Flower of Annatto - Bixa Orellana (Bixaceae)

Medicinal Use of Annatto – Bixa Orellana (Bixaceae)


Evergreen tree growing to 26 ft (8 m). Has large leaves, pink or white flowers, and red fruit capsules containing red seeds.

Habitat & Cultivation

Native to tropical forests in the Americas and the West Indies, annatto is widely cultivated in similar climatic zones, notably in India. Seeds are collected as the fruit splits open.

Parts Used

Seeds, leaves, root.


The seed pulp contains carotinoid coloring principles.

History & Folklore

In tropical South America, the brilliant red pigment in the seed pulp has traditionally been used in body painting. Annatto dye is also used as a colorant for margarine and cheese.

Medicinal Actions & Uses

In the Caribbean, annatto leaves and roots are used to make an astringent infusion that is taken to treat fever, epilepsy, and dysentery. The infusion is also taken as an aphrodisiac. The leaves alone make an infusion that is used as a gargle. The seed pulp reduces the severity of blistering when applied immediately to burns. Taken internally, the seed pulp acts as a general antidote for poisoning.