Anatto seeds

Seeds, 100 Ml, 75 Gr from Côte d'Ivoire (SKU 4548)

Annatto seeds are used to obtain a natural orange-red condiment and dye (also called achiote or bijol) obtained from the waxy arils that cover its seeds. This is used in many traditional dishes and other food preparations.  Annatto is known as Achiote in Peru and as Urucum in Brazil.  Throughout the rainforest, indigenous tribes have used Urucum seeds as body paint and as a fabric dye. Body-painting with Urucum remains an important tradition of many Brazilian native tribes.  More information below.

Packed in 100ml plastic pot containing 75 gr.




100 ml


75 gr


max: 2

Annatto (Bixa Orellana) is a profusely fruiting shrub or small tree that grows 5-10 m in height. Approximately 50 seeds grow inside prickly reddish-orange heart-shaped pods at the ends of the branches. The trees are literally covered by these brightly colored pods, and one small annatto tree can produce up to 270 kg of seeds. The seeds are covered with a reddish aril, which is the source of an orange-yellow dye. Annatto is known as Achiote in Peru and as Urucum in Brazil. It grows throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean and can be found in some parts of Mexico as well.

Annatto fruits and seeds are used to obtain a natural orange-red condiment and dye (also called achiote or bijol) obtained from the waxy arils that cover its seeds.  The ground seeds are widely used in traditional dishes in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, such as cochinita pibil, chicken in achiote and caldo de olla. Annatto and its extracts are also used as an industrial food coloring to add yellow or orange color to many products such as butter, cheese, margarine, ice creams, meats, and condiments.  North, Central, and South American natives originally used the seeds to make red body paint and lipstick, as well as a spice. For this reason, the Bixa orellana is sometimes called the lipstick tree.

The species name, Bixa orellana, was given by Linnaeus after the Spanish conquistador, Francisco de Orellana, an early explorer of the Amazon River. The name achiote derives from the Nahuatl word for the shrub, āchiotl [aːˈt͡ʃiot͡ɬ]. It may also be referred to as aploppas, or by its original Tupi name uruku, urucu or urucum ("red color"), which is also used for the body paint prepared from its seeds(1).

Throughout the rainforest, indigenous tribes have used Urucum seeds as body paint and as a fabric dye. Body-painting with Urucum remains an important tradition of many Brazilian native tribes. It was reportedly used for body paint among the native Taínos in Borinquen, Puerto Rico. The use of Achiote hair dye by men of the Tsáchila of Ecuador is the origin of their Spanish name, the Colorados. The Aztec people of Mexico used Achiote seeds as source of a red ink for manuscript painting in the 16th century. It has been traced back to the ancient Mayan Indians, who employed it as a principal colouring agent in foods, for body paints, and as a colouring for arts, crafts, and murals. Although mostly only the seed paste or seed oil is used commercially today, the rainforest tribes have used the entire plant as medicine for centuries. A tea made with Urucum is used as an aphrodisiac and astringent, and to treat skin problems, fevers, dysentery, and hepatitis. The Annatto tree is believed to originate in tropical regions from Mexico to Brazil. It was probably not initially used as a food additive, but for other purposes such as ritual and decorative body painting (still an important tradition in many Brazilian native tribes), sunscreen, and insect repellent, and for medical purposes.

The facial paint with Urucum is an integral part of most tribes from Brazil and South America in general. In many cultures it is part of the daily routine after the morning bath to paint the face with Urucum. There are specific designs that are used as tribal identification and for aligning with spirit animals or the enchanted forces of the forest. There are also more individual designs that they paint on their faces that are particular to each person. The Urucum can also be mixed with other plants and oils for instance for war paint or sweet oils for sexual attraction.

Other names: Bixa Orellana, Achiote, Urucum, Lipstick tree

Annatto seeds are collected from a relatively small tropical evergreen tree that grows 5-10 m high. The leaves are heart-shaped, glossy and provide an attractive background to the large bright pink flowers, which have the appearance of wild roses. Prickly, heart-shaped, scarlet seed-bearing pods form after flowering and, when ripe, split open to reveal a reddish-yellow pulp surrounding about 50 triangular, pyramid-shaped, indented seeds. Dried annatto seeds are about 5 mm long, look like little stones, and are a dark, red-oxide rusty colour. When cut in half, they reveal a white centre coated with the dusty, finger-staining red skin. The aroma is pleasant, sweetish, peppery and has faint overtones of old dry peppermint. The flavour is dry, mild and earthy(2).  It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees(3). More detailed botanical information available here (4).

The colour of Annatto comes from various carotenoid pigments, mainly bixin and norbixin, found in the reddish waxy coating of the seeds. The condiment is typically prepared by grinding the seeds to a powder or paste. Similar effects can be obtained by extracting some of the colour and flavour principles from the seeds with hot water, oil, or lard, which are then added to the food. Annatto and its extracts are now widely used in an artisanal or industrial scale as a colouring agent in many processed food products, such as cheeses, dairy spreads, butter and margarine, custards, cakes and other baked goods, potatoes, snack foods, breakfast cereals, smoked fish, sausages, and more. In these uses, Annatto is a natural alternative to synthetic food colouring compounds, but it has been linked to rare cases of food-related allergies. Annatto is of particular commercial value in the United States because the Food and Drug Administration considers colorants derived from it to be "exempt of certification".

Analysis of annatto seeds indicates that they contain 40% to 45% cellulose, 3.5% to 5.5% sucrose, 0.3% to 0.9% essential oil, 3% fixed oil, 4.5% to 5.5% pigments, and 13% to 16% protein, as well as alpha- and beta-carotenoids and other constituents. Annatto oil is extracted from the seeds and is the main source of pigments named bixin and norbixin, which are classified as carotenoids. Bixin, extracted and used as a food colorant, has been shown to protect against ultraviolet rays and to have antioxidant and liver protective properties in clinical research.

In addition to bixin and norbixin, annatto contains bixaghanene, bixein, bixol, crocetin, ellagic acid, ishwarane, isobixin, phenylalanine, salicylic acid, threonine, tomentosic acid, and tryptophan[1].

[1] Annato 
[2] Annatto
[3] Achiote
[4] Bixa Orellana
[5] Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Bixa orellana L. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 11 April 2019.

This natural product is offered for its ethnographic and historical value and is delivered with no expressed or implied fitness for a specific purpose. It is simply a raw botanical specimen, or a scientific sample. The information provided is purely meant for historical, scientific and educational purposes and should never be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific use. The use and application of our product is at the customer's decision, responsibility and risk.
Read our Terms & Conditions for more details.