The annatto or achiote tree is a tropical shrub that originated in Central and South America with the scientific name Bixa orellana.
Today the tree has spread to many part of the word and it is largely cultivated in
commercial quantity in West Africa regions, also Kenya and Angola respectfully.
The flowers of this tropical tree are white or bright pink, but the seeds are actually the most wanted part of the plant, it also bears fruit in spiky looking pods, which grow in clusters.
When the achiote fruit has ripened, it falls from the tree. Although the fruit is inedible, the seeds inside can be eaten. The thin red pulp surrounding the seeds has a taste resembling fresh pepper and a twist of nutmeg.
Every one of these pods contains an abundance of seeds covered in a waxy red aril,
when those pods dry and crack open, they expose seeds of a red color, from which red pigment can be extracted, a carotenoid called bixin, and has wide array of applications.
Annatto seed extract pigmentation, makes it a natural food dye, and it has plenty of applications in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food industries, and also inhibits numerous medicinal and herbal benefits.
In these uses, annatto is a natural alternative to synthetic food coloring compounds; food coloring, or color additive, is any dye, pigment or substance that imparts color when it is added to food or drink. They come in many forms consisting of liquids, powders, gels, and paste.
Food coloring is used both in commercial food production and in domestic cooking. Food colorants are also used in a variety of non-food applications including cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
The red color of annatto seeds and the pigment extracted from them is due to
the carotenoid content of those seeds. Bixins are powerful carotenoids and is between 70 to 80 percent weight of total annatto seed.
The health benefits derived from Achiote annatto seed extracts bixin, when consumed is enormous and that includes; healthy digestion, improved vision, strengthen bones, prevent birth defects, promote wound healing, stomach issues, and possible anti-cancer aids.
Studies have demonstrated that people who consume more carotenoids are less at risk
of developing serious illnesses and are likely to live longer and healthier lives.