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Annatto, sometimes called roucou or achiote, is derived from the seeds of the achiote trees of tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

The seeds are sourced to produce a carotenoid-based yellow to orange food coloring and flavor. Its scent is described as "slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg" and flavor as "slightly nutty, sweet and peppery".

Annatto is commonly used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines as both a coloring and flavoring agent. Central and South American natives use the seeds to make body paint and lipstick. For this reason, the achiote is sometimes called the "lipstick tree".

Food Coloring
Using annatto for color has been a traditional characteristic of Gloucester cheese since the 16th century when producers of inferior cheese used a coloring agent to replicate the orange hue achieved by the best cheesemakers.

In the European Union, annatto has the E number E160b. In the United States, annatto extract is listed as a color additive "exempt from certification" and is informally considered to be a natural coloring. Foods colored with annatto may declare the coloring in the statement of ingredients as "colored with annatto" or "annatto color."

  • In cooking : As condiment , and also dye , if employed in the form of powder obtained by crushing the seeds, usually mixed with a certain content of other grains also broken due to aryl which surrounds the seeds, which gives a characteristic red dye as in cheese rinds: leyden , cheese-the-kingdom and others.
  • In cosmetic : employed in the Amerindian tropical in the preparation of dyes to paint the body with the purpose of protection against the rigors of the sun.
  • In medicine : how medicine herbal medicine , is endowed with numerous features and biochemical properties, implementing it in wide range of cases.
Health Benefits
Annatto is a rich source of tocotrienols, antioxidants that are similar in structure and function to vitamin E. The tocotrienols from annatto and other sources like palm oil and rice bran are the subject of current nutritional and medical research since these compounds are thought to prevent cancer due to their anti-angiogenic effect. The annatto seed, unlike palm oil or rice bran, does not contain any tocopherols so it is a natural source of pure tocotrienol compounds.

In developing countries, particularly in Colombia, people with low income and less access to modern medicine resources use folk medicine and natural remedies for the treatment of common infections. Achiote is also among those herbs used in Colombian folk medicine to treat infections of microbial origin. In addition to the known health benefits exerted by carotenoids, a bioactive sesquiterpene from achiote exhibited moderate anti-fungal activity. Norbixin isomers found in annatto extracts are responsible for the antimicrobial activity specific for Gram positive bacteria.

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