Annatto (Bixa orellana L.)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Acetate, acetone, achiot (Spanish - Colombia), achiote (Spanish - Peru), achiote seeds, achiotillo, achiotin, annotta, annatto extract, annatto tree, aploppas, apocarotenoids, arnotta, arnotto (Native American), azo dyes, biche, bija, Bixa acuminata, Bixa americana, Bixa katangensis, Bixa odorata, Bixa orellana, Bixa platycarpa, Bixa purpurea, Bixa tinctoria, Bixa upatensis, Bixa urucurana, Bixaceae (family), bixin, brickdust, butter color, BXN, carotenoids, calcium sulfate, chalk, changuarica (Spanish - Mexico), colcothar, E160b, E number E160b, eroya, essential oil, false damiana, farinaceous matter, fat-soluble color, fatty acid, fiber, flag annotta, gypsum, ishwarane, jafara, kasujmba-kelling, kham thai, k'u-zub (Spanish - Mexico), lipstick tree, natural color, natural food color, norbixin, occidentalol, occidentalol acetate, ochre, onoto (Spanish - Venezuela), orellana, Orellana americana, orellin, orleana, Orleanstrauch (German), orucu-axiote, phosphoric acid, potassa, powdered bricks, pumacua (Mexico), red ochre, rocou (Dutch, French), roucou (French - Dominica and the French West Indies), roucouyer, ruku (Hungarian), sand, sand gypsum, silica, spathulenol, starchy bodies, sulfuric acid, terebinthinous body, tomentosic acid, Ultrabix™, unane, urucu (Portuguese - Brazil), urucum (Portuguese), urucu-üva, uruku, water-soluble color, (Z,E)-farnesyl acetate.
Annatto is a pigment, or dye, produced from the red seeds of the achiote (Bixa orellana) tree. Achiote is native to the tropics of North and South America, the Caribbean, and the East Indies. It is cultivated in South America and Southeast Asia. Annatto has long been a staple of Latin American and Caribbean cuisines as a flavoring and coloring agent. Annatto adds a slightly sweet and peppery taste and yellow or red color.
Achiote is known as the "lipstick tree" because the seeds have been used by Central and South American natives to make lip color, as well as body paint and fabric dye.
Achiote has been used as a traditional remedy for a variety of conditions, including diabetes, jaundice, snakebite, indigestion, heartburn, and hypertension (high blood pressure). All parts of the plant have been used, including the roots, leaves, seeds, and dried pulp of the fruit. Recently, annatto has been included as an ingredient in weight-loss products.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Urinary disorders (benign prostatic hyperplasia)
Patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (noncancerous enlarged prostate gland) experienced no improvement following treatment with achiote compared with placebo. Additional high-quality clinical studies are needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Historical or Theoretical Uses That Lack Sufficient Evidence:Analgesic (painkiller), antacid, anticoagulant (blood thinner), anticonvulsant (antiseizure), antidote to poisons, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiparasitic (acts against parasites), antipyretic (reduces fever), antiseptic, antivenom, aphrodisiac (increases sex drive), apnea (sleep disorder), ascaridiasis, asthma, astringent, blisters, blood cleanser, burns, cancer, cardiotonic (improves heart function), cataracts (eye disorder), cicatrizant (scar formation), colic (persistent, unexplained crying in healthy infant), conjunctivitis (inflamed eyes), constipation, cosmetic uses, coughs, cuts, cystitis (bladder inflammation), diabetes, diabetic complications, diabetic neuropathy, diarrhea, digestive problems, diuretic (improves urine flow), dysentery (inflamed intestine), edema (swelling), enhanced immune function, epilepsy, eye infections, fever, food preservation, food uses (coloring, flavoring, fermentation, preservation), gonorrhea, hair tonic, headaches, heartburn, hemorrhage (excessive bleeding), hemorrhoids, hepatitis (inflamed liver), hepatoprotection (liver protection), high cholesterol, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure), infections, inflammation, influenza (infection with "flu" virus), insect repellent, insecticide, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), jaundice, kidney disorders, laxative, leprosy, liver disorders, measles, mouth and throat inflammation, muscle relaxant, nausea, pleurisy (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the lungs), prostate health, rectal complaints, renal impairment, respiratory distress, sedative, sexually transmitted diseases, skin disorders, solar ultra-violet protection, sore throat, stomach acid reduction, stomach disorders, stomachache, styptic (stops minor bleeding of cuts), sunstroke, sun protection, tonic, tonsillitis, urinary retention (inability to urinate), uterine disorders, vaginitis, venereal diseases, vomiting, weight loss, wound healing.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
A typical dose of achiote is one to two grams of powdered leaf in tablets or capsules taken by mouth twice daily.
Tea made from achiote leaves or seeds has been taken by mouth by the half-cupful two to three times daily for prostate and urinary conditions, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Two to four milliliters of a 4:1 tincture (alcohol extract), of achiote twice daily has been used, based on anecdotal evidence.
