Acafrao, Acafroa, Acafroeira de Terra, Achiote, Achioti, Achiotillo, Achote, Achote of the Mountain, Analto, Anatto, Annatto Orellana, Annato, Annotta, Arbre Rouge à Lèvre, Arnotta, Atole, Axiote, Bicha, Bico de Calango, Bija, Bixa orellana, Bixa, Bijo, Bijol, Black Grain, Caituco, Cascaverde, Cascavermelha, Chacangaricua, Graopreto, Green Peel, Guajachote, Koessewee, Latkan, Lipstick Tree, Lizard Beak, Onotillo, Onoto, Onotto, Orlean, Pimentao Doce, Pumacua, Red Bark, Rocou, Rocouyer, Roucou, Santo-Domingo, Urucu, Urucum.


Overview Information

Annatto is a plant. The seed, leaf, and root are used to make medicine.

Annatto is used for enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), diabetes, stomach problems, skin problems, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

In foods, annatto is used as a coloring agent.

How does it work?

Annatto contains chemicals that might act as antioxidants or kill bacteria. Also, some chemicals in annatto might change the way the body uses sugar.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Insufficient Evidence for

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of annatto for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Annatto seed extract is LIKELY SAFE for most people when used in food amounts. The leaf powder is POSSIBLY SAFE when used at doses of up to 750 mg daily for 12 months. There isn't enough reliable information to know if annatto seed is safe to use in the larger amounts found in medicine or what the side effects might be.

When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if annatto is safe or what the side effects might be.

When applied into the eyes: There isn't enough reliable information to know if annatto is safe or what the side effects might be.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if annatto is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Diabetes: Annatto might increase or decrease blood sugar levels. Monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use annatto as a medicine. The dose of your diabetes medication may need to be changed.

Surgery: Annatto might affect blood sugar levels. This has raised some concern that it might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using annatto as a medicine at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.



Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

  • Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with ANNATTO

    Annatto might increase blood sugar. Diabetes medications are used to lower blood sugar. By increasing blood sugar, annatto might decrease the effectiveness of diabetes medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
    Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.



The appropriate dose of annatto depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for annatto. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

