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MoonDragon's Health & Wellness
Nutrition Basics

Herbs
ANNATTO SEED
Achiote Seed

(Bixa Orellana)


For Informational Use Only
For more detailed information contact your health care provider
about options that may be available for your specific situation.





  • Annatto / Achiote Description
  • Annatto / Achiote Uses, Health Benefits & Scientific Evidence
  • Annatto / Achiote Dosage Information
  • Annatto / Achiote Safety, Cautions & Interactions
  • Annatto / Achiote Supplements & Products




  • achiote tree showing seeds from which annatto is extracted berries


    ANNATTO (ACHIOTE) HERBAL DESCRIPTION

    A PEPPERY SPICY SHRUB

    Annatto (Bixa orellana) is sometimes called Roucou or Achiote. Other names Annatto is known by includes annata, beninoki, jarak belanda, kam tia, kangaram, kesumba, latka, roucou, sa ti, yan zhi shu, and yin ju shyu in various speciality markets. Annatto is derived from the seeds of the Achiote trees of tropical and subtropoical regions around the world and is considered a South and Central American herb producing small, dark, red seeds with a faint, flowery odor. The seeds are sourced to produce a carotenoid-based yellow to orange food coloring and flavor. Its scent is described as slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg and the flavor as slightly nutty, sweet and peppery.

    annatto-achiote tree


    Annatto is a profusely fruiting shrub or small tree that grows 5 to 10 meters in height. Approximately 50 seeds grow inside prickly reddish-orange heart-shaped pods at the ends of the branches. The trees are literally covered by these brightly colored pods, and one small Annatto tree can produce up to 270 kilograms of seeds. The seeds are covered with a reddish aril, which is the source of an orange-yellow dye. Annatto is known as achiote in Peru and as urucum in Brazil. It grows throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean and can be found in some parts of Mexico as well.

    The tree was introduced to the Philippines during its Spanish period. In 1540, the Spanish mercenary Gonzalo Pizarro left the plunder of the Incan Empire on rumors that groves of cinnamon trees were to be found in the Amazon basin. Almost his entire force perished in the jungle. He escaped by sailing down the Amazon, his primary plunder the Annatto berries he found instead of cinnamon. Annatto is commonly used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines as both a coloring and flavoring agent. Central and South American natives use the seeds to make body paint and lipstick. For this reason Achiote is sometimes called the lipstick-tree. Achiote originated in South America and has spread in popularity to many parts of Asia. It is also grown in other tropical or subtropical regions of the world, including Central America, Africa and Asia. The heart-shaped fruit are brown or reddish-brown at maturity and are covered with short, stiff hairs. When fully mature, the fruit splits open, exposing the numerous dark red seeds. The fruit itself is not edible, however, the orange-red pulp that covers the seed is used to produce a yellow to orange food coloring. Achiote dye is prepared by grinding seeds or simmering the seeds in water or oil.

    annatto-seeds


    The Annattoseed is used in cooking and the seed coat is used for commercial food production. The intense red color of the seed is due to bixin in the seed coat. Annatto also contains very high concentrations of carotenoids, chemicals in the same class as alpha- and beta-carotene. In commercial processing, annetto coloring is extracted from the reddish pericarp which surrounds the seed of the Achiote Tree. Historically, it has been used as coloring in many cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Gloucester, Red Leicester), cheese products (e.g., American cheese, Velveeta), and dairy spreads (e.g., butter, margarine). Annatto can also be used to color a number of non-dairy foods such as rice, custard powder, baked goods, seasonings, processed potatoes, snack foods, breakfast cereals and smoked fish. It has been linked to cases o food-related allergies. Annatto has been used for centuries to keep food from spoiling.





