraceae) fruit pulp fixed oil on mice ear edema induced by different irritant agents. J. Ethnopharmacol. 136, 504–10. PMid:20621180

Saraiva R, Leite G, Oliveira R, Araruna M, Menezes K, Pereira C, Costa J, Campos A, Menezes I. 2008. Topical anti-inflammatory activity of Caryocar coriaceum Wittm. (Caryocaraceae) pulp fruit and seed oils. 4th Brazilian Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry-Braz Med Chem.

Segall SD, Artz WE, Raslan DS, Ferraz VP, Takahashi JA. 2006. Triacylglycerol analysis of pequi (Caryocar brasiliensis Camb.) oil by electrospray and tandem mass spectrometry. J. Sci. Food Agric. 86, 445–52.

Shinagawa FB, Santana FCd, Torres LRO, Mancini-Filho J. 2015. Grape seed oil: a potential functional food? Food Science and Technology (Campinas) 35, 399–406.

Souza JP, Alves RE, Brito ES, Nogueira DH, Lima JR. 2013. Estabilidade de produtos de pequi (Caryocar coriaceum wittm) sob congelamento em diferentes tipos de embalagens. Rev. Bras. Frutic. (Jaboticabal) 35, 971–976.

Teixeira TN, Esteves EA, Oliveira LG, Oliveira MLP, Santana RC, Rodrigues AP. 2013. Caryocar brasiliense pulp increases serum HDL and reduces hepatic lipid accumulation in rats fed a high fat diet. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 7, 963–9.

Torres LR, Santana FC, Torres-Leal FL, Melo IL, Yoshime LT, Matos-Neto EM, Seelaender MC, Araújo CM, Cogliati B, Mancini-Filho J. 2016a. Pequi (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) almond oil attenuates carbon tetrachloride-induced acute hepatic injury in rats: Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Food. Chem. Toxicol. 97, 205–16. PMid:27623180

Torres L, Shinagawa F, Santana F, Araújo E, Oropeza M, Macedo L, Almeida-Muradian L, Lima H, Mancini-Filho J. 2016b. Physicochemical and antioxidant properties of the pequi (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) almond oil obtained by handmade and cold-pressed processes. International Food Research Journal 23, 1541–51.

Traesel GK, Menegati SE, Dos Santos AC, Carvalho Souza RI, Villas Boas GR, Justi PN, Kassuya CA, Sanjinez Argando-a EJ, Oesterreich SA. 2016. Oral acute and subchronic toxicity studies of the oil extracted from pequi (Caryocar brasiliense, Camb.) pulp in rats. Food Chem. Toxicol. 97, 224–31. PMid:27639543

Vera R, de Souza ERB, Fernandes EP, Naves RV, Júnior MSS, Caliari M, Ximenes PA. 2007. Caracterização física e química de frutos do pequizeiro (Caryocar brasiliense Camb.) oriundos de duas regiões no estado de goiás, Brasil. Pesquisa Agropecuária Tropical (Agricultural Research in the Tropics) 37, 93–9.

WHO. World Health Organization. 2003. Report of a joint WHO/ FAO expert consultation: Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases. WHO Technical Report Series 916.

Xavier WKS, Medeiros BJ, Lima CS, Favacho HA, de Aguiar Andrade EH, Neyva R, Araújo M. 2011. Topical anti-inflammatory action of Caryocar villosum oil (Aubl) Pers. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science 1, 62.

Yamaguchi KK, Lamarão CV, Aranha ES, Souza ROS, Oliveira PDA, Vasconcellos MC, Lima ES, Veiga-Junior VF. 2017. HPLC-DAD profile of phenolic compounds, cytotoxicity, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of the amazon fruit Caryocar villosum. Química Nova 40, 483–90.

Yuan H, Zhang J, Nageswaran D, Li L. 2015. Carotenoid metabolism and regulation in horticultural crops. Horticulture Research 2, 15036. PMid:26504578 PMCid:PMC4591682



How to Cite

Torres LR, Santana FC, Shinagawa FB, Mancini-Filho J. Bioactive compounds and functional potential of pequi (Caryocar spp.), a native Brazilian fruit: a review. grasasaceites [Internet]. 2018Jun.30 [cited 2021Jun.17];69(2):e257. Available from:




Most read articles by the same author(s)