Substance Info: (and synonyms)
Mesquite tree / Prosopis tree

Background Info:

Family: Leguminosae.
Honey locust.

Common Names: honey mesquite, common mesquite, mesquite, prairie mesquite, glandular mesquite, algarroba

Mesquites belong to the Fabaceae (legume) family. The genus Prosopis L. contains 44 species. Mesquite species are found in arid regions of North and South America (especially Argentina), South Africa and tropical Africa and Asia. It is one of the most characteristic shrubs of the southwestern US and Louisiana., where five to seven of the genus are found.

There are 3 common species of mesquite: Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens ) and Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina). All 3 are deciduous and have characteristic bean pods, which have long been used by humans, wildlife and livestock as a food source.

Honey Mesquite is a deciduous shrub or small tree reaching a height of 7 metres (20 feet). Mesquite is characterized by 8-inch, bean-like pods and is armed with spines up to 5 cm long occurring at large nodes on branches. The mesquite tree can grow up to 50 feet tall. Honey Mesquite has smooth, brown bark that roughens with age. Narrow, yellowish green, compound leaves 2 to 3 inches long are sharply pointed.

This tree can be found in warm places, like in the desert, alongside desert washes and streams, plains and hillsides, often in thickets.

Mesquite flowers in early summer. Its flowers are green and sweet smelling but also cause hay fever. Mesquite pollens have been identified as an etiological factor in individuals suffering from asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis. Large quantities of pollen have been recorded. The fruit is a flat, narrow, yellow-green pod up to 8 inches long and ending in a point. The plant may flower up to 4 times a year in certain areas. Pollen sticks to shoes and may be carried into homes. Prosopis pollen, which pollinates partly by insects, can become airborne.

Honey mesquite wood is used chiefly for firewood. Next to Ironwood, mesquite is the best firewood of the desert, because it burns slowly and is smokeless. The wood is also used for fence posts, tool handles and to create aromatic charcoal for barbecuing. Liquid smoke for meat flavouring is manufactured from honey mesquite sawdust. The use of honey mesquite wood in the barbeque industry has grown considerably in the United States, and there is an increased interest in using honey mesquite wood in manufacturing furniture, flooring, and handcrafts. Mesquites are widely used as ornamental shade trees throughout the Southwest because they need little or no watering and can survive on limited rainfall. Honey mesquite provides an excellent source of nectar for honey bees. The fruits of honey mesquite are valuable forage for livestock and wildlife.

Mesquites were probably the most important wild plant staple of indigenous Southwest Indians (and Mexicans). The pods were a very reliable food source because fruiting occurred even during drought years. Pods were collected in large quantities and stored in granary baskets on the roofs of houses or sheds. The beans were used to make tea, syrup and a ground meal called pinole, which was used to prepare cakes and breads, the main staple of the diet. They also used used the bark for basketry, fabrics and medicine. A favorite of bees and other insects, mesquite flowers produce a fragrant honey.

In some parts of Saudi Arabia, species of Prosopis have been introduced by the millions as roadside ornamentation. There appear to be four flowering seasons during which pollen grains float in all directions.


Adverse Reactions:


[ 1 / 15 ]

Mesquite pollen has been implicated in hay fever and asthma in the southwest U.S., South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, U.A.E., and India. Skin sensitization is frequently more intense than with other common trees, although it has been suggested that some of the skin reactivity may be due to enzyme activity of peptidase in the pollen. (In: Weber 2007 ref.16775 7) (Lewis 1983 ref.4659 0) (Wodehouse 1971 ref.10033 7) (Novey 1977 ref.4558 8) (Bener 2002 ref.7472 0)

Weber RW. On the cover. Mesquite. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2007 Apr;98(4):A4

[ 2 / 15 ]

