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Family Burseraceae
Canarium ovatum Engl.

Scientific names Common names
Canarium ovatum Engl. Pilauai (Tag.)
Canarium melioides Elm. Pili (Tag.)
Canarium pachyphyllum Perk. Oily pili (Engl.)
  Philippine nut (Engl.)
  Pilinut (Engl.)
  Galip nut (Engl.)
Both Canarium luzonicum and C. ovatum are locally known as pili. The Manila elemi of commerce is derived from both species.
There is a confusing sharing of common names and scientific names between Canarium ovatum (pili) and Canarium luzonicum (sahing).
Canarium ovatum Engl. is an accepted name. The Plant List

Other vernacular names
FRENCH : Nangai (Vanuatu).
GERMAN : Pilinuß, Pilinußbaum.
MALAY : Kanari.
SPANISH : Arbol de la nuez pili, Nuez pili (Mansf).
TRADE NAME: Kedongdong.

- Canarium ovatum belongs to the family Burseraceae with 75 known genera and about 550 species. In the Philippines the family is represented by five genera, namely Canarium, Dacryodes, Garuga, Protium and Santiria.
- Of the canarium species, there are 75 known and nine of which are found in the Philippines, with at least four of economic importance: C. ovatum (Pili), C. indicum, C. album, and C. luzonicum (Sahing,Manila elemi).
- A municipality in the province of Camarines Sur is named Pili, after the popular nut-producing tree.
- The genus name Canarium comes from the vernacular name 'kenari' in the Molucca Isles. (13)

Pili is an erect and spreading tree, deciduous, predominantly dioecious, medium-sized to large, reaching up to 30 meters or more, with trunk diameters of 50 centimeters or more. Leaves have deltoid to lingulate stipules, spirally arranged, imparipinnate, about 40 centimeters long. Leaflets are ovate to elliptic, 4 to 24 centimeters long and 2 to 12 centimeters wide, stiff-coriaceous, entire, base oblique, rounded to subcordate, apex acuminate with 8 to 12 pairs of nerves. Flowers are borne on cymose inflorescences at the leaf axils of young shoots. The fruit or nut, botanically a drupe, ovoid to ellipsoid, 4 to 7 centimeters long, 2.3 to 3.8 centimeters wide. Pulp has a thin skin, smooth and shiny, turning from light green to black when ripened. Shell is carpellary, elongated and trigonous, nearly triangular in transverse sections, with a basal pointed end, and a blunt and obtuse apical end, dirty brown outside, shiny and glabrous inside. Inside the shell is the functional locule containing the mature seed.

- Grown in many areas of the Old World as ornamental, in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
- Only the Philippines processes the pili nuts commercially. Its center of diversity is the Bicol region where it is the priority crop. The trees have spread to the provinces of Catanduanes, Masbate and the southern Quezon area.
With symmetrical branches, C. ovatum makes an attractive border and avenue shade tree.

