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Bixa orellana - Achiote


Native to:



Central America and most of South America

Naturally found in grasslands, shrub-lands and forests. 0-2500 meters above sea level. 5 meters tall.

Bixa orellana - Achiote

Ecological value:

Pollinated by bees. Can be grown as a hedge. Drought tolerant: can withstand 4 months of drought. Can grown in a wide range of soils, but prefers moist, well-drained soil. Starts fruiting at 2 years of age.

Material uses:

Red and yellow pigment. Used in cooking, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry. Color fades when exposed to light and air. Gum and fiber for cord from bark. Dye is rich in carotenoid pigments. 80% consists of bixin (red) and norbixin/orelline (yellow). 20-50 kg dye from 1 kg seed.

Edible uses:

Used as a food coloring.

Medicinal use:

Rich in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Treats ailments related to stomach, viral, skin and heart issues in addition to snake bites. Bixin from seed shell used as an insect repellent.

Other details:

Also grown as ornamental. Can be heavily pruned. Used as body and hair paint amongst indigenous tribes. Source of fuelwood. There are six species in this genus, native to the Americas.


Sam Schillinger/Jemma Bridges


“Bixa Orellana L. | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science.” n.d. Plants of the World Online. Accessed November 28, 2023.
“Bixa Orellana - Useful Tropical Plants.” n.d.
Uphof. J. C. Th., ‘Dictionary of Economic Plants’, Weinheim, 1959
Mors W.B.; Rizzini C.T.; Pereira N.A. , ‘Medicinal Plants of Brazil’, Reference Publications; Michigan, 2000
Image source: Mokkie

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