Pollen from the mesquite tree is an important source of respiratory allergy in tropical countries. The aim of this study was to partially characterize the IgE binding proteins of P. juliflora pollen extract and study cross-reactivity with prevalent tree pollen allergens. Intradermal tests with P. juliflora and five other tree pollen extracts were performed on respiratory allergy patients from Bikaner (arid) and Delhi (semi arid). Prosopis extract elicited positive skin reactions in 71/220 of the patients. Sera were collected from 38 of these 71 patients and all demonstrated elevated specific IgE to P. juliflora. Immunoblotting with pooled patients' sera demonstrated 16 IgE binding components, with components of 24, 26, 29, 31, 35, 52, 58, 66 and 95 kDa recognized by more than 80% of individual patients' sera. P. juliflora extract is allergenically potent requiring 73 ng of self-protein for 50% inhibition of IgE binding in ELISA inhibition. Cross-inhibition assays showed close relationship among P. juliflora, Ailanthus excelsa, Cassia siamea and Salvadora persica. IgE binding components of 14, 41, 52 and 66 kDa were shared allergens whereas 26 and 29 kDa were specific to P. juliflora. (Dhyani 2006 ref.21644 7)

Dhyani A, Arora N, Gaur SN, Jain VK, Sridhara S, Singh BP. Analysis of IgE binding proteins of mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) pollen and cross-reactivity with predominant tree pollens. Immunobiology 2006;211(9):733-40.

[ 3 / 15 ]

In 553 asthmatics in Kuwait, sensitisation to common aeroallergens as measured by serum specific IgE was: pollens (87.1%), house dust (76.1%), and molds (30.3%). The three most prevalent sensitizing pollens were from Chenopodium (S. kali) (70.7%), Bermuda grass (62.9%), and Prosopis (62.7%), all of which are horticultural plants imported for the purpose of "greening" the desert.
Frequency of sensitization to individual allergens among confirmed extrinsic asthmatics:
Allergens All patients (n=482)
Chenopodium weed 70.7
Bermuda grass 62.9
Prosopis tree 62.7
Cockroach 58.5
Cajeput tree 53.5
D. pteronyssinus 46.5
D. microceras 44.8
Eucalyptus tree 42.9
Date palm 39.6
D. farinae 38.6
Cat dander 30.9
Aspergillus 22.2
Alternaria 14.7
Cladosporium 14.1
(Ezeamuzie 2000 ref.4940 5)

Ezeamuzie CI, Thomson MS, Al-Ali S, Dowaisan A, Khan M, Hijazi Z. Asthma in the desert: spectrum of the sensitizing aeroallergens. Allergy 2000;55(2):157-62

[ 4 / 15 ]

Mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) is a major cause of allergic disease in the Mexico. (Bessega 2000 ref.21899 0) (In: Killian 2004 ref.21893 9)

Bessega C, Ferreyra L, Vilardi JC, Saidman BO. Unexpected low genetic differentiation among allopatric species of section Algarobia of Prosopis (leguminosae). Genetica 2000;109(3):255-66.

[ 5 / 15 ]

A study in Saudi Arabia reported that a total of 76.1% patients in Qassim, 37.5% in Gizan, 29% in Abha and 11% in Hofuf were sensitized to Prosopis antigen. Multiple sensitivities to other pollen antigens were detected in all patients. The level of airborne Prosopis pollen detected in Gizan exceeded 90 grains m-3 of air. (Abdulrahman 1999 ref. 6202 1)

Abdulrahman Al-Frayh et al. Human sensitization to Prosopis juliflora antigen in Saudi Arabia Ann Saudi Med 1999;19(4):331-336.

[ 6 / 15 ]

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis. (Franco-Vicario 1997 ref.7311 1)

Franco-Vicario R, Gamboa P, Escalante M, Pueyo V, Sanz ML, Solano D, Miguel F. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis induced by exposure to the legume algarroba. Allergy 1997;52(4):478-9

[ 7 / 15 ]

In 84 children with allergic rhinitis, skin testing with common allergens in the Saudi environment, found that Cat fur, Bermuda grass and mesquite were the most common allergens. Symptoms of recurrent rhinosinusitis, otitis media with effusion, tonsils and adenoids infection were commonly noticed among them. (al Anazy 1997 ref.4553 5)

al Anazy FH, Zakzouk SM. The impact of social and environmental changes on allergic rhinitis among Saudi children. A clinical and allergological study. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 1997;42(1):1-9

[ 8 / 15 ]

Endoproteases have been isolated from both ragweed and mesquite pollen, and the authors postulate that this may down regulate the allergenicity of the pollen. (Travis 1996 ref.4554 7)

