Cochineal is an insect that reproduces on the pads of cactus fruit, and from which a crimson red color extract or Cochineal Carmine is obtained. Therefore, they are not exactly the same, although sometimes there is some confusion because in order to talk about Cochineal Carmine we need to talk first about Cochineal. Cochineal is used mainly for the extraction of a coloring that is made of two substances known as carmine and carminic acid.
Carmine is used as a pigment or as a coloring. When used as a coloring (solid), its coloring method is by dispersion (distribution of the color throughout the chosen material) and its coloring strength is not proportional to its purity. On the other hand, when used as pigment (liquid), its coloring method is by dissolution and its coloring strength is directly proportional to its purity.
Although the use of this natural coloring began in Peru, in pre-Inca times, its use is still very popular nowadays, especially for the excellent coloring power characterizing it. This coloring is used to give red or pink color to several foods requiring this tone to look more appealing, such as hamburgers, sausages (chorizos), crab sticks, fish and seafood substitutes, alcoholic drinks (like Campari), non-alcoholic drinks such as fruit juices, powdered drinks and energy drinks, jelly, jams, cherries, powdered soups, etc.
It is also used to provide color to cosmetics, such as facial powders, eyeliners and lipsticks, eye shadows, etc. Carmine powder or solution is used in the preparation of pills and tablets. As an alkaline solution, it is used in toothpastes, mouthwashes, etc.
Carmine can even be used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints and crimson ink. For example, a bright red coloring and carmine stain, used in microbiology, are commonly made with carmine extract.