- Pili pulp, 64% of the fruit by weight, contains 73% moisture. On dry weight, 8% protein, 33.6% fat, 3.4% crude fiber, 9.2 % ash, 45*% carbohydrate. Pulp oil, greenish yellow in color, is 56.7% oleicglycerides, 13.5% linoleic glycerides and 29.3% saturated fatty acids. The kernel, which weighs 0.74-5.13 g and which comprises 4.4-16.6% of the whole fruit by weight, contains: 35.6-51.4% moisture, 11.5-15.7% protein, 69.2-76.6% fats and 2.59-4.32% carbohydrates. Its mineral and vitamin contents (per 100 g): 119 mg calcium, 508 mg phosphorus, 2.6 mg iron, 489 mg potassium, 45 IU vitamin A, 0.95 mg thiamine, 0.12 mg riboflavin, 0.4 mg niacin and traces of vitamin C (Intengan et al. 1968). Kernel oil is composed of oleic glycerides, 58.6% and palmitic acids, 38.2%; yellow with an agreeable odor and taste, suitable for culinary purposes and keeps perfectly for as long as 6 months (West and Balce 1923).
- Bark yields 7.8% tannin, providing a satisfactory leather with a yellowish tan, with firm texture and good grain.
- The kernel yields 71.1% fat, 11.4% protein and 8.4% carbohydrates, and is high in calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. (13)
- Study of dichlormethane extracts of leaves yielded ß-amyrin (1a), a-amyrin (1b), epi-β-amyrin (2a), epi-α-amyrin (2b), epi-lupeol (2c), β-carotene (3) and lutein (4); while the twigs yielded 1a-1b. The dichloromethane extracts of the fruits of C. ovatum yielded triacylglycerols (5); the mesocarp also afforded 1a, 1b, 1,2-dioleylglycerol (6), and monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids; the nutshell also provided 6; and the kernel also yielded monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. (14)
- Phytochemical screening of pulp yielded biologically active compounds such as sterols, triterpenes, flavonoids, alkaloids, saponins, glycosides and tannins. (see study below) (16)

- When raw, rhe kernel resembles roasted pumpkin seed; when roasted, the mild nutty flavor and tender, crispy texture are superior to the almond. (13)
- The kernel from some trees may be bitter, fibrous, or have a turpentine odor. (13)
- Its resistance to strong winds provides windbreak for other crops.
- Studies have suggested antimutagenic, melanogenesis inhibiting, skin whitening, anticancer, antioxidant properties.

Parts used
- Seed kernel.
- Oleoresin (mixture of oil and resin).

- Young shoots are edible, used for cooking and making green salads.
- Pili nut kernel is edible, crispy and delicious.
- Nut in candied in various forms: sugar-glazed, honeyed.
- Pili "turron" is made from a mixture of ground pili kernel, sweet potato and sugar, seasoned with sesame and vanilla, mixed and cooked to desired consistency, cooked, and cut.
- Pili pudding is made from mashed sweet potato, ground pili kernel, condensed milk, butter, sugar and eggs, vanilla seasoning, then baked to a light brown color.
- Kernel seeds are roasted and eaten as nuts. Roasted and sugar-coated, usee as ingredient to cakes, puddings and creams, or preserved in syrup. Roasted kernel sometimes used in chocolate-making.
- Green pulp can be pickled, best after the shell has hardened but before the pulp becomes too fibrous.
- Boiled ripe pulp is edible, best with salt, pepper and fish sauce.
- In Sorsogon, the nut concoction is called "nilanta"—boiled in hot water to soften, seasoned with soy sauce, bagoong, and sili.
- Sahing (oleoresin) is used in the Philippines as stimulant, rubefacient, and antirheumatic. Elsewhere, as ointment, the oleoresin is applied to indolent ulcers.
- For laxative effect, seed kernel is eaten as tolerated.
- Emulsion from crushed kernels has been used as substitute for infant's milk.
- Used for making medicinal ointments.
- Firewood: Resin-rich wood makes it excellent firewood.
- Wood: Wood used for house framing, musical instruments and box-making.
- Oil: Oil from the pulp has been used for manufacture of soap and other products.
- Soil improver: The hard stony shell makes for excellent fuel and used as growing medium for orchids and anthuriums. (Coronel 1983)
- Gum / Resin: The valuable resin, Manila elemi or 'breabianca', is used in the manufacture of plastics, printing inks, and perfumes. Also used by Spaniards for ship repairs. (13)
- Manila elemi: Exported in considerable quantities. Used in the preparation of medicinal ointments; also, in the manufacture of varnish.

