Achiote herb and fruit uses and research Bixa Orellana - Annato - health benefit
January 20 2016 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Achiote is a nonedible fruit from the Amazon forest in Peru, South America. The seeds are used as a dye. These fruits have been found in old civilizations in Peru - such as the ancient cities of Caral and Casma - dating as far back as 5000 years ago. The natives used to mix lime and coca as a powerful inhalant psychedelic and intoxicant.
   Achiotl (Bixa orellana) is a shrub or small tree from the tropical regions of the Americas, also known also by its Tupi name of urucum.

Annatto information
Annatto is a pigment derived from the seeds of Bixa orellana. It has been used from antiquity in South America and for over 100 years in Europe. It is now an important safe additive for a wide range of food, partly finding favor due to its natural origin. Achiote is best known as the source of annatto. The fruit is not edible, but is used for the orange-red pulp that covers the seeds. There appears to be increased human use of annatto, a red yellow food colorant.
   Various plants are used in Caribbean folklore for the treatment of a variety of illnesses including diabetes mellitus. Preliminary investigations of several crude plant extracts have indicated that the annatto (Bixa orellana), among others, does in fact exhibit hypoglycemic properties.

Norbixin is an unusual dicarboxylic water-soluble carotenoid present as a component in the pericarp of the seeds of Bixa orellana (from the Bixaceae family), a tropical shrub commonly found in Brazil. The main carotenoids present in these seeds, bixin and norbixin, form a coloring material, known as annatto, which is mainly used in the food industry. As annatto is only used as a coloring material, most studies of annatto pigments have focused on the determination of annatto levels in food. However these carotenoids have potent antioxidant and antitumor activity.

Achiotl is purported to have aphrodisiac properties.

Other Names: Achiote, Annatto, Achote, Urucu, Beni-No-Ki, Bija, Onoto.

Achiotin is an extract of achiote seeds (Bixa orellana)

Achiote - Annato - Research studies, toxicity
A thirteen-week oral toxicity study of annatto extract (norbixin), a natural food color extracted from the seed coat of annatto (Bixa orellana L.), in Sprague-Dawley rats.
Food Chem Toxicology. 2004.
Daiyu-kai Institute of Medical Science, Nishiazai, Ichinomiya, Japan.
A subchronic oral toxicity study of annatto extract (norbixin), a natural food color, was conducted. Groups of 10 male and 10 female Sprague-Dawley rats were fed annatto extract at dietary levels of 0, 0.1, 0.3 and 0.9% for 13 weeks. There were no treatment-related adverse effects on body weight, food and water consumption, ophthalmology and hematology data. Blood biochemical analysis revealed changes in rats of both sexes confined to the 0.9% and 0.3% groups, including increased alkaline phosphatase, phospholipid, total protein, albumin and albumin/globulin ratio. Marked elevation in absolute and relative liver weights was also found in both sexes of the 0.9% and 0.3% groups, but not the 0.1% group. Hepatocyte hypertrophy was evident and an additional electron microscopic examination demonstrated this to be linked to abundant mitochondria after exposure to a dietary level of 0.9% annatto extract for 2 weeks. Thus, the No-Observed-Adverse-Effect-Level (NOAEL) was judged to be a dietary level of 0.1% (69 mg/kg body weight/day for males, 76 mg/kg body weight/day for females) of annatto extract (norbixin) under the present experimental conditions.

Phytother Res. 2014. Safety and efficacy of Bixa orellana (achiote, annatto) leaf extracts. Bixa orellana leaf preparations have been used for many years by indigenous people for a variety of medicinal applications. Published research studies in animals indicate that various extracts of Bixa leaves exhibit antioxidant, broad antimicrobial (antibacterial and antifungal), anti-inflammatory, analgesic, hypoglycemic, and antidiarrheal activities. No studies have specifically assessed the ability of leaf extracts to inhibit urogenital infections although Bixa products have been used in folkloric medicine to treat gonorrhea and other infections. Few human studies have been conducted and published using Bixa leaf preparations. Many more studies have been conducted and published involving Bixa seed (annatto) extracts than with leaf extracts. No subchronic safety (toxicity) studies have been conducted in animals. A 6 month study in humans given 750 mg of leaf powder per day demonstrated no significant or serious adverse effects. Bixa leaf extracts appear to be safe when given under current conditions of use. However, additional human and animal controlled safety and efficacy studies are needed. In addition, detailed chemical analyses are required to establish structure-function relationships.