Achiote

Bixa Orellana

Bixa orellana or achiote is a shrub native to Central America. The tree is best known for the orange-red condiment derived from the waxy arils that cover it’s seeds – annatto. You may have experienced this in popular dishes such as cochinita pibil. Although at this time we are currently not offering Bixa Orellana dietas at AYA Healing Retreats. If you are looking for a plant spirit to call to you, or are simply curious for more information, read onwards through our plant directory and learn about the unique benefits of Ajo Sacha.

Bixa Orellana - Achiote - Annatto

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.

23 Uses and Benefits of Achiote

  • Achiote is a powerful, natural, and safe insect repellent
  • Contains antipyretic properties, which will help to reduce fevers
  • A natural aphrodisiac is created from grinding the seeds and consuming the powder
  • May be used as an antidiabetic, helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Bixa Orellana has been used both as an antidiarrheal and laxative
  • Treatment of bronchitis
  • Anti-inflammatory activity which is great for bruises and wounds
  • The leaves can be used for antiemetic therapy during pregnancies
  • A water infusion of cold buds can be used to wash out inflamed eyes
  • In the food industry, Annatto is used to color just about anything from butter, sauces, ice cream, or mac and cheese
  • Annatto is also used among many aborigines as a dye and to color ceramics. The dye is also put on the skin to protect from UV light and mosquitoes
  • The stems and bast have great fibres which are used for rough cordage
  • Recently, Bixa Orellena seed extract has been used in dermatology to treat skin conditions
  • Being quite bitter and astringent, the herb is able to destroy intestinal worms and as a treatment for dysentery
  • Use as an expectortant to expel mucus during a cold or cough
  • Improve digestion
  • The roots are digestive and diuretic, helping control sodium levels and blood pressure
  • A decoction can be taken orally to control asthma
  • Tea brewed from the root is known to fight venereal diseases, oliguria, and jaundice
  • Sap from the bark to treat skin rashes
  • Ground seeds can be applied to burns to reduce blisters and scars
  • Great fire starter when two sticks are rubbed together
  • The bark from the branches yields a gum similar to gum arabic, used as a thickening agent or emulsifier in many products

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