    ANNATTO USES, HEALTH BENEFITS, & SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

    BODY PAINTING & GASTIC UPSET

    Annatto's Linnaean designation (Bixa Orellana L.) was named after the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana during his exploration of the Amazon River. Annatto is believed to originate from Brazil where it is known as urucum. It was probably not initially used as a food additive, but for other reasons, such as body painting, treatment for heartburn and stomach distress, sunscreen, repelling insects, and to ward off evil. It has long been used by indigenous Caribbean and South American cultures where both fruit and tree are popularly called achiote or bija. The ancient Aztecs called it achiotl, and it was used for Mexican manuscript painting in the sixteenth century. In India, Annatto is known as sindoor and is considered auspicious for married women. Applying Annatto to the forehead next to the hairline indicates that is woman is married. In the philippines, it is called atsuete and is used as food coloring in traditional dishes.

    ANNATTO FOOD COLORING

    Using Annatto for color has been a traditional characteristic of Gloucester cheese since the 16th century when producers of inferior cheese used a coloring agent to replicate the orange hue achieved by the best cheesemakers. During the summer months the high levels of carotene in the grass would have given the milk an orangey color which was carried through into the cheese. This orange hue was regarded as an indicator of the best cheese and that is why the custom of adding Annatto spread to other parts of the UK, with Cheshire and Red Leicester cheese, as well as colored cheddar made in Scotland, all using this natural dye.

    Traditionally, the crushed seeds are soaked in water and then the water evaporated to make a brightly colored paste. This tasteless paste is then added to soups, cheeses and other foods to give it a bright yellow or orange color. The Spanish introduced Annatto to the Philippines. Filipino cooks usually fry them gently in a little oil so that the oil takes on a bright red color. This oil is then used to cook paella and other rice dishes. Vietnamese batters and curries are often prepared with Annatto oil to achieve a more attractive color. Vietnamese varieties of Beijing duck use Annatto oil to color the bird's skin. In China, Annatto seeds are occasionally contained in seasonings or marinades for grilled or fried meats, resulting in a bright orange meat surface.

    Many Latin American cuisines traditionally used Annatto in recipes of Spanish origin that originally call for saffron. For example, it is used in arroz con pollo to give the rice a yellow color. In Venezuela, Annattoo (called locally onoto) is used in the preparation of hallacas, perico, and other traditional dishes. In Brazil, both Annatto (the product) and the tree (Bixa orellana L.) are called urucum, and the product itself may also be called colorau.

    In the European Union, Annatto has the E number E160b. In the United States, Annatto extract is listed as a color additive exempt from certification and is informally considered to be a natural coloring. Foods colored with Annatto may declare the coloring in the statement of ingredients as "colored with annato" or "annatto color".

    The yellow to orange color is produced by the chemical compounds bixin and norbixin, which are classified as carotenoids.. The fat soluble color in the crude extract is called bixin, which can then be saponified into water soluble norbixin. This dual solubility property of Annatto is rare for carotenoids. The seeds contain 4.5 to 5.5 percent pigments, which consists of 70 to 89 percent bixin. Unlike beta-carotene, another well-known carotenoid, Annatto based pigments are not vitamin A precursors. The more norbixin in an Annatto color, the more yellow it is. A higher level of bixin gives it a more orange shade.

    annatto-fruit


    MEDICINAL USES

    Annatto is a rich source of tocotrienols, antioxidants that are similar in structure and function to vitamin E. The tocotrienols from annatto and other sources like palm oil and rice bran are the subject of current nutritional and medical research since these compounds are thought to prevent cancer due to their anti-angiogenic effect. The annatto seed, unlike palm oil or rice bran, does not contain any tocopherols so it is a natural source of pure tocotrienol compounds.

    In developing countries, particularly in Colombia, people with low income and less access to modern medicine resources use folk medicine and natural remedies for the treatment of common infections. Achiote is also among those herbs used in Colombian folk medicine to treat infections of microbial origin. In addition to the known health benefits exerted by carotenoids, a bioactive sesquiterpene from achiote exhibited moderate anti-fungal activity. Norbixin isomers are responsible for the antimicrobial activity specific for Gram positive bacteria found in annatto extracts.

