Chemical Constituents and Uses of Annatto

Source, Morphology and Distribution of Annatto:


English: Arnatto, Lipstick plant, Achiote, Apl...

English: Arnatto, Lipstick plant, Achiote, Aploppas, annatto or pimentao doce Bixa orellana in Hyderabad, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Annatto consists of the dried seeds of the plant Bixa orellana, belonging to the family Bixaceae. These are also known as arnotta, annotta and lipstic pods. The cultivation of this plant is carried out in the countries like Peru, Jamaica, Mexico, Kenya, Brazil and India.


Chemical constituents of Annatto:


English: Open fruit of Bixa orellana, showing ...

English: Open fruit of Bixa orellana, showing the seeds from which Annatto is extracted, photographed in Campinas, Brazil Français : Fruit ouvert de rocouyer (Bixa orellana), montrant ses graines dont on tire le roucou. Photo prise à Campinas, au Brésil. Português: Fruto aberto de Bixa orellana, o urucum, mostrando as sementes com arilos vermelhos, fotografado em Campinas, Brasil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These seeds are covered with aril and contains bixin dye. They contain annatto oleo resin, of them half of them are water souble. Pigments and volatile oil are also present in them. The main constituent of the pigment is bixin, which is a carotenoid carboxylic acid and is responsible for the yellow colour. The other isomers of bixin are isobixin, trans-bixin and nor bixin.


Bixin is naturally present in cis form, it gets converted to trans form during extraction. The pure form of bixin is insoluble in water, but soluble in organic solvents and alkaline aqueous solutions. Oil soluble annatto is available in the market for commercial use. Bixin is a monomethyl ester of nor-bixin, which is a dicarboxylic acid. It gets readily hydrolysed to dicarboxylic acid by alkali during extraction. Annatto extracts are the potassium salts of norbixin.


Bixin is quite stable than the B-carotene in the tinctorial strength. It loses this strength on storage. Light and heat has adverse effects on its tinctorial power. It is more stable at pH 8.


Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits of Annatto:

English: Lipstick Plant (Bixa orellana / Bixac...

English: Lipstick Plant (Bixa orellana / Bixaceae) at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Ft Myers, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • It is antioxidant and protects against ultra violet light
  • Liver protective
  • Colouring agent for foods, dairy desserts
  • Colouring agent for cosmetics
  • Colouring agent for alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages
  • Used for fats and oils
  • Used in margarine
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