9 Astonishing Health Benefits of Annatto And It’s Traditional uses

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Annatto is a natural color and spice derived from the achiote shrub that is evergreen and tall and originated from the tropical region of America. This plant does well in subtropical to tropical climates with moderately fertile soil.

The plant reaches a height of 6-10 meters (20-33 feet). Its trunk is 20-30 cm in diameter with dark gray bark. It has round oval leaves with a heart-shaped base and a pointed tip, 10-20 cm long and 5-10 cm wide. It has bright flowers that range from white to pink in colour. The flowers turn red and ovate into broad fruits 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.

Annatto’s color is due to the presence of norbixin and bixin, which are present in the reddish waxy coating of the seeds. The seeds are ground into a powder or paste to prepare the spice.

It is used as a dye and food color and is also used as a flavor enhancer. It also possesses antidiarrheal, antipyretic, antidiabetic and insect repellent properties.

Annatto extracts are used as a coloring agent in food products such as butter, margarine, dairy spreads, cheese, cakes, custard, snack foods, potatoes, snack foods, sausages, and smoked fish.

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Native to Brazil, South and Central America. Also widely cultivated in tropical countries such as Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, Ecuador, Kenya, India and East Africa, the Annatto tree originated from Brazil.

It was used for ritual as well as decorative body paint, insect repellent, sunscreen and medicinal purposes. In the 16th century, it was used to paint Mexican manuscripts.

Traditionally, Annatto is used as a flavoring and coloring agent in the Caribbean, Latin America and other countries in the 16th century taken by Portuguese and Spanish explorers.

They are known locally as bija, Ichiote, rocou, kusuwe, koesoewe, atusuete, onoto and colorau. Annatto-flower-Achiote Annatto-Fruit-green-Urucum Annatto-Fruit-Red-Colorau Annatto-leaves-Arnatto Annatto-oil-Bija Annatto-plant-Onotillo Annatto-plant-Onotillo. annatto-plant-clarification-unuto-annatto-seed-powder-latka annatto-seed-anata

Health Benefits of Annatto

Annatto Fruit

The Achiote tree is grown in Central and South America and is scientifically named after the Bixa Orellana. It has white to bright pink flowers. The fruits are planted in groups.

The seeds are used to extract annatto which is used as a coloring agent or condiment. Annatto has many health benefits that are used to promote healthy digestion, prevent neural tube defects, strengthen bones, lower fever, promote healing, eliminate headaches, protect respiratory stress, and lower nausea.

  1. Healthy eyes

The carotene content present in Annatto seeds is the reason for the pigment extraction. The high content of carotene acts as an antioxidant in the eye system and prevents the development of cataracts. It also prevents chances of macular degeneration by making vision strong.

  1. Antioxidants

Annatto contains organic compounds such as tocotrienols that act as antioxidants for the body. It is also used as a skin health and anti-aging treatment. Annatto seed paste is applied topically to reduce the signs of wrinkles, blemishes, and blemishes. It is used to make the skin look young and tighten the skin.

  1. Digestive health

It’s seeds are high in fiber and the leaves of the Achiote plant are beneficial for human digestion as they promote the smooth passage of food.

Helps reduce cholesterol and manage diabetes. Improves the level of insulin and glucose in the blood. It has been used as a treatment for diabetes for generations.

  1. Bone health

It has a high calcium content which provides mineral density and also enhances strength and durability. Prevents chances of osteoporosis with essential minerals such as calcium.

  1. Prevent chances of birth defects

It is high in folic acid which helps prevent neural tube defects in newborns. Pregnant women should increase their intake of folic acid which helps prevent these conditions.

  1. Heal wounds

Wounds, burns and skin irritation can be quickly healed by applying Annatto seed paste. Speeds up the healing process and reduces the appearance of scars. It also prevents the chances of infection.

  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

It’s seeds contain norbixin which acts as a powerful antioxidant. It has an anti-mutagenic effect.

  1. Treat gonorrhea

It is used to treat gonorrhea. It is useful in treating painful and embarrassing conditions both topically and internally which helps to get rid of STDs.

Traditional uses

  • It is used to treat bronchitis and wound healing.
  • An infusion made from the leaves helps treat sore throats, bronchitis, and eye inflammation.
  • It is used to treat tonsillitis, heat stroke, leprosy, burns, apnea, pleurisy, rectal discomfort, apnea and headache.
  • It is used as a lotion for skin infections and to treat stomach and liver disorders.
  • It is used as a repellent for flies and mosquitoes.
  • The buds and leaves possess febrifuge, astringent and aphrodisiac properties.
  • It is used as a treatment for rashes, diarrhea, dysentery, sores, and swellings.
  • A decoction made from the leaves is used as a gargle for throat and mouth infections.
  • It is used for fluid retention, malaria, and hepatitis.
  • It is also used as an antiseptic for the intestines.
  • It is used to treat vaginal infections.
  • It is used to treat skin problems, dysentery, fever and hepatitis.
  • The roots are used as an aid to digestive health and as a cough suppressant.
  • It is used to treat rashes, wounds and other diseases.
  • An infusion made from the bark and leaves is useful for stomach pain, dysentery, nausea, vomiting, stomach problems, and acid reflux.
  • A decoction of the leaves is placed on the body and head to treat fever.
  • For a sore throat, use the boiled leaves as a gargle.
  • Mix coconut oil with the leaves and apply it on the forehead to treat headaches.
  • As a substance made from the leaves is useful for the treatment of gonorrhea.
  • Its leaves are useful for snake bites.
  • It’s pulp is useful in eliminating the scars caused by pimples and also stops the bleeding.
  • The seeds and bark are used to treat hair thinning.
  • The branches and bark are used to enhance menstrual flow and relieve menstrual pain.
  • The broth prepared from the pulp of Annatto seeds is a remedy for cough.
  • A decoction made from the leaves is used to get rid of the symptoms of heat stroke.


  • Sensitive people may develop allergic reactions.
  • People with allergies should avoid it.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult a doctor for use.
  • It may increase or decrease your blood sugar level. Diabetics should use it carefully.

How to Eat         

  • It is used as a food coloring to add yellow or orange color to cheese, butter, cake, sausage, baked goods, snack foods, potatoes, smoked fish, breakfast cereals, and popcorn.
  • It is used to form a paste and powder that is used in Filipino, Chamorro, Jamaican and Latin American cuisines.
  • It is used for pancit sauce in the Philippines.
  • The seeds are ground or used to make annatto oil.
  • The ground seeds are added to stews and soups.
  • The meat is also seasoned with colorful Annatto seasoning.

Other Facts        

  • Central America, Africa, Sri Lanka, South America, Caribbean and India are the main producers commercially.
  • It’s oil is high in beta-carotene, tocotrienols, unsaturated fatty acids, essential oils, vitamin C, and flavonoids.
  • Native Americans used the seeds to make red lipstick and body paint.

Annatto facts

Close-Up View of a Bixa Orellana

It is a small tree that originated from the tropical region of the Americas.

The name is derived from the word Nahuatl. This is also called Aploppas. It is widely cultivated for the natural source of the pigment called annatto which is produced from the fruit. Its plant has pink flowers and red and spiny fruits with red seeds.

The fruit becomes dry and hardens into brown capsules. It is used in rice, pebble cohenita, calo de ola, and chicken.

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