    Parts used for healing properties include the seeds, leaves, bark, roots and shoots of the plant. As an astringent, Annatto is used to treat fever, epilepsy, and dysentery when the leaves and roots are used to make an infusion. When used topically, it can treat burns and blisters. When used as a gargle, it can relieve mouth sores. It is also thought to have properties that increase one's libido.

    ANNATTO HERBAL PROPERTIES & ACTIONS
    MAIN ACTIONS
    OTHER ACTIONS
    STANDARD DOSAGE

  • Reduces Acid
  • Kills Bacteria
  • Fights Free Radicals
  • Kills Parasites
  • Kills Germs
  • Increases Urination
  • Stimulates Digestion
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Mildly Laxative
  • Protects Liver

  • Reduces Inflammation
  • Stops Coughing
  • Dries Secretions / Oils
  • Cleanses Blood
  • Soothes Membranes
  • Reduces fever
  • Raises Blood Sugar
  • Reduces Phlegm
  • Heals Wounds

  • Seed & Leaves

    Leaf Decoction: 1/2 cup 2 to 3 times daily.

    Seed Powder: 5 to 10 mg twice daily


    Traditionally, the crushed seeds are soaked in water that is allowed to evaporate. A brightly colored paste is produced which is added to soups, cheeses, and other foods to give them a bright yellow or orange color. Annatto seed paste produced in South America is exported to North America and Europe, where it is used as a food coloring for margarine, cheese, microwave popcorn, and other yellow or orange foodstuffs. Many times, this natural food coloring replaces the very expensive saffron in recipes and dishes around the world. Annatto paste is also used as a natural dye for cloth and wool and is sometimes employed in the paint, varnish, lacquer, cosmetic, and soap industries.

    Throughout the rainforest, indigenous tribes have used Annatto seeds as body paint and as a fabric dye. It has been traced back to the ancient Mayan Indians, who employed it as a principal coloring agent in foods, for body paints, and as a coloring for arts, crafts, and murals. The original Aztec drinking chocolate contained Annatto, the high fat content of which would have thickened the drink, as well as colored it. Although mostly only the seed paste or seed oil is used commercially today, the rainforest tribes have used the entire plant as medicine for centuries as well as crafts. A tea made with the young shoots is used by the Piura tribe as an aphrodisiac and astringent, and to treat skin problems, fevers, dysentery, and hepatitis. The leaves are used to treat skin problems, liver disease, and hepatitis. The plant has also been considered good for the digestive system. The Cojedes tribe uses an infusion of the flowers to stimulate the bowels and aid in elimination as well as to avoid phlegm in newborn babies. Traditional healers in Colombia have also used annatto as an antivenin for snakebites. The seeds are believed to be an expectorant, while the roots are thought to be a digestive aid and cough suppressant.

    Today in Brazilian herbal medicine, a leaf decoction of Annatto is used to treat heartburn and stomach distress caused by spicy foods, and as a mild diuretic and mild laxative. It is also used for fevers and malaria, and, topically, to treat burns. Annatto is a common remedy in Peruvian herbal medicine today, and the dried leaves are called achiotec. Eight to ten dried leaves are boiled for 10 minutes in 1 liter of water for this popular Peruvian remedy. One cup is drunk warm or cold 3 times daily after meals to treat prostate disorders and internal inflammation, arterial hypertension, high cholesterol, cystitis, obesity, renal insufficiency, and to eliminate uric acid. This decoction is also recommended as a vaginal antiseptic and wound healer, as a wash for skin infections, and for liver and stomach disorders. Curanderos (herbal healers) in the Peruvian Amazon squeeze the juice from the fresh leaves and place it in the eye for inflammation and eye infections, and they use the juice of 12 fruits taken twice daily for 5 days to "cure" epilepsy.

