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Annatto is a sort of meals coloring created from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana).

Although it will not be well-known, an estimated 70% of pure meals colours are derived from it (1).

Along with its culinary makes use of, annatto has lengthy been utilized in many elements of South and Central America for artwork, as a beauty, and to deal with numerous medical situations (1).

This text critiques the makes use of, advantages, and unwanted side effects of annatto.

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Annatto is an orange-red meals coloring or condiment created from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), which grows in tropical areas in South and Central America (1).

It has a number of different names, together with achiote, achiotillo, bija, urucum, and atsuete.

It’s mostly used as a pure meals coloring, because it imparts a vibrant shade that ranges from yellow to deep orange-red, much like saffron and turmeric.

Its shade comes from compounds referred to as carotenoids, that are pigments which can be discovered within the seed’s outer layer and plenty of different vegatables and fruits, equivalent to carrots and tomatoes.

Moreover, annatto is used as a condiment to boost the flavour of dishes attributable to its barely candy and peppery style. Its aroma is finest described as nutty, peppery, and floral.

It is available in a number of varieties, together with powder, paste, liquid, and as an important oil.


Annatto is a sort of meals coloring agent and condiment that’s created from the seeds of the achiote tree. Its vibrant shade comes from compounds referred to as carotenoids.

This pure meals coloring has been related to numerous potential well being advantages.

Antioxidant properties

Annatto incorporates quite a few plant-based compounds with antioxidant properties, together with carotenoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and tocotrienols (2, 3, 4, 5).

Antioxidants are compounds that may neutralize doubtlessly dangerous molecules often known as free radicals, which might harm your cells if their ranges rise too excessive.

Analysis has discovered that harm attributable to excessive free radical ranges is linked to power situations, equivalent to cancers, mind problems, coronary heart illness, and diabetes (6).

Antimicrobial properties

Analysis means that this meals coloring might have antimicrobial properties.

In test-tube research, annatto extracts have been proven to inhibit the expansion of assorted micro organism, together with Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (7, 8).

In one other test-tube examine, annatto killed numerous fungi, together with Aspergillus niger, Neurospora sitophila, and Rhizopus stolonifer. Furthermore, including the dye to bread inhibited the expansion of fungi, extending the bread’s shelf life (9).

Equally, one examine discovered that pork patties that have been handled with annatto powder had much less microbe development than untreated patties after 14 days in storage (10).

This analysis signifies that this meals coloring might have a promising function in meals preservation.

Might have anticancer properties

Early analysis suggests annatto has cancer-fighting potential.

For instance, test-tube research have discovered that extracts of this meals coloring might suppress most cancers cell development and induce cell demise in human prostate, pancreas, liver, and pores and skin most cancers cells, amongst different sorts of most cancers (11, 12, 13, 14).

The potential anticancer properties of annatto have been linked to compounds it incorporates, together with the carotenoids bixin and norbixin, and tocotrienols, a sort of vitamin E (2, 11, 13).

Whereas these findings are promising, human research are wanted to analyze these results.

Might promote eye well being

Annatto is excessive in carotenoids, which can profit eye well being (15).

Specifically, it’s excessive within the carotenoids bixin and norbixin, that are discovered within the outer layer of the seed and assist give it its vibrant yellow-to-orange shade (16).

In an animal examine, supplementing with norbixin for Three months lowered the buildup of the compound N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine (A2E), which has been linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (17).

AMD is the main explanation for irreversible blindness amongst older adults (17).

Nevertheless, human research are wanted earlier than annatto may be beneficial for this goal.

Different potential advantages

Annatto might supply different advantages, together with:

  • Might assist coronary heart well being. Annatto is an effective supply of vitamin E compounds referred to as tocotrienols, which can shield towards age-related coronary heart points (18).
  • Might scale back irritation. A number of test-tube research point out that annatto compounds might scale back quite a few markers of irritation (19, 20, 21).


Annatto has been linked to a number of potential well being advantages, equivalent to wholesome eyes, higher coronary heart well being, and lowered irritation. It might even have antioxidant, anticancer, and antimicrobial properties.

Annatto has been used for hundreds of years for numerous functions.

Historically, it was used for physique portray, as sunscreen, as an insect repellant, and for treating problems, equivalent to heartburn, diarrhea, ulcers, and pores and skin points (22).

In the present day, it’s primarily used as a pure meals coloring and for its taste profile.

For instance, this pure meals additive is current in numerous industrial meals, equivalent to cheeses, butter, margarine, custards, truffles, and baked merchandise (23).

In lots of areas of the world, annatto seeds are floor up right into a paste or powder and mixed with different spices or seeds in numerous dishes. As such, it’s an vital ingredient in cochinita pibil, a standard Mexican slow-roasted pork dish.

In contrast with synthetic meals colorings, annatto presents antioxidants and has different advantages.

Plus, its seeds can be utilized to make important oils which can be utilized in aromatherapy and will have antimicrobial results.

Nevertheless, it’s vital to notice that important oils are supposed to be inhaled or utilized to the pores and skin. They shouldn’t be swallowed as this may be dangerous (22, 24).


Annatto has been historically used for numerous functions, together with in artwork, cooking, and drugs. Nonetheless, its major use in the present day is as a meals coloring and so as to add taste to dishes.

Generally, annatto seems to be secure for most individuals (25).

Although it’s unusual, some individuals might expertise an allergic response to it, particularly if they’ve identified allergy symptoms to crops within the Bixaceae household (25).

Signs embrace itchiness, swelling, low blood strain, hives, and abdomen ache (26).

In some conditions, annatto might set off signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (27).

Pregnant or breastfeeding girls shouldn’t devour it in quantities larger than these usually present in meals, as there aren’t sufficient research on its security in these populations.

In case you expertise any uncomfortable unwanted side effects whereas consuming this meals coloring or merchandise that comprise it, cease utilizing them instantly and converse to your healthcare supplier.


Generally, annatto seems to be secure for most individuals, however there may be not sufficient info to make sure its security in sure populations.

Annatto is a pure meals additive that has been linked to varied advantages, together with lowered irritation, improved eye and coronary heart well being, and antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.

But, human research on its advantages and unwanted side effects are missing, and extra analysis is required earlier than it may be beneficial for well being causes.