- Family Bixaceae
- Bixa orellana
- Lipstick Tree, Achiote, Onoto, Achiotl (Nahuatl), Ku-xub (Maya).
- None listed
Native to the tropical forests in the Americas and West Indies, annatto still grows in Central and South America as well as the Carribbean. It is widely cultivated in similar climatic zones, especially in India. Annatto is an evergreen shrub or small tree that can reach thirty feet, producing large leaves, pink or white flowers, and red fruit capsules. The fruits are covered with soft, red bristles that open when ripe to release seeds that are coated with a vermillion-coloured oil. When crushed, the seeds and the pulp surrounding them make a red paste that is used as a food colouring and a fabric dye, as well as providing a pigment for paints.
The spiny, lipstick-red fruits were used by the indigenous peoples of Central and South America to make body paint, a pigment for mural paintings, and an ink. It was also used to colour butter and cheese.
In Belize, annatto is used to colour the rice red.
Amazon tribes use it for body paint and as a protection from insects. They also use it as an aphrodisiac.
- strong diuretic
- The seeds contain carotenoids, major colouring principals
- Seeds, leaves, root
- In vitro, it appears to inhibit E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
In the Caribbean, the leaves and roots are used to make an astringent infusion that is taken to treat fever, epilepsy, and dysentery. The leaves alone are infused to make a gargle.
The seed pulp reduces blistering when immediately applied to a burn.
Taken internally, the seed pulp acts as an antidote for poisonings. Ethnobotanists have confirmed that ingestion of the seeds has served as an antote for certain plant poisons in Venezuela, the Amazon, and the Yucatán.
Achiote is a classic flavouring in the cuisines of the Caribbean and the Yucatán Peninsula. The seeds are crushed with garlic, pepper, and sometimes a little vinegar and oregano to make a paste that is added to soups, stews, and other dishes.
Medicinally, it is made into a topical treatment for bites, sores, rashes, and