    PLANT CHEMICALS

    Analysis of Annatto seeds indicates that they contain 40 to 45-percent cellulose, 3.5 to 5.5-percent sucrose, 0.3 to 0.9-percent essential oil, 3-percent fixed oil, 4.5 to 5.5-percent pigments, and 13 to 16-percent protein, as well as alpha- and beta-carotenoids and other constituents. Annatto oil is extracted from the seeds and is the main source of pigments named bixin and norbixin, which are classified as carotenoids. Bixin, extracted and used as a food colorant, has been shown to protect against ultraviolet rays and to have antioxidant and liver protective properties in clinical research.

    In addition to bixin and norbixin, annatto contains bixaghanene, bixein, bixol, crocetin, ellagic acid, ishwarane, isobixin, phenylalanine, salicylic acid, threonine, tomentosic acid, and tryptophan.

    BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES & CLINICAL RESEARCH

    Much has been done in the laboratory validating Annatto's traditional uses and finding new ones. A water extract of the root has demonstrated hypotensive activity in rats, as Peruvian herbal systems have practiced. The same extract demonstrated smooth muscle-relaxant activity in guinea pigs and lowered gastric secretions in rats, which help to explain its use as a digestive aid and for stomach disorders. Annatto seed extracts have been documented to raise blood glucose levels in some species of animals and to lower it in others. Annatto leaves were reported in yet another study to possess aldose reductase inhibition actions, a process implicated in the advancement of diabetic neuropathy. A 2000 study confirmed the effectiveness of a leaf-and-bark extract at neutralizing hemorrhages in mice injected with snake venom, a practice used in Colombia for many years. Annatto demonstrated antigonorrheal activity in a 1995 study, and in other research, flower and leaf extracts demonstrated in vitro antibacterial activity against several bacteria, including E. coli and Staphylococcus. This supports its use in traditional medicine systems for gonorrhea and other types of infections.


    WORLDWIDE MEDICAL USES

    Argentina

    For diarrhea, fevers, heart-support.

    Brazil

    For burns, constipation, fevers, heartburn, hepatitis, malaria, stomachache, urinary insufficiency.

    Columbia

    As an antivenin, aphrodisiac.

    Cuba

    As an aphrodisiac.

    Guatemala

    For gonorrhea.

    Haiti

    For ever and as a douche and insect repellent.

    Mexico

    For burns, constipation, digestion, dysentery, epilepsy, erysipelas, fever, gonorrhea, headache, inflammation, malaria, sore throat, tumors, urinary insufficiency, vaginitis, venereal disease, wounds, and as an aphrodisiac, astringent, and insect repellent.

    Paraguay

    As an insecticide and insect repellant.

    Peru

    For conjunctivitis, cystitis, dysentery, epilepsy, fevers, high cholesterol, digestion, hypertension, obesity, prostatitis, renal problems, urinary problems, urogenital infections, wounds, and as an antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, and dye.

    Trinidad

    For diabetes, dysentery, flu, jaundice, renal insufficiency, skin disease, venereal disease.

    Elsewhere

    For blood cleansing, cancer, diabetes, dysentery, fever, kidney problems, parasites, skin disorders, to stop bleeding, and as an aphrodisiac, astringent, dye, and cosmetic.



    ANNATO OIL

    Annatto Oil, is an oil derived from Annatto or Achiote seeds. It is mainly used in Latin and Caribbean cooking to add color to oil and food in general. Achiote Oil has a reddish orange color, much like Palm Oil but without the extra saturated fat often found in the latter since you can use virtually any kind of oil to lightly toast the seeds. You can use Olive oil, Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil or even a mix of clear oils. Annatto oil is very easy to make and should be done in batches. Refrigerate it for up to two weeks.