Preliminary Evaluation of Biodiesel from Canarium ovatum (Pili) Pulp Oil and Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (Winged bean) Seed Oil – The resulting FAME (fatty acid methyl ester) was found to comply with biodiesel standards and presents a potential source and alternative to explore for commercial exploitation. (2)
Physiochemical characterization showed that the salt-soluble globulin was the main storage protein within the pili kernel, possessing physiochemical properties similar to other oil seed globulins. (3)
Antimutagenic Potential:
Philippine plants were studied for their ability to inhibit chromosomal damage induced by tetracycline in the in vivo micronucleus test. The methanolic extract of Canarium ovatum showed the most promising activity by reducing the number of micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes by >50%. Study established its antimutagenic activity and identified F4B, the most active sub-fraction in the hexane portion. The F4B may be valuable in cancer chemoprevention. (5)
Biodiesel (FAME) Potential: Preliminary studies conducted on biodiesel derived from two novel sources of oil - the fruit pulp of Canarium ovatum (pili) and the seed of Psophocarpus tetradonolobus (winged bean) showed that acceptable FAME (fatty acid methyl esters) may be obtained from these two new potential sources of feedstocks. (6)
Melanogenesis Inhibitory Activity / Skin Whitening: Study yielded four known sesquiterpene alcohols, ten triterpene alcohols, and four triterpene acids from a methanol extract of Canarium ovatum. On evaluation on melanogenesis in B16 melanoma cells induced with α-MSH, compounds 1 and 2 exhibited concentration-dependent melanogenesis inhibitory activity. Results suggest a potential use for skin whitening agents. (8)
Fatty Acid and Triacylglycerol Composition: Analysis of fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition of pili nut oil and fractions was done by gas and liquid chromatography
. Oil by solvent extraction was low in polyunsaturated fatty acids and high in saturates. Results show the HM (high melting) fraction may have applications as cocoa butter substitute in confectionery products. (9)
Characterization of Proteins of Pili Nut: Analysis of storage proteins of the pili nut showed the aqueous soluble globulin was the main storage protein within the kernel, existing in an 11S-like form, and possessing many similar physiochemical properties to those of other 11S oilseed globulins. (10)
• Anticancer / Antioxidant / Pulp: Study evaluated the antioxidant and anticancer activities of C. ovatum pulp. The canarium ovatum pulp oil (COPO) was prepared through mechanical and ethanolic extractions. Results of DPPH and FRAP assays showed high reducing power and free radical scavenging activities of the COPE compared to COPO and ascorbic acid. The CAM (chorioallantoic membrane) and sea urchin fertilization assays were used to test for cytotoxicity and anticancer activity. CAM assay showed significant inhibition (p=0.05) in blood vessel formation in COPE treated samples. Phytochemical screening yielded bioactive constituents such as alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, saponins, sterols, tannins, and terpenens. (12)
• Effects of Thermally Processed Pili on Antioxidant and Polyphenol Status in Humans: Study measured the polyphenol content and antioxidant activity of pili pomace drink and the influence of heating on parameters. Results showed significant changes in plasma antioxidant and polyphenol levels, reaching maximum levels at 120 and between 30-60 min, respectively (p<0.05). Results suggest acute consumption of this phenolic-rich pomace drink may enhance plasma antioxidant and polyphenol status in humans. (15)
• Immunomodulatory / Pulp: Study evaluated the immunomodulatory properties of ethanol extract of pulp of Canarium ovatum using Balb/C mice. Delayed type hypersensitivity and humoral antibody response was evaluated using sheep RBCs. Acute oral toxicity study showed no mortality or signs of toxicity at doses of 300-2000 mg//kg. Results showed stimulatory effects on cellular and humoral responses in mice, suggesting potential as an immunostimulatory agent. (see constituents above) (16)
• Antibacterial Activity of Fungal Endophytes: Fungal endophytes are novel bioactive metabolites. Study evaluated C. ovatum for the occurrence of fungal endophytes. Results showed the tree to be a good host for fungal endophytes. Antibacterial assay showed 10 mg/mL of Colletotrichum sp. PFE31 crude extract exhibited broad spectrum antibacterial activity against test gram-positive, gram-negative, and spore-forming bacilli. (17)

- Small or large scale commercial production. 

Updated June 2019 / August 2013

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Canarium ovatum / Pili nut / Fruit and Leaves, Garden of Eden Keanae, Maui / Forest & Kim Starr / March 30, 2011 / click on image to go to source page / Creative Commons Attribution / Plants of Hawaii
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Pili nut collection / HCAN 11 - N92-13 / USDA

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Pili Nut / Roberto E. Coronel
Preliminary Evaluation of Biodiesel from Canarium ovatum (Pili) Pulp Oil and Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (Winged bean) Seed Oil / Dr Luis Razon /
DLSU Research Abstracts

Characterization of the proteins of Pili nut (Canarium ovatum, Engl.) / Massimo r Marcone et al / Plant Foods for Human Nutrition (Formerly Qualitas Plantarum) • Volume 57, Number 2 / March, 2002
/ DOI 10.1023/A:1015266423254
Antimutagenic potential and phytochemical analysis of selected Philippine plants
/ Christine L Chichloco-Hernandez, Noemi Pagulgan / Pharmacognosy Magazine, 2009, Vol 5, No. 20, Pp 388-393

Preliminary Evaluation of Biodiesel from Canarium ovatum (Pili) Pulp Oil and Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (Winged bean) Seed Oil / Dr. Luis Razon / De La Salle University
Sorting Canarium names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
Melanogenesis inhibitory activity of sesquiterpenes from Canarium ovatum resin in mouse B16 melanoma cells. / Kikuchi T, Watanabe K, Tochigi Y, Yamamoto A, Fukatsu M, Ezaki Y, Tanaka R, Akihisa T.
Characterization of pili nut (Canarium ovatum) oil: Fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition and physicochemical properties / Yukio Kakuda, Firouz Jahaniaval, Massimo F. Marcone, Lourdes Montevirgen, Quintin Montevirgen, Joselyn Umali / Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society, 2000, Volume 77, Issue 9, pp 991-997
Characterization of the proteins of pili nut (Canarium ovatum, Engl.) / Massimo R Marcone, Yukio Kakuda, Firouz Jahaniaval, Rickey Y Yada, Lourdes S Montevirgen / Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2002 ;57 (2):107-20 12049143
Canarium ovatum / Synonyms / The Plant List
Evaluation of the antioxidant and anticancer activities of Canarium ovatum (Burseraceae) pulp extracts
/ Lilibeth A Cajuday, Daile Membreve, Jocelyn Serrano / International Journal of Biosciences, 2017; 11(3): pp 247-256
Canarium ovatum / WorldAgroForestry / (
Orwa C, A Mutua, Kindt R , Jamnadass R, S Anthony. 2009 Agroforestree Database: a tree reference and selection guide version 4.0 (http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sites/treedbs/treedatabases.asp)
Triterpenes and Acylglycerols from Canarium ovatum / Consolacion Y. Ragasa, Oscar B. Torres, Jessa Mae P. Gutierrez, Hannah Patricia Beatriz C. Kristiansen2, and Chien-Chang Shen / Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, April 2015; 5(04): pp 94-100 / DOI: 10.7324/JAPS.2015.50416
Acute effects of thermally processed pili (Canarium ovatum, Engl.) pomace drink on plasma antioxidant and polyphenol status in humans / Elizabeth Hashim Arenas and Trinidad Palad Trinidad / Avicenna J Phytomed., Sep-Oct 2017; 7(5): pp 467–476 / PMCID: PMC5641421 / PMID: 29062808
Immunomodulatory properties of ethanol extract of Canarium ovatum (Burseraceae) pulp / Daile Meek Salvador-Membreve, Lilibeth A. Cajuday, Jocelyn E. Serrano, Diomerl Edward B. Baldo / Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research
Antibacterial activities of fungal endophytes associated with the Philippine endemic tree, Canarium ovatum / Torres JMO and dela Cruz TEE / Mycosphere, 2015; 6(3): pp 266–273

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

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