View References


  • De Oliveira, A. C., Silva, I. B., Manhaes-Rocha, D. A., and Paumgartten, F. J. Induction of liver monooxygenases by annatto and bixin in female rats. Braz.J Med Biol Res 2003;36(1):113-118. View abstract.
  • Ebo, D. G., Ingelbrecht, S., Bridts, C. H., and Stevens, W. J. Allergy for cheese: evidence for an IgE-mediated reaction from the natural dye annatto. Allergy 2009;64(10):1558-1560. View abstract.
  • Fernandes, A. C., Almeida, C. A., Albano, F., Laranja, G. A., Felzenszwalb, I., Lage, C. L., de Sa, C. C., Moura, A. S., and Kovary, K. Norbixin ingestion did not induce any detectable DNA breakage in liver and kidney but caused a considerable impairment in plasma glucose levels of rats and mice. J Nutr Biochem 2002;13(7):411-420. View abstract.
  • Galindo-Cuspinera, V., Westhoff, D. C., and Rankin, S. A. Antimicrobial properties of commercial annatto extracts against selected pathogenic, lactic acid, and spoilage microorganisms. J Food Prot. 2003;66(6):1074-1078. View abstract.
  • Hagiwara, A., Imai, N., Ichihara, T., Sano, M., Tamano, S., Aoki, H., Yasuhara, K., Koda, T., Nakamura, M., and Shirai, T. 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 Toxicol 2003;41(8):1157-1164. View abstract.
  • Levy, L. W., Regalado, E., Navarrete, S., and Watkins, R. H. Bixin and norbixin in human plasma: determination and study of the absorption of a single dose of Annatto food color. Analyst 1997;122(9):977-980. View abstract.
  • Morrison, E. Y., Thompson, H., Pascoe, K., West, M., and Fletcher, C. Extraction of an hyperglycaemic principle from the annatto (Bixa orellana), a medicinal plant in the West Indies. Trop.Geogr.Med 1991;43(1-2):184-188. View abstract.
  • Nish, W. A., Whisman, B. A., Goetz, D. W., and Ramirez, D. A. Anaphylaxis to annatto dye: a case report. Ann.Allergy 1991;66(2):129-131. View abstract.
  • Nunez, V., Otero, R., Barona, J., Saldarriaga, M., Osorio, R. G., Fonnegra, R., Jimenez, S. L., Diaz, A., and Quintana, J. C. Neutralization of the edema-forming, defibrinating and coagulant effects of Bothrops asper venom by extracts of plants used by healers in Colombia. Braz.J Med Biol Res 2004;37(7):969-977. View abstract.
  • Otero, R., Nunez, V., Barona, J., Fonnegra, R., Jimenez, S. L., Osorio, R. G., Saldarriaga, M., and Diaz, A. Snakebites and ethnobotany in the northwest region of Colombia. Part III: neutralization of the haemorrhagic effect of Bothrops atrox venom. J.Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):233-241. View abstract.
  • Paumgartten, F. J., De Carvalho, R. R., Araujo, I. B., Pinto, F. M., Borges, O. O., Souza, C. A., and Kuriyama, S. N. Evaluation of the developmental toxicity of annatto in the rat. Food Chem Toxicol 2002;40(11):1595-1601. View abstract.
  • Rojas, J. J., Ochoa, V. J., Ocampo, S. A., and Munoz, J. F. Screening for antimicrobial activity of ten medicinal plants used in Colombian folkloric medicine: a possible alternative in the treatment of non-nosocomial infections. BMC.Complement Altern Med 2006;6:2. View abstract.
  • Russell, K. R., Morrison, E. Y., and Ragoobirsingh, D. The effect of annatto on insulin binding properties in the dog. Phytother Res 2005;19(5):433-436. View abstract.
  • Russell, K. R., Omoruyi, F. O., Pascoe, K. O., and Morrison, E. Y. Hypoglycaemic activity of Bixa orellana extract in the dog. Methods Find.Exp.Clin.Pharmacol. 2008;30(4):301-305. View abstract.
  • Shilpi, J. A., Taufiq-Ur-Rahman, M., Uddin, S. J., Alam, M. S., Sadhu, S. K., and Seidel, V. Preliminary pharmacological screening of Bixa orellana L. leaves. J Ethnopharmacol 11-24-2006;108(2):264-271. View abstract.
  • Zegarra, L., Vaisberg, A., Loza, C., Aguirre, R. L., Campos, M., Fernandez, I., Talla, O., and Villegas, L. 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. View abstract.
  • Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 -- Substances Generally Recognized As Safe. Available at:
  • Koc E, Arca E, Surucu B, Kurumlu Z. An open, randomized, controlled, comparative study of the combined effect of intralesional triamcinolone acetonide and onion extract gel and intralesional triamcinolone acetonide alone in the treatment of hypertrophic scars and keloids. Dermatol Surg 2008;34(11):1507-14. View abstract.
  • Raddatz-Mota D, Pérez-Flores LJ, Carrari F, et al. Achiote (Bixa orellana L.): a natural source of pigment and vitamin E. J Food Sci Technol 2017;54(6):1729-1741. View abstract.
  • Raintree tropical plant database, Amazon plants. (Accessed 30 July 1999).
  • Rivera-Madrid R, Aguilar-Espinosa M, Cárdenas-Conejo Y, Garza-Caligaris LE. Carotenoid derivates in achiote (Bixa orellana) seeds: synthesis and health promoting properties. Front Plant Sci 2016;7:1406. View abstract.
  • Roehrs M, Conte L, da Silva DT, et al. Annatto carotenoids attenuate oxidative stress and inflammatory response after high-calorie meal in healthy subjects. Food Res Int. 2017;100(Pt 1):771-779. View abstract.
  • Stein HL. Annatto and IBS. J Clin Gastroenterol 2009;43(10):1014-5. View abstract.
  • Stohs SJ. Safety and efficacy of Bixa orellana (achiote, annatto) leaf extracts. Phytother Res 2014;28(7):956-60. View abstract.
  • Vilar Dde A, Vilar MS, de Lima e Moura TF, et al. Traditional uses, chemical constituents, and biological activities of Bixa orellana L.: a review. Scientific World Journal 2014;2014:857292. View abstract.

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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
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