    MAKING ANNATTO OIL

    Prep Time: 5 Minutes
    Cook Time: 3 to 5 Minutes
    Difficulty: Easy
    annatto seeds and canola oil

    Annato Oil Ingredients:
    pour oil in pan adding seeds

    1. Pour oil into fry pan, add seeds.
    turn on heat to medium

    2. Turn on heat to medium.
    stirring until it sizzles, turn off heat and cool

    3. Stir; Once it starts to sizzle, turn off heat, let cool.
    drain oil from seeds using a sieve

    4. Drain oil from seeds using a sieve.
    store in bowl or jar

    5. Transfer to a storage bowl or jar. Refrigerate.
    palm oil and annatto oil comparison

    Side by Side Comparison of Palm Oil & Annatto Oil (Left: Annatto Oil, Right: Palm Oil)
    annatto seeds

    Up close view of Annatto Seeds.

    NOTES:

    1.Good or fresh Annatto seeds should have an almost rusty red color. Seeds that are dark brown or shriveled are no longer fresh and should be avoided. The above image has a few bad seeds, but for the most part, it is the right color.

    2.You can store the seeds in a cool, dark place, but be sure to refrigerate the actual oil once you have made it. (It will not solidify in the refridgerator.)

    3.There is not much difference between the blanched or bleached Palm Oil and the Annatto oil, so if you are worried about Palm Oil and it's heart clogging properties, you might want to consider Annatto Oil as it is much more heart friendly.





    ANNATTO DOSAGE INFORMATION

    SUPPLEMENTS

    Although not widely available in the United States, standard decoctions of Annatto leaves are taken by the half-cupful two or three times daily for prostate and urinary difficulties as well as for high cholesterol and hypertension. Ground Annatto seed powder is also used in small dosages of 10 to 20 mg daily for high cholesterol and hypertension. Higher dosages can cause a marked increase in urination. It has been noted that some individuals are highly sensitive to Annatto seed and this diuretic effect can be caused at much lower doses, even by just eating a bag of popcorn in which Annatto was used as a coloring or flavoring ingredient.

    Annatto's history of use as a food coloring is well established worldwide, and current trends show that it is being used increasingly in body care products. Annatto oil is an emollient, and its high carotenoid content provides beneficial antioxidant properties. In body care products, Annatto oil provides antioxidant benefits while adding a rich, sunny color to creams, lotions, and shampoos.


    ANNATTO LEAVES PLANT PROFILE

  • Main Preparation Method: Leaf Infusion.
  • Main Actions (in order): Antimcrobial, diuretic, digestive stimulant, hepatoprotective (liver protector), hypocholesterolemic (lowers cholesterol)
  • Main Uses: For use as a topical antiseptic for ear, eye, and skin infections. For digestive problems (heartburn, constipation, stomachache). For prostate and urinary tract infections. For hypertension. For high cholesterol levels.
  • Properties/Actions Documented by Research: Aldose reductase inhibitor (linked to diabetic complications), antibacterial, antihemorrhagic (reduces bleeding), antivenin.
  • Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use: Antacid, hypocholesterolemic (lowers cholesterol), anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aperient (mild laxative), aphrodisiac, astringent, digestive stimulant, diuretic, febrifuge (reduces fever), hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), wound healer.
  • Cautions: It may potentiate medications used to treat hypertension.


  • ANNATTO SEEDS PLANT PROFILE

  • Main Preparation Method: Seed maceration or capsules.
  • Main Actions (in order): Antioxidant, hepatoprotective (liver protector), insect repellant, diuretic, hypocholesterolemic (lowers cholesterol).
  • Main Uses: To tone, balance and strengthen liver function and for hepatitis and liver inflammation and pain. For hypertension (high blood pressure). For high cholesterol. For skin care and skin anti-agine (for its antioxidant and ultraviolet ray [UV]-protective effect). For use as a strong diuretic.
  • Properties/Actions Documented by Research: Antioxidant, hepatoprotective (liver protector), hyperglycemic; also used as a food-coloring agent.
  • Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use: Expectorant, hypocholesterolemic (lowers cholesterol), hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), insect repellant, wound healer.
  • Cautions: It may raise blood sugar levels and may potentiate medications used to treat hypertension.





