Health benefits of Achiote (Bixa orellana)



Annatto or Achiote (Bixa orellana), is a shrub native to tropical areas of America which names derives from the name given to this shrub in the Aztecan dialect Nahuatl.

Achiote is mainly known for being the source of the Annatto, also known as roucou, a carotenoid based food colorant used very broadly, specially in the United States, where its commercialization doesn't required certification due to the fact that it is considered a natural colorant [3,4]. The main carotenoid detected in annatto seeds is bixin [6], a carotenoid soluble in fats but not in water. Image: See credits under ref. [21] below.


Family: Bixaceae

Genus: Bixa

Common names: Achiote, Annato, Aploppas


System of Rice Intensification (SRI)



Bihar, an Indian state ranking 12th in terms of geographical size and 3rd in population [1] is breaking the news. As an archaic center of power, learning and culture in ancient India [1] Bihar played a very important role in the development of Indian civilization some hundreds of years ago.

Nowadays Bihar is becoming popular for something completely different but with a potential effect in economic growth, a new system of cultivating and growing rice known as System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which origins go back to the 1980's when a French Jesuit Father, Henri de Laulanié started using it in Madagascar [1].  Image: Rice field & Bamboe on an open fire by Mark Veraart under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0). 


Family: Poaceae

Genus: Oryza

Common name: Asian rice

Tel Kabri, a 3,700-years-old wine cellar


Tel Kabri (Hebrew: תל כברי‎), an archaeological site at the eastern end of the Western Galilee coastal plain, home to one of the largest Middle Bronze Age Canaanite palaces in Israel, has been excavated since 1957 in the search for antiquities and archaeological treasures [4].

Not without reason Tel Kabri was known to be the only place where Minoan-style frescoes were found [4] in a 3,500-year-old Canaanite palace. Now a team of American and Israeli archaeologists may have found there what it seems to be the oldest wine cellar in the Near East


Family: Vitaceae

Genus: Vitis

Common name: Common grape vine


How fungi acquire sugar from plants


World population is constantly increasing and food demands to cope with it will have to as well soon. If the trend continues as predicted by 2050 the world food production will need to double to cope with the increasing growing human population [2]. Will we be able to cope with it?

Well it seems that there are some factors that may have an influence on our future predictions, one of them being the creation of a sustainable intensification of world agriculture, as we saw in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), supported by research and studies that will focus on increasing current productivity of crops by all possible means, including technological innovations and a better understanding of how plant diseases can be better fought and controlled. 

One of the factors that negatively influences crop production are indeed plant diseases. Between 10 and 30% of the global harvest is lost as a consequence of plant diseases [1], a risk that is becoming a threat for global food security [2]. But understanding the biology of plant infection by disease-causing agents, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi is not simple.  Image: See credits under ref. [4] below.


Honey bees self-medicate using plants


Bees have been known to produce some of the best natural products against many ailments, honey. We also heard about propolis, a mixture of resinous products collected by bees from tree buds that was already used by Greeks, Egyptians and others to treat different diseases and actually the source of Caffeic Acid Phenethyl Ester (CAPE), a substance derived from Propolis found in honeybee products, has been found able to inhibit growth of breast cancer stem cells. What we didn´t know yet is that bees also used plants, and more exactly plant resins as propolis to treat fungal infections in their colony [1].

The findings have been published in a press release by the North Carolina State University, and only confirms something that Socrates advocated since long time ago, "Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food". Image: See ref. [7] below.