Ethnobotanical, nutritional and medicinal properties of Mexican drylands Cactaceae Fruits: Recent findings and research opportunities

Food Chem. 2020 May 15;312:126073. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2019.126073. Epub 2019 Dec 24.


The Mexican drylands possess enormous biotic and cultural wealth, representing 65% of the national territory. Approximately 50% of Mexican dryland flora is endemic and accompanied by ample local and traditional knowledge. There are certain types of cactus fruits that are being technologically produced. However, there are other cactus fruit that are underutilized and understudied that could be promoted for their sustainable use. Evidence indicates that the genera of Escontria, Myrtilocactus, Hylocereus, and Stenocereus contain bioactive compounds such as betalains and phenols. Opuntia, the most abundant cactus in Mexico, produces fruit known as prickly pears with bioactive compounds that are associated with health benefits. The purpose of this review is to compile the nutritional and functional properties of selected cactus fruits from the Mexican drylands, as well as their use in the health, food, cosmetic, and agricultural industries in order to establish knowledge gaps and well-supported future research directions.

Keywords: Bioactive compounds; Cactus fruits; Drylands; Health benefits.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betalains / analysis
  • Cactaceae / chemistry*
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Mexico
  • Phenols / analysis


  • Phenols
  • Betalains