Annatto, the multipupose Lipstick tree and its health benefits. A boon for the Indian farmers

Annatto (Bixa Orellana)   Medical Health Guid
 Among the beauty items used by women to enhance their appearance, lipstick is the most important and widely used cosmetic product across the world and they are available in different shades of colors. Using of lipsticks transcends countries, races and color of the people.

It was about 5000 years ago ancient  Sumerian men and women were possibly the first to introduce and wear lipstick to make them attractive. The ingredients they used were colored gemstones which they crushed them into powder and used to apply on their faces, mainly on the lips and around the eyes, a sort of facial decoration what we now call 'Facial make-up'.  Egyptians  did not fall behind and pretty women like Cleopatra crushed bugs to create a color of red on their lips.   Wearing lipstick was a symbol of social status rather than gender in that country. The women  in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization made a different approach. What they did was, they  had used rectangular pieces of ocher with bevelled ends as lipstick.
In the case of ancient Greeks, lip paint  was used by the women  and it use was initially restricted to  hookers and courtesans. But, in the later years, women in the high status had begun to wear lipstick  between 700 and 300 BCE with a view to establishing their status in the society.   Greek women in order to color the lips and enhance their look used cosmetics made from dyes containing Tyrian purple, crushed mulberries, and the toxic pigment vermilion. The main and singular purpose of wearing lipstick in the past centuries was to attract men as dating was unknown in the distant past. 

 Generally speaking, a ''Lipstick'' is a cosmetic product containing pigments, oils, waxes, and emollients that apply color, texture, and protection to the lips. Lipstick  that comes with many colors, is also a balm adding hydration so that lips won't go dry.  The name Lipstick   applies to the baton (stick) of material, within a tubular container, usually around 10mm in diameter and 50mm in length. Now,  the term covers  the material itself, regardless of method of application.

Annatto (Bixa Orellana)
The seeds of Annatto  tree  have  bright orange to red pulpy layer, from which  commercial color material is extracted. Its botanical name is Bixa orellana and it is known to grow in tropical regions. it s widely grown in south America and the fruit has the appearance of pods, and contain seeds  that are commercially exploited. Experts are of the opinion, among the coloring agents, it is the safest one and does not contain  cancer causing substances.  Hence, Annatto  seeds are extensively used in the cosmetic and food industries, considering their non -toxic aspect and economical production costs. 

In the western countries, the government agencies have taken many artificial coloring  agents off the list as they are health threatening and  there has been an increasing demand for the lipstick seeds world over. Besides, the drug industries have also found them to have many healing properties. The Annatto seed extracts are used to cure digestive, headache, eye-related ailments, weak bone growth, etc.
This green shrub / small tree, indigenous to Central and tropical South America,  are grown in Andhra Prdesh, South India. Thanks to  maverick entrepreneurs  who have  introduced the lipstick seed  in that state  as a plantation crop. The scrubs/trees thrive well    temperatures between 20 and 26 degrees celsius and can withstand up to 40 degrees and an annual rainfall of 1250 - 2000 mm. Ripening takes place during the dry season. Many plantations have come up in Telengana and Andhra states  The plantations at Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Nellore and Chittoor are  just 1 -3 years old and  new drip irrigation methods are being followed to sustain
the plantations. They are known to grow  in a variety of soils  and the important requirement is good  drainage. The nutritional requirements are not high for this crop. Good pigment content and better yields are important based on which the plant  is propagated by cutting. Initially the seeds may be either sown directly in the field or raised in a nursery but this can result in high variability. As for Andhra Pradesh,   the plantations are raised by seeds only. The advantages are there no weed controls. Nor is application of fertilizer necessary.

Lipstick tree, Krishi Jagran
Pruning plays a major role to produce canopy which is easy to harvest.  Under given suitable condition, the first harvest is done after 18-24 months. Seed capsules appear 30 days after planting in the Herbal Folklore Research Center (HFRC) demonstration plantation. Ripening is yet another process and it takes 3 long months.  The best sowing period is June - July. The harvesting period is February - March. The yields peak after 4 to 5 years and the plants are productive for 20 long years. 

 According to the HFRC spacing of plants in the  the plantation is very important  and the spacing of 10 x 10 ft.  will  normally yield 500 kg to 2000 kg of dry seeds / ha /year. For the individual trees with dried seeds, the yield is between 0.5 to 3 kg/per year.  The yield of   2 - 3 kg/tree is good for the farmers. Food industries consume lots of  extracts made from Annatto plants and the coloring agents from these seeds are used in the production of    cheese, butter, other dairy products and in margarine, fish products, salad dressings, confectionery , bakery products, ice creams, beverages, and snacks.Mind you,  Bixin and non-Bixin pigments which impart grey or orange  color are free from cancer-causing substances. 
Let us go into the medicinal value of this wonder plant.
Annatto is known to have long history of  health benefits and the seeds are often sought by the drug companies world over. 

Healing of Wound:  washing of
burn wounds, cuts, etc by the concoction of leaves  produces good results.

Stomach problems:  Extract of leaves and bark is used as purgative in dysentery, stomach ache, vomiting and nausea, acid reflux and other stomach problems.

Gonorrhea: Poultice of leaves are used to treat gonorrheaFever.

Periods:  Annatto bark and branches are known  to improve menstrual flow and  reduce menstrual pain.

Vaginal wash.  Annatto is used as a vaginal antiseptic  in south American countries. .

Diabetes: it improves blood sugar level in the case of diabetes patients.

Poison antidote:  Extracts from Annatto leaves, roots and barks are useful   as antidote  to treat  cassava poisoning. Jatropha poisoning and allergy from sandbox tree.

The other uses are: treatment of headache, sore throat, snake bites, Aphrodisiac. Annato seeds are known  as libido enhancer. control of cough, control of prostrate enlargement (leaves are taken 3 times a day, treatment of heat stroke ( decoction is used). to control bleeding (Blood coagulant), etc. The extract from the seeds has anti cancer activity, antioxidant activity and antimicrobial activity.