Background: The pods from several South American Prosopis species were a relevant food in arid and semi-arid South America since prehistoric times. The meal from the pods was processed to prepare different foods and beverages.
Objective: To revise literature from the archeological evidence of use to the studies on the chemistry and (bio)activity of the extracts and secondary metabolites occurring in different Prosopis food products.
Method: The review was carried out searching electronic databases, including ScienceDirect, SciFinder, Scopus, Scielo, Google Scholar, PubMed and hand-search on literature. The review covers mainly studies performed from the years 1995-2019 and the first-hand experience of the authors. References on the historical and pre-historical uses of the natural resource were included.
Results: In the last decades, most studies on the edible South American Prosopis focused on the constituents of pods meal, traditional preparations and by-products. Some 45 flavonoids, ellagic acid derivatives, catechin and simple phenolics were identified. Alkaloids occur mainly in the leaves, that are not used for human nutrition but as food for domestic animals. Piperidine alkaloids, tryptamine, tyramine and β-phenetylamine were isolated and identified from several species. The (bio)activity studies included mainly antioxidant effect, anti-inflammatory and enzyme inhibition associated with metabolic syndrome. The products showed no toxicity or mutagenic effect
Conclusions: While the chemistry, some (bio)activities and toxicity data are available for the pods meal and byproducts, little is known on the composition of the fermented algarrobo beverages. Additional studies are needed including the digestion of algarrobo products both in humans and cattle.