Bixa orellana • Urucu


Bixa orellana is a plant of South American origin, probably from an extensive area between Guyana and Baia (1). The rainforest tribes have used the entire plant as medicine and decoration for at least several centuries (1,2,3). The carotenoid-based pigment surrounding the seeds is called annatto. The carotenoid norbixin was shown to have anti-oxidant and antimutagenic activity (4). Traditionally, the pigment has for example been considered an antidote against the effect of hydrocyanic acid found in poisonous cassava (2). Extracts of leaves were found to have the highest level of antimicrobial activity compared to other plant parts (5).

(1) Ferrao, JEM (1993) 2nd edition, The Adventure of Plants and the Portuguese Discoveries. EU: 247 p.

(2) Mors, WB, Rizzini, CT and Pereira, NA (2000) Medicinal Plants of Brazil. Reference Publications Inc: 501 p.

(3) Castner, JL, Timme, SL and Duke, JA (1998) A field guide to Medicinal and Useful Plants of the Upper Amazon. 154 p.

(4) Junior AC, Asad LM, Oliveira EB, Kovary K, Asad NR, Felzenszwalb I (2005) Antigenotoxic and antimutagenic potential of an annatto pigment (norbixin) against oxidative stress. Genet Mol Res 4(1): 94-9

(5) Castello MC, Phatak A, Chandra N, Sharon M (2002) Antimicrobial activity of crude extracts from plant parts and corresponding calli of Bixa orellana L. Indian J Exp Biol 40(12): 1378-81