For urinary disorders (benign prostatic hyperplasia), capsules containing 250 milligrams of dried achiote leaf have been taken by mouth three times daily for 12 months.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for achiote in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to achiote (Bixa orellana), its constituents, or any members of the Bixaceae family. Anaphylaxis, accompanied by hives, swelling under the skin, and a serious drop in blood pressure, has been reported after annatto use. Eczema may also occur.
Side Effects and Warnings
Caution is advised in patients with kidney disorders.
Caution is advised in patients with a history of constipation or those taking laxatives.
Caution is also advised in patients taking agents that cause changes in DNA or diuretics.
Achiote may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist; medication adjustments may be necessary.
Achiote may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Achiote may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking agents that lower blood pressure.
Use cautiously in patients using CNS depressants. Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
Achiote may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs, herbs, or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these agents may change in the blood, and may cause increased or decreased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients taking any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding women and children at doses greater than those normally found in foods, due to insufficient evidence.
Avoid in individuals who may be or are allergic or hypersensitive to Bixa orellana seeds, constituents of Bixa orellana, or any member of the Bixaceae family.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
There is a lack of sufficient data on the use of achiote during pregnancy or lactation. Achiote is likely safe in nonsensitive individuals when used in amounts found in food.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Achiote may affect blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also affect blood sugar. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Achiote may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Achiote may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
Achiote may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
Achiote may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may change in the blood, and may cause increased or decreased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients taking any medication should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Achiote may also interact with analgesics (painkillers), antibiotics, anticancer agents, antidiarrheals, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, antiprotozoals (agents used to treat infections by protozoal parasites), agents that cause changes in DNA, diuretics, and laxatives.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Achiote may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
Achiote may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding.
Achiote may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
Achiote may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements.
Achiote may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may change in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements potentially may have on the P450 system.
Achiote may also interact with analgesics (painkillers), antibiotics, anticancer agents, antidiarrheals, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, antiprotozoals (agents used to treat infections by protozoal parasites), antioxidants, agents that cause changes in DNA, diuretics, and laxatives.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Barcelos GR, Angeli JP, Serpeloni JM, et al. Effect of annatto on micronuclei induction by direct and indirect mutagens in HepG2 cells. Environ Mol Mutage 2009;50(9):808-14.View Abstract
Dias VM, Pilla V, Alves LP, et al. Optical Characterization in Annatto and Commercial Colorific. J Fluoresc 2010;[Epub ahead of print].View Abstract
Ebo DG, Ingelbrecht S, Bridts CH, et al. Allergy for cheese: evidence for an IgE-mediated reaction from the natural dye annatto. Allergy 2009;64(10):1558-60.View Abstract
Evans WC. Annatto: a natural choice. Biologist (London) 2000;47(4):181-4.View Abstract
Floch MH. Annatto, diet, and the irritable bowel syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol 2009;43(10):905-6.View Abstract
Giuliano G, Rosati C, Bramley PM. To dye or not to dye: biochemistry of annatto unveiled. Trends Biotechnol 2003;21(12):513-6.View Abstract
Júnior AC, Asad LM, Oliveira EB, et al. Antigenotoxic and antimutagenic potential of an annatto pigment (norbixin) against oxidative stress. Genet Mol Res 2005;4(1):94-9.View Abstract
Kang EJ, Campbell RE, Bastian E, et al. Invited review: Annatto usage and bleaching in dairy foods. J Dairy Sci 2010;93(9):3891-901.View Abstract
Oboh G, Akomolafe TL, Adefegha SA, et al. Inhibition of cyclophosphamide-induced oxidative stress in rat brain by polar and non-polar extracts of Annatto (Bixa orellana) seeds. Exp Toxicol Pathol 2010 [Epub ahead of print].View Abstract
Raga DD, Espiritu RA, Shen CC, et al. A bioactive sesquiterpene from Bixa orellana. J Nat Med 2010;[Epub ahead of print].View Abstract
Ribeiro LR, Mantovani MS, Ribeiro DA, et al. Brazilian natural dietary components (annatto, propolis and mushrooms) protecting against mutation and cancer. Hum Exp Toxicol 2006;25(5):267-72.View Abstract
Rodrigues SM, Soares VL, de Oliveira TM, et al. Isolation and purification of RNA from tissues rich in polyphenols, polysaccharides, and pigments of annatto (Bixa orellana L.). Mol Biotechnol 2007;37(3):220-4.View Abstract
Stein HL. Annatto and IBS. J Clin Gastroenterol 2009;43(10):1014-5.View Abstract
Tibodeau JD, Isham CR, Bible KC. Annatto constituent cis-bixin has selective antimyeloma effects mediated by oxidative stress and associated with inhibition of thioredoxin and thioredoxin reductase. Antioxid Redox Signal 2010;13(7):987-97.View Abstract
Zegarra L, Vaisberg A, Loza C, et al. Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study of Bixa orellana in patients with lower urinary tract symptoms associated to benign prostatic hyperplasia. Int Braz J Urol 2007;33(4):493-500; discussion 501.View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017