Annotto (Achiote) Seeds Are Not Just For Making Lipstick!

What Is Annotto?

The annatto plant is native to Central America and Mexico. It grows from tropical lowlands into forested mountainsides where it produces small pink flowers with red centers. The leaves are edible and have been used in South American cuisine since pre-Columbian times. They are eaten raw or cooked like spinach.

In the United States, annatto is cultivated for its oil which is used in cosmetics and food products such as margarine, salad dressings, and even toothpaste. However, the plant’s culinary uses are not limited to just cosmetic use alone. Annatto seeds contain high levels of essential fatty acids which may improve blood cholesterol levels and lower triglyceride levels in humans.

These effects have been demonstrated in animals but human studies are lacking.

Although there is no scientific evidence showing that annatto seeds can prevent heart disease, they do seem to protect against certain types of cancer. Annatto seeds may also reduce the risk of developing diabetes mellitus type 2 (T2DM). Animal research suggests that annatto seeds may decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels in humans.

Annatto is a natural food dye that can be used as a substitute for artificial dyes. Annatto seeds are often used to give a butter-like color to many different types of food products such as margarine, snack foods, pastes, and cheese. It is also used as a coloring agent in many pet foods.

There are several different types of annatto plants, and not all of them are suitable for producing the red-orange color. The most common sort used to provide the red-orange color is Bixa orellana. It is native to the Caribbean and tropical regions of Central and South America.

It is the only type that can produce a dye that can be used as a food additive.

Annatto plants contain several different pigments that are used for coloring purposes. The most common ones are bixin and norbixin. These fat-soluble dyes can be used on fat-based foods such as butter, cheese, oil, and other fats.

These dyes are soluble in both water and alcohol. Annatto extracts can be mixed with alcohol and then added to water to create a dye that is soluble in water.

Why Is It Called A Chiote Tree?

The word “annatto” is derived from the Spanish word “achiote”, which is itself derived from the Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) word “athotli”. The plant was originally cultivated in the southern United States by Native Americans who used it as a natural food colorant and as a herbal medicine.

Annatto is sometimes called the “lipstick tree” because the seeds are often used as a red dye to color lips. The red color of annatto seeds can also be used in toothpaste, cosmetics, and other personal care products. Annatto is also used to add a buttery color and flavor to some margarines and cheese.

What Is Annotto – Learn About Growing Achiote Trees -

Annatto plants are small evergreens that typically grow no taller than three feet tall. This plant produces small yellow flowers with protruding stigmas that give off a faint but pleasant smell. Annatto grows best in wet, humid, and hot soil.

It can be propagated by seeds or by cuttings of its stems.

Today, annatto is still grown mainly for personal and commercial use in South and Central America, the Caribbean islands, and in some parts of Mexico. Annatto is sometimes called the “poor man’s saffron” because of its intense color and resemblance to saffron, which is the most expensive spice in the world.

The plant is also cultivated in Southeast Asia, specifically in the southern provinces of China. In many parts of the world, annatto is used as a natural food additive and it is often used as a substitute for saffron because its color and taste are very similar. Annatto is also used in the Philippines to color fish sauce, which is a popular condiment and flavoring agent in many Southeast Asian countries.

How Is Annatto Used In The Manufacturing Of Food?

Annatto can be used as a natural coloring agent for many different types of food such as pastes, dumplings, noodles, margarine, snack foods, cereals, and even some types of cheese. It is used as a yellow dye in the production of cheddar-type cheeses. Most types of processed cheese that are not white usually contain annatto.

A mixture of water and annatto can be used to color butter a deep yellow color. This coloring process does not affect the quality or taste of the butter and it does not have any impact on the nutritional value of the butter.

Annatto is sometimes used as a substitute for saffron, which is the most expensive spice in the world. Annatto can be used to add a yellow or orange coloring to cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. In most cases, a very small amount of annatto is needed to give food a tint of color.

Annatto can also be used in the production of margarine and some processed dairy products such as cheese. Annatto is used in the production of some alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Annatto oil can be derived from the seeds to give drinks such as rum, tequila, and wine a buttery or saffron flavor.

Annatto is also used as a food coloring agent in many types of prepared, preserved, and canned food. It can be used to color pasta, breakfast cereals, snack items, canned tuna and other canned fish, and many other types of food.

Annatto can be used as a natural food coloring agent in soft drinks such as cola and other beverages that are yellow or orange in color. In many cases, a very small amount of annatto is needed to give food a tint of color. Annatto is a popular coloring agent for cheeses and butter.

Annatto can also be used in the production of liquors such as rum and tequila. Annatto oil can be used as flavoring in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer, and other types of drinks.

Sources & references used in this article:

Safety and Efficacy of Bixa orellana (Achiote, Annatto) Leaf Extracts by SJ Stohs – Phytotherapy research, 2014 – Wiley Online Library

Targeting NRF2 for improved skin barrier function and photoprotection: focus on the achiote-derived apocarotenoid bixin by M Rojo De La Vega, A Krajisnik, DD Zhang… – Nutrients, 2017 –

Artefacts and bodies among Kuna people from Panama by P Fortis – Making and growing. Anthropological studies of …, 2014 –

What happens when one cannot afford the Pharmacy bills? Comparative study of medicinal plant consumption in Latin America by IM Madaleno – Pharmacologyonline, 2006 –

Highly structured genetic diversity of Bixa orellana var. urucurana, the wild ancestor of annatto, in Brazilian Amazonia by G Dequigiovanni, SLF Ramos, A Alves-Pereira… – PloS one, 2018 –


Cacao, vanilla and annatto: three production and exchange systems in the Southern Maya lowlands, XVI-XVII centuries by LC Barrera, MA Fernández – Journal of Latin American Geography, 2006 – JSTOR

A Weaver’s Garden: growing plants for natural dyes and fibers by R Buchanan – 1999 –



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