  • ANNATTO SAFETY, CAUTIONS & INTERACTIONS

    SAFETY CONCERNS

    Allergies to Annatto in the context of an organic, whole foods diet are rare. Sensitivities to all food colorants, including annatto, may occur if there is also sensitivity to BHA, BHT, and artificial red and yellow dyes.

    Annatto is safe for most people when used in food amounts; however, it can cause rare allergic reactions for those who are sensitive. Annatto has been linked to few cases of food-related allergies, but it is not one of the "Big Eight" allergens (cow's milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat) which are responsible for more than 90 percent of allergic food reactions. The Food and Drug Administration and experts at the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska do not, at present, consider Annatto to be a major food allergen.

    Natural food colors such as Annatto extract have not been extensively investigated with respect to potential allergenic properties. In one 1978 study among 61 consecutive patients suffering from chronic hives and/or angioedema, 56 patients were orally provoked by Annatto extract during an elimination diet. A challenge was performed with a dose equivalent to the amount used in 25 grams (0.88 ounce) of butter. Twenty six percent of the patients reacted to this color four hours after intake, worse than amaranth (9-percent) or synthetic dyes such as tartrazine (11-percent), Sunset Yellow FCF (17-percent), Food Red 17 (16-percent), Ponceau 4R (15-percent), erythrosine (12-percent) and Brilliant Blue FCF (14-percent). A 1991 study documents an allergic reaction of one patient to bixin, the dye chemical in Annatto seeds, stating it is a potential rare cause of anaphylaxis.

    The Annatto seed extract was reported to elevate blood sugar levels in dogs, and it is therefor contraindicated for people with diabetes.

    No drug interactions reported.





    ANNATTO SUPPLEMENTS & RELATED PRODUCTS

  • Annatto Herbal Products


  • QUALITY SUPPLIES & PRODUCTS


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    ANNATTO HERBAL PRODUCTS

    STARWEST BOTANICALS PRODUCTS

    Starwest Botanicals: Annatto Seed (Bixa Orellana), Whole, 1 lb.


    HERBSPRO PRODUCTS

    HerbsPro: Annatto Tocotrienols, Solaray, 50 mg, 60 Softgels
    HerbsPro: Delta Fraction Tocotrienols (From Annatto Seed), Nutricology Allergy Research Group, 50 mg, 75 Caps
    Delta-Fraction Tocotrienols contains tocotrienols from annatto beans and is free of tocopherols. Tocotrienols have more powerful antioxidant activity than tocopherols.
    HerbsPro: Delta Fraction Tocotrienols (From Annatto Seed), Nutricology Allergy Research Group, 125 mg, 30 Softgels
    Delta-Fraction Tocotrienols contains tocotrienols from annatto beans and is free of tocopherols. Tocotrienols have more powerful antioxidant activity than tocopherols.
    HerbsPro: Delta Fraction Tocotrienols (From Annatto Seed), Nutricology Allergy Research Group, 125 mg, 90 Softgels
    Delta-Fraction Tocotrienols contains tocotrienols from annatto beans and is free of tocopherols. Tocotrienols have more powerful antioxidant activity than tocopherols.


    KALYX PRODUCTS

    Kalyx: Annatto Seed Whole (Bixa Orellana), Frontier Natural Brands Spices, 1 lb: K
    Kalyx: Annatto Seed Whole (Bixa Orellana), Starwest Botanicals, 1 lb: C
    Kalyx: Annatto Seed Powder, Kalyx Bulk Products, 1 kg (2.2 lbs): EB


    AMAZON PRODUCTS

    Amazon: Annato Seed Herbal Products


  • Nutrition Basics: Annatto Seed Information






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