Travis J, Whitworth T, Matheson N, Bagarozzi D Jr. Proteinases from pollen and pests. Acta Biochim Pol 1996;43(3):411-7

[ 9 / 15 ]

In Tucson, Arizona, a city that has a high prevalence of allergic rhinitis and asthma, pollen from the Mesquite tree has been noted to be one of the major causes. (Sneller 1993 ref.4555 4)

Sneller MR, Hayes HD, Pinnas JL. Pollen changes during five decades of urbanization in Tucson, Arizona. Ann Allergy 1993;71(6):519-24

[ 10 / 15 ]

Honey mesquite causes an allergic contact dermatitis to some humans who are sensitive. (Lucas 1989 ref.4556 7)

Lucas SK, Buckley CE 3rd. Quantitative studies of cutaneous hypersensitivity: the prevalence of epicutaneous flare reactions to allergenic pollen extracts. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1989;84(4 Pt 1):465-74

[ 11 / 15 ]

Individuals with marked hypersensitivity to Mesquite pollen should be aware that honey might contain Mesquite pollen, as demonstrated by a report of a patient who was extremely sensitive to Mesquite pollen and experienced anaphylaxis after ingesting honey containing this pollen. (Mansfield 1981 ref.1106 8)

Mansfield LE, Goldstein GB. Anaphylactic reaction after ingestion of local bee pollen. Ann Allergy 1981;47(3):154-6

[ 12 / 15 ]

Anaphylaxis to mesquite pollen found in honey. (Mansfield 1981 ref.1106 8)

Mansfield LE, Goldstein GB. Anaphylactic reaction after ingestion of local bee pollen. Ann Allergy 1981;47(3):154-6

[ 13 / 15 ]

A patient is presented who experienced an anaphylactic reaction after ingesting locally produced bee pollen to treat his spring hay fever. Evaluation revealed the patient to be extremely sensitive to mesquite pollen, a major component of the bee pollen he ingested. Passive transfer skin testing and neutralization techniques suggested that the mesquite pollen was the allergen which caused his anaphylactic reaction. Four other allergic patients were known to have systemic reactions after taking bee pollen. The patients received no warning that the bee pollen was potentially dangerous to an allergic person. It is recommended that vendors of bee pollen be required to alert allergic patients about possible risks. (Mansfield 1981 ref.1106 5)

Mansfield LE, Goldstein GB. Anaphylactic reaction after ingestion of local bee pollen. Ann Allergy 1981;47(3):154-6

[ 14 / 15 ]

Two asthmatic patients who are allergic to the pollen allergen of Prosopis juliflora, a perennial tree abundantly seen in Delhi and northern India, are presented. Both developed immediate (Type I) as well as late (Type III) responses to intradermal, as well as inhalation, provocation tests. (Menon 1977 ref.6211 7)

Menon MP, Das AK, Singh AB. Dual asthmatic responses to prosopis juliflora. Ann Allergy 1977;39(5):351-4

[ 15 / 15 ]

Mesquite pollen is a potent allergen capable of evoking immediate hypersensitivity reactions in a susceptible population in California remote from the plant source. This study reports that 62% of 100 consecutive patients attending an allergy clinic who were shown to be positive to mesquite pollen, and confirmed by a Radioallergosorbent tests, despite the absence of the plant within a 50-mile radius. (Novey 1977 ref.4558 2)

Novey HS, Roth M, Wells ID. Mesquite pollen--an aeroallergen in asthma and allergic rhinitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1977;59(5):359-63

Occupational reactions

[ 1 ]

Mesquite wood charcoal has been widely promoted for the unique taste it imparts to broiled food. This study reports on that in a survey of 13 mesquite and 17 gas-flame ("charcoal") broiler cooks, determined that the prevalence of respiratory symptoms among workers exposed to broiler smoke was statistically significant. Unidentified saturated and unsaturated aliphatic hydrocarbons (C8 through C12) with high molecular weights from 108 to 182 were present in air samples from the mesquite broiler cooks and not in the air samples from the gas-flame broiler cooks. (Johns 1986 ref.4557 6)

Johns RE Jr, Lee JS, Agahian B, Gibbons HL, Reading JC. Respiratory effects of mesquite broiling. J Occup Med 1986;28(11):1181-84

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Allergy Advisor - Zing Solutions

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