ABSTRACT Mandacaru (Cereus jamacaru DC - Cactaceae) possesses peculiar physiological and morphological characteristics that allow it to withstand long periods of scarcity and to adapt to different environments. Several uses have also been reported for the species from the 17th century to the present day. Given this history and the importance of the usage of mandacaru, the present investigation aimed to gather information about its uses from different documentary sources, and to perform a comparative analysis between past and present uses. Historia Naturalis Brasiliae by Piso and Marcgrave (17th century) served as the primary source, while information on labels of exsicates in botanical collections, basic scientific literature, and applications for patent filing at INPI, EPO, USPTO, WIPO (until October 2017), served as secondary sources. According to established categories of use, both the primary source and secondary sources revealed that mandacaru has had several applications, among which use for food and medicinal purposes stand out. Other uses, such as ornamental, magical-religious, civil construction and rural fences, were also reported. Despite the numerous references of usage in the documentary sources, knowledge about the potential use of C. jamacaru is not widely spread nor well protected.