Table of Contents > Herbs & Supplements > Canthaxanthin Print



Related terms

Related Terms
  • C40H52O2,canthaxanthine, carophyll red, carotenoid, carotinoid-N, CI food orange 8, color index no. 40850, E161, nonprovitamin A carotenoid, oxycarotenoid, oxygenated carotenoids, phytochemical, polar carotenoid, polar carotenoid pigment, roxanthin red 10, tanning pills, terpene, xanophyll.
  • Product examples: Canthorex®, Bronze EZee®, ASN Canthaxanthin®, Orobronze®.
  • Combination product examples: Phenoro (2/5 beta-carotene, 3/5 canthaxanthin).

  • Canthaxanthin is a red and pink pigment that is naturally present in both plants and animals. The amount of canthaxanthin appearing on the skin depends on the amount of canthaxanthin consumed in the diet.
  • Like other carotenoids, canthaxanthin may have antioxidant effects.
  • Canthaxanthin collects in the second layer of skin, giving it a darker color and possibly protecting it from the sun.
  • Canthaxanthin may be sold as tanning pills that lack U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
  • Studies show that canthaxanthin may help with cancer, skin pigmentation disorders, and vitiligo.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

Higher blood levels of canthaxanthin and other carotenoids may be related to lower risks of cancer. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.


Canthaxanthin alone or with beta-carotene has been used to improve sensitivity to light in some patients suffering from erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) (a genetic disease with sensitivity to sunlight).


Canthaxanthin with beta-carotene has been studied for its role in protecting skin from sunlight and decreasing polymorphous light eruptions (itchy rash caused by sun exposure). More research on canthaxanthin alone is needed before a conclusion can be made.


Abnormally colored skin treated with canthaxanthin and beta-carotene became more normal in color. More research where canthaxanthin is used alone is needed before a conclusion can be made.


Using canthaxanthin to treating vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin) produced mixed results. More research is needed in order to make any conclusions.


Overall, studies showed a lack of effect of carotenoids, including canthaxanthin, for psoriasis.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Age-related macular degeneration (vision problems), allergies, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cerebral ischemia (reduced blood flow to the brain), cognitive disorders, cosmetic, enhanced immune function, food uses (coloring), neurodegenerative diseases (wasting away of nervous tissue), obesity, preeclampsia (high blood pressure of pregnancy), skin conditions.


Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for canthaxanthin in adults.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for canthaxanthin in children.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Avoid in people with allergy or sensitivity to canthaxanthin or other carotenoids.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Serious side effects from use of canthaxanthin are lacking.
  • Canthaxanthin taken by mouth may result in orange palms, soles, and stool.
  • Aplastic anemia (lack of red blood cells) has been reported after a woman took Orobronze®, which contained canthaxanthin, by mouth to tan her skin. The presence of canthaxanthin in blood may hide symptoms of hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells).
  • Taking canthaxanthin by mouth may result in small spots on the back of the eye. These spots generally did not impair vision, although there were small changes in the electrical responses in the retina and a weakened ability of the eye to see in the dark. The spots disappeared when canthaxanthin was stopped.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of canthaxanthin during pregnancy or lactation.
  • Women with high blood pressure in pregnancy had lower-than-normal canthaxanthin levels in their placentas.


Interactions with Drugs

  • Canthaxanthin taken with beta-carotene by mouth may decrease immune cell formation caused by bleomycin, an anticancer drug. Also, after removal of lung, breast, head and neck, and colon cancers, canthaxanthin given with beta-carotene resulted in a longer time period without cancer than expected.
  • Canthaxanthin may decrease the light-sensitizing effects caused by various drugs or substances that increase sensitivity to light.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Canthaxanthin may interact with anticancer herbs and dietary supplements. After removal of lung, breast, head and neck, and colon cancers, canthaxanthin given with beta-carotene resulted in a longer time period without cancer than expected.
  • Canthaxanthin may contribute to the antioxidant effect from other antioxidant herbs and dietary supplements.
  • Canthaxanthin may decrease the light-sensitizing effects caused by various herbs and dietary supplements that increase sensitivity to light.
  • Canthaxanthin may increase carotenoid concentration in the blood and may alter carotenoid metabolism.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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