Annatto uses and benefits

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Annatto uses and benefits Quick Facts
Name: Annatto uses and benefits
Scientific Name: Bixa orellana
Origin Indigeneous to Brazil, South and Central America. It is also widely cultivated in Tropical countries such as Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, Ecuador, Kenya, India and East Africa.
Colors Red
Shapes Ovate to broad, Length: 2.5-5 cm
Health benefits Healthy eyes, Antioxidants, Digestive health, Bone health, Prevent chances of birth defects
Annatto is a natural color and spice which is derived from achiote shrub which is evergreen and tall and is originated from Tropical region of America. This plant does well in sub-tropical to tropical climates with moderately fertile soil. The plant grows upto 6-10 m (20-33 ft) in height. It has trunk of diameter 20-30 cm with dark gray bark. It has ovate leaves of round with heart shaped base and pointed tip which is 10-20 cm long and 5-10 cm wide. It has bright flowers which range from white to pink in color. The flowers turn to red and ovate to broad fruit which measures about 2.5-5 cm long. Other common names for Annatto are Achiote, Annatto, Urucum, Lipstick Plant, Colorau, Arnatto, Lipsticktree, Bija, Mugo-simu, Onotillo, Onoto and Orleansstrauch.

The color of Annatto is due to the presence of norbixin and bixin which is found in reddish waxy coating of the seeds. The seeds are grinded in the form of powder or paste to prepare the condiment. It is used as a dye and food color and also used as a flavor enhancer. It also possesses antidiarrheal, antipyretic, antidiabetic and insect repellent properties. The extracts of Annatto is used as a coloring agent in food products such as butter, margarine, dairy spreads, cheeses, cakes, custards, snack foods, potatoes, snack foods, sausages and smoked fish.


Indigeneous to Brazil, South and Central America. It is also widely cultivated in Tropical countries such as Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, Ecuador, Kenya, India and East Africa.

The tree of annatto was originated from Brazil. It was used for ritual as well as decorative body painting, insect repellent, sunscreen and medical purposes. In 16th century, it is used for Mexican manuscript painting.

Traditionally, Annatto is used as a flavoring and coloring agent in Caribbean, Latin America and other countries in 16th centuries which are taken by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Locally it is known as bija, achiote, rocou, kusuwe, koesoewe, atusuete, onoto and colorau.

Health Benefits of Annatto

Achiote tree is grown in Central and South America which is scientifically named as Bixa Orellana. It has white to bright pink flowers. Fruits are grown in clusters. The seeds are used to extract annatto that is used as a coloring agent or condiment. Annatto possess various health benefits which is used to promote healthy digestion, prevent neural tube defects, strengthen bones, lower fevers, promote healing, eliminate headaches, protect respiratory stress and lower nausea.

  1. Healthy eyes

The carotenoid content found in the seeds of Annatto is the reason for the pigment extraction. The high content of carotenoid acts as antioxidants in ocular system and prevents cataract development. It also prevents the chances of macular degeneration by making the strong vision. (1)

  1. Antioxidants

Annatto has organic compounds such as tocotrienols that acts as antioxidants for the body. It is also used as a treatment for skin health and anti-aging solution. Annatto paste which is made from seeds is applied topically to lower the signs of wrinkles, imperfections and blemishes. It is used to make the skin look young and tighten the skin. (2)

  1. Digestive health

Annatto seeds have high content of fiber and the leaves of Achiote plant are helpful for human digestion as it promotes smooth passage of food. It helps to reduce cholesterol and manage diabetes. It optimizes the level of insulin and glucose in blood. It has been used as a diabetic management for generations. (3)

  1. Bone health

Annatto has high content of calcium that provides mineral density and also promotes strength and durability. It prevents the chances of osteoporosis with the essential minerals such as calcium. (4)

  1. Prevent chances of birth defects

Annatto has high content of folate which helps to prevent neural tube defects in new born children. Pregnant women should increase the intake of folic acid that helps to prevent these conditions. (5)

  1. Heal wounds

The wounds, burns and skin irritation could be healed fast by applying the paste of Annatto seed. It speeds up the healing process and lowers the appearance of scars. It also prevents the chances of infections. (6)

  1. Treat stomach discomfort

Annatto is used to calm upset stomach and treats discomfort and heartburn. It is used for viral infections.

  1. Treat cancer

Annatto seeds have norbixin which acts as a powerful antioxidant. It has anti-mutagenic effect. (7)

  1. Treat gonorrhea

Annatto is used to treat gonorrhea. It us useful for treating painful and embarrassing condition either topically or internally which helps to clear STD. (8) (9)

Traditional uses

  • It is used to treat bronchitis and heal wounds.
  • The infusion made from leaves helps to treat sore throat, bronchitis and eye inflammation.
  • It is used to treat tonsilitis, sunstroke, leprosy, burns, apnoea, pleurisy, recta discomfort, apnoea and headaches.
  • It is used as a wash for skin infections and cure for stomach adn liver disorders.
  • It is used as a repellant for flies and mosquitoes.
  • Shoots and leaves possess febrifugal, astringent and aphrodisiac properties.
  • It is used as a treatment for rashes, diarrhea, dysentery, sores and swellings.
  • The decoction made from leaves is used as a gargle for throat and mouth infections.
  • Annatto is used for fluid retention, malaria and hepatitis.
  • It is also used as a bowel cleanser.
  • It is used to treat vaginal infections.
  • It is used to treat skin problems, dysentery, fevers and hepatitis.
  • Roots are used as an aid for digestive health and cough suppressant.
  • It is used to treat rashes, cuts and other ailments.
  • The infusion made from bark and leaves are useful for stomachache, dysentery, nausea, vomiting, stomach problems and acid reflux.
  • Apply the boiled leaved to the body and head for the treatment fever.
  • For sore throat, use boiled leaves as a gargle.
  • Mix the coconut oil and pounded leaves and apply it to forehead for the treatment of headaches.
  • The poultice made from leaves is useful for the treatment of gonorrhea.
  • Its leaves are useful for snake bites.
  • The pulp of Annatto is useful to eliminate scars caused due to blisters and also stops bleeding.
  • The seeds and bark are used for treating thinning hair.
  • The branches and bark are used to promote menstrual flow and also alleviates menstrual pain.
  • The decoction prepared from pulp of Annatto seeds are treatment for coughs.
  • The decoction made from leaves is used to eliminate the symptoms of heat stroke.


  • Sensitive people might get allergic reactions.
  • Allergic people should avoid it.
  • Pregnant and lactating women should consult the doctor for use.
  • It might increase or decrease the level of blood sugar. People with diabetes should use it carefully.

How to Eat         

  • It is used as a food coloring for adding yellow or orange color to cheese, butter, cakes, sausages, baked goods, snack foods, potatoes, smoked fish, breakfast cereals and popcorn.
  • It is used to form paste and powder used in Filipino, Chamorro, Jamaican and Latin American cuisines.
  • It is used for sauce of pancit in Philippines.
  • The seeds are grounded or used to make annatto oil.
  • Grounded seeds are added to stews and soups.
  • Meat is also marinated with annatto colored seasonings.

Other Facts        

  • Central America, Africa, Sri Lanka, South America, Caribbean and India are the main producers commercially.
  • Annatto oil has high content of beta-carotene, tocotrienols, saturated, unsaturated fatty acids, essential oil, Vitamin C and flavonoids.
  • Seeds were used by American natives to make lipstick and red body paint.

Annatto facts

It is a small tree which is originated from tropical region of Americas. The name was derived from the word Nahuatl. This is also called Aploppas. It is widely cultivated for the natural source of pigment named annatto which is produced from fruit. Its plant has pink flowers and fruits that are red and spiny with red seeds. The fruit turns dry and hardens down to brown capsules. It is used in rice, cohinita pibil, calo de olla and chicken.

Name Annatto uses and benefits
Scientific Name Bixa orellana 
Native Indigeneous to Brazil, South and Central America. It is also widely cultivated in Tropical countries such as Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, Ecuador, Kenya, India and East Africa.
Common/English Name Achiote, Annatto, Urucum, Lipstick Plant, Colorau, Arnatto, Lipsticktree, Bija, Mugo-simu, Onotillo, Onoto, Orleansstrauch
Name in Other Languages Swedish: annatto;
Assamese: Jolandhar;
Bengali: Latka, latkan;
Bulgarian: Achiote (Ачиоте), Ačiote;
Chinese: Hóngmù (红木), Yānzhī mù (胭脂木);
Czech: Annata;
Dutch: Achiote, Anatto, Annotto, Orleaan, Orleaanboom, Rocou; 
Estonian: Värvibiksa;
Finnish: Annaatto, Annatto;
French: Achiote, Rocou, Rocouyer, roucou;
German: Annatto, Annattostrauch, Orleanstrauch;
Gujarati: Sinduri (सिंदूरी );
Hindi: induriya, latkan, Sinduri, inaduinaya (इनदुिनया), Latkan (लटकन), laalakan (लालकन);
Hungarian: Bjoul, Orleánfa, Ruku;
Indonesian: Kesumba;
Italian: Annatto, Anotto;
Japanese: Beninoki (ベニノキ), okenoki, hiryu-sida;
Kannada: Rangamali;
Korean: a-ci-o-te, a-na-to, Achiote (아치오테), Anato (아나토);
Lao: Dok kham, Sa ti;
Malay: Jarak belanda;
Malayalam: Kurannumannal;
Marathi: Sendri (सेंदरी);
Oriya: Lotkons;
Polish: Arnota;
Portuguese: Anato, Açafroa-do-Brasil, Urucum, Urucú;
Russian: Annato (Аннато), Biksa (Бикса), Pomadnoe derevo (Pomadnoye derevo);
Slovak: Anatto;
Spanish: Achiote, Achote, Annato, roucou;
Tagalog: Achuete, Achwete, Atsuete;
Tamil: cappirā, Kongaram, kŏṅkāram (கொங்காரம்), Sappira, Sappiravirai, Cappirā (சப்பிரா);
Thai: Kam saed, Kam tai, Sati, Khảs̄æd (คำแสด);
Turkish: Arnatto;
Vietnamese: Hot dieu mau;
Chamorro: achoti, achiote;
Fijian: nggesa, qesa, nggisa;
Hawaiian: alaea, kūmauna, alaea la‘au;
Palauan: burk, búrek;
Pohnpeian: doaloa rais;
Samoan: loa, loa, loa
Tahitian: ‘uaefa;
Tongan: loa;
Wallisian: loa, lo‘a;
Yapese: rang;
Visayan: Sotis
Plant Growth Habit Evergreen, tall shrub
Growing Climate Sub-tropical to Tropical
Soil Moderately fertile
Plant Size Height: 6-10 m (20-33 ft)
Trunk Diameter: 20-30 cm
Bark Dark gray
Leaves Ovate, round with heart shaped base and pointed tip, Length: 10-20 cm; Width: 5-10 cm
Flower Bright, white to pink
Fruit shape & size Ovate to broad, Length: 2.5-5 cm
Fruit color Red
Flavor/aroma Slightly nutty, peppery, sweet
Seed Reddish to orange, Length: 0.3-0.5 cm, Diameter: 0.2-0.3 cm; pyramidal to conical






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