Scientific Name(s): Pistacia vera L.
Common Name(s): Pistachio
P. vera is a native of Central and West Asia, and also is distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is grown in California and Arizona and other countries where it has been introduced.PLANTS 2008, Alma 2004 A related species is Pistacia lentiscus, commonly known as mastic.PLANTS 2008
It is a spreading tree and partially deciduous and grows up to 10 m high. Leaves occur in 1 to 5 pairs of thick, oval leaflets. Tiny, brown-green flowers give way to clusters of the oblong pistachio kernel.Alma 2004, Gentil 2007 The exudate of the plant forms a gum that is traditionally used for medicinal purposes.Alma 2004
Traditional uses include treatment of toothache and other periodontal ailments, blood clotting, dyspepsia, asthma, jaundice, diarrhea, renal stones, and as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral agent.Alma 2004, Tsokou 2007, Bozorgi 2013
The gum has been used for respiratory (anti-infective) and stomach diseases and as a lip balm. It is also used as a protectant for glass, porcelain, bone, wood, and metal objects.Alma 2004
The fruits of the pistachio are high in protein, oil, and vitamin E, compared with hazelnuts. Unsalted, they are high in potassium and low in sodium. The kernels are rich in linoleic and linolenic fatty acids.Ozcelik 2005
The essential oil of the leaves contains alpha-pinene (30%), terpinolene (18%), and bornyl acetate (11%), while the essential oil of the fruits contains alpha-pinene (55%), terpinolene (approximately 30%), limonene, 3-carene, and beta-pinene (approximately 1% each), which is similar to mastic gum oil. Alpha-pinene and terpinolene have shown antibacterial and antifungal activity, while terpinolene has some antioxidant activity.Tsokou 2007 Reviews of the chemical composition are available.Bozorgi 2013, Rauf 2017
Vitamin E alpha- and gamma-tocopherol, vitamin C, proanthocyanidins, transresveratrol, isoflavones, daidzein, and genistein have been identified in the edible nut.Gentile 2007, Tsokou 2007 The antioxidant activity is substantially affected by toasting.Gentile 2007
The essential oil of the gum contains mostly monoterpene hydrocarbons, oxygenated monoterpenes, and diterpenes, including alpha-pinene (75%), beta-pinene (9%), transverbenol (3%), camphene, limonene, and pinocarveol (approximately 1% each).Alma 2004
Uses and Pharmacology
Pistachio gum has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory effect in stomach conditions, hemorrhoids, and asthma. In an experiment in mice, the extracts from the fruit, leaves, and branch parts, as well as the exudates, were evaluated for anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effect. The plant part extracts were ineffective, but an extract of the gum showed a dose-dependent effect on induced abdominal contractions and induced paw edema.Orhan 2006, Borzorgi 2013
Topical application from pistachio skin and seeds reduced ultraviolet-B–induced skin erythema in human volunteers. An additional antioxidant effect was also suggested based on the phenolic content of the seed.Martorana 2013
In vitro studies show little action against human bacterial pathogens, but antifungal activity comparable with nystatin has been demonstrated by plant extracts and the essential oil of the gum.Alma 2004, Ozcelik 2005
The skin of the woody shell, fresh kernels, and unripe seeds of Turkish origin showed antiviral action against herpes simplex virus when compared with acyclovir.Ozcelik 2005 Extracts of the branches of the plant showed activity against Leishmania donovani, while an extract from the leaves was active against Plasmodium falciparum.Orhan 2006
Clinical trials are lacking.
gAnimal and in vitro experiments suggest an antioxidant action may be responsible for the effects observed in clinical trials.Gentile 2007, Aksoy 2007 A 60% loss in antioxidant action by roasting is suggested to be due to a loss in total phenol content, with isoflavones being affected by heat.Gentile 2007
Studies among healthy volunteersKocyigit 2006 and in humans with moderate hypercholesterolemiaEdwards 1999, Sheridan 2007, Gebauer 2008 have shown that inclusion of unroasted pistachio nuts in the diet affects the lipid profile.
Decreases were observed for mean plasma total cholesterol, total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)/HDL ratios; increased HDL levels were reported. No changes were found for triglycerides or LDL levels. No change in blood pressure or body weight was found with these regimens.Kocyigit 2006, Edwards 1999, Sheridan 2007, Gebauer 2008 One trial evaluated changes in apolipoproteins and reported a decrease in apolipoprotein B.Gebauer 2008
Studies evaluating the dietary effect of unroasted pistachio nuts on lipid profiles have used doses equivalent to 20% of the total daily calorie intake. This approximates 65 to 75 g/day in most adultsEdwards 1999, Sheridan 2007 but up to 125 g/day has been used.Gebauer 2008
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Most adverse reactions are associated with hypersensitivity to the plant species or allergic reactions. Anaphylaxis is reported to be uncommon despite widespread use in foodstuffs.Fernandez 1995 Cross-sensitivity with other tree nuts has been reported.Liccardi 1999, Goetz 2005, Parra 1993
Studies are lacking. One study found no cytotoxicity of plant extracts against mammalian cells.Orhan 2006
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