Canthaxanthin

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

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).

Background

  • 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.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

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.

Cancer

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.

Erythropoietic protoporphyria (genetic skin sensitivity to sunlight)

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).

Photosensitivity (sensitivity to light)

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.

Skin pigmentation disorders (problems in skin coloration)

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.

Vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin)

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

Psoriasis

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

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. 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 health care professional.

  • 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.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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.

Safety

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.

Allergies

  • 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

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. 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.

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.

Author Information

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

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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  9. Paetau I, Chen H, Goh NM, et al. Interactions in the postprandial appearance of beta-carotene and canthaxanthin in plasma triacylglycerol-rich lipoproteins in humans. Am.J.Clin.Nutr. 1997;66(5):1133-1143. View Abstract
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  15. White WS, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Erdman, JW, Jr., et al. Pharmacokinetics of beta-carotene and canthaxanthin after ingestion of individual and combined doses by human subjects. J.Am.Coll.Nutr. 1994;13(6):665-671. View Abstract

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.