Lipstick Tree

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লটকন / Lipstick Tree

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লটকন / সিন্থরগাছ / সিন্দুর / লটকা / দেশি জাফরান
Anatto/Annatto/Arnatto/Lipstick Tree

Scientific Name : Bixa orellana L
Family: Bixaceae 

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A shurub or small tree Bixa orellana is a plant native to Brazil but grows in other regions of South and Central America. It is grown in tropical countries such as Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, Indonesia, India, Srilanka, Kenya,Philippine and East Africa. There is no relation of this shrub/tree with our local fruit “LATKON” In some of the Pacific islands, it is an introduced species which has become an invasive one, and it is classed as invasive in Hawaii. In Bangladesh this grows all over the country.

The name Bixa orellana is derived from Francisco de Orellana, a 16tth century Spanish explorer.

Bixa orellana/Lipstick tree  Grows 5 to 10 m tall. Its leaves are alternate, acuminate and entire. They are 8 to 12 cm long and 8 cm wide. The pinkish-white flowers are grouped in terminal clusters. They have 5 petals. The fruit is an ovoid brown capsule, 3 to 5 cm long, covered in soft, innocuous spines. Each fruit contains about 50 red seeds.

The pinkish white flowers develop into bright red heart shaped, exceedingly bristly fruit. When ripe the fruit capsule breaks open and reveals an abundance of seeds embedded in orange-red pulp. The bush produces copious amounts of fruit: a single tree can yield up to 270kg

Flowering Season : April – May

Lipstick tree flowers open before dawn, when they are visited by large bees. Smaller bees also visit them in the morning. These insects harvest the abundant pollen from the flowers, which do not produce any nectar. The flowers fade around noon and the corolla drops off in late afternoon.
Lipstik tree has nectar-bearing glands on the branches, knots and flower and fruit stems. These glands are active on the branches when the leaves are very young. On the stems, they are active from the time flowering starts until the tree has finished producing fruit. The ants attracted by these sweet secretions protect the tree from herbivorous insects. Birds eat the seeds. Neither vines nor epiphytes grow on this tree.

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In history ancient Maya and Aztecs regarded it as a symbolic substitute for blood and thus ascribed to it sacred connotations. It was also used to make ink and virtually all the ancient Maya scriptures were penned in annatto juice. The seeds also have a reputation as a female aphrodisiac and are believed to make bulls used for bullfighting more aggressive. The whole tree has a long history as a valued medicinal plant that has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions from fevers to cancer.

Indigenous people still use the pulp for ‘cosmetic purposes’, as hair dye or lip stick, that is why in English the common name of the tree is  ‘Lipstick tree’.

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In the food industry, it is used to color butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sauces, mustard, sausage, soup, juice, ice cream, bakery products, macaroni, and cheese. It is also widely used in the printing industry and dye manufacturing. Many Aborigines use annatto for dyeing, where the dye is naturally obtained as a mixture and used to color ceramics and other vases for domestic use. In addition indigenous people use this dye on their skin to beautify themselves during religious rituals and also to protect themselves from mosquitoes that infest forests. As the Saffron is expensive and annatto used for food coloring and widely available and cheap that is reason it is called as “ Poor men’s Saffron”.

Thus, despite the different culture and traditions among the countries in South and Central America, several of the popular uses of Bixa orellana are the same, for example, antipyretic, aphrodisiac, antidiarrheal, antidiabetic, and insect repellent. Believed it can also protect skin from ultraviolet radiation

Although its history of use as a food coloring is well established worldwide, current trends show that it is used increasingly in body care products. Annatto oil is an emollient, and its high carotenoid content provides beneficial antioxidant properties. In body care products, annatto oil provides antioxidant benefits while adding a rich, sunny color to creams, lotions, and shampoos.
Analysis of annatto seeds suggest 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.

Below table show the use of  Bixa orellana  as medicine show its importance and  medicinal Value :

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Please note above table used as reference only.

The information provided above is not intended to be used as a guide for treatment of medical conditions using plants.

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  1. (Dunham, N. W. et al. A preliminary pharmacologic investigation of the roots of Bixa orellana. J. Amer. Pharm. Ass. Sci. Ed. 1960.)
  2. (Morrison, E. Y., et al. Extraction of an hyperglycaemic principle from the annatto (Bixa orellana), a medicinal plant in the West Indies. Trop. Georg. Med. 1991.)
  3. (Morrison, E. Y., et al. Toxicity of the hyperglycaemic-inducing extract of the annatto (Bixa orellana) in the dog. West Indian Med. J. 1985.)
  4. (Morrison, E. Y., et al. The effect of Bixa orellana (annatto) on blood sugar levels in the anaesthetized dog. West Indian Med. J.1985.)
  5. (Terashima, S., et al. Studies on aldose reductase inhibitors from natural products. IV. Constituents and aldose reductase inhibitory effect of Chrysanthemum morifolium, Bixa orellana and Ipomoea batatas. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 1991.)
  6. (Traditional Uses, Chemical Constituents, and Biological Activities ofBixa orellanaL.: A Review from The National Center for Biotechnology (
  7. Useful plants of Bangladesh – Dr. Tapan Kumar dey
  8. প্রকৃতি সমগ্র – দ্বিজেন শর্মা
  9. Trees of India – C.k.Warman
  10. Encyclopedia of Herbs & their uses – Deni Brown
  11. বাংলার শত ফুল – Mokaram Hossain
  12. www.wikipedia .org