A tall, perennial shrub, Bixa Orellana can grow up to 10 meters in height, bearing clusters of bright white and pink flowers at the tip of it’s branches. Spiky red-brown seed pods cluster in ovoid capsules, containing up to 45 seeds in a red aril. Fully matured, the seeds emerge from cracks in the hardened dried pods. Originally, some indigenous tribes of Central and South America began using the seeds for body paint and lip stick – thus giving it the nickname lipstick tree.
During the 17th century, the annatto dye was traded across the world and tropical areas – in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Africa, Hawaii, and more. These nations even began cultivating it themselves for the coveted dyes, and it grows easily in subtropical to tropical climates. However, the majority of the production still lies within Latin America – in Peru, Brazil, and Mexico.
Before synthetic dyes, Bixa orellana was a powerhouse commercial plant for the pigment created from grinding it’s seeds. The pigment is a great substitute for synthetic food colorings as it doesn’t alter the taste or smell. The seeds themselves are used throughout many cuisines globally, adding a subtle flavor and aroma, along with a reddish-orange tinge. Although the seeds are relatively tasteless, they are great for enhancing the flavoring of various dishes, while also containing a fair amount of protein and healthy fats. From the coat of the seeds, a yellow color is yielded, and very likely you will have seen it’s use in the food industry as it is widely used as a coloring for margarine.
As a plant medicine, Achiote has been used in Ayurvedic practices, as well as parts of India where the shrub is revered for it’s therapeutic capacity. The pulp is known to cure cases of jaundice and other kidney diseases.
Interested in seeing more about this magnificent plant? You can take a detailed look through this video.
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Don Miguel was born into a Shipibo community called Roaboya on the River Ucayali. When Don Miguel was a child, Angel Sanchez Vargas, his grandfather was the community’s curandero. Vargas was an expert in sacred plant medicines and was frequently called upon to heal and share his spiritual wisdom with members of Roaboya. The school built some years later was named after Vargas and Roaboya went on to be recognised as the first indigenous community 114 years ago. Don Miguel grew up surrounded by the Shipibo wisdom and possess intimate knowledge of the sacred plant medicines. At a very young age he began his apprenticeship as a curandero through plant dietas under the supportive guidance of his grandfather. Miguel is also a trained literature professor and thoroughly enjoys teaching the Shipibo language and culture. Since 2012, Don Miguel has spent the bulk of his time leading lectures, workshops, initiation courses and retreats. Don Miguel will lead our Ayahuasca ceremonies, circle discussions and be available for personal consultations whilst on retreat.
Our comprehensive screening questionnaire has been developed in partnership with the International Centre for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service (ICEERS). Please take your time to answer it as honestly and with as much detail as possible. This information will remain strictly confidential and will only be used to assess your suitability for a place on retreat with AYA Healing Retreats and keep you safe
Please remember that the purpose of this screening questionnaire is to determine whether plant medicine healing is suitable for you…not whether you are suitable for plant medicine healing. Plant medicines are tools, like any other healing modality and like other tools for healing experiencing them entails certain risks. We need to make sure that our plant medicines will not compromise your wellbeing or harm you in any way before we allow you to begin your healing journey with us. In short, we care about your safety and we need to do what we can to ensure that during your time with us you are not at risk of harm. Plant medicines can be dangerous if the plants are not the right fit for the individual. Your answers to this questionnaire will help us to determine whether the plants we intend to use are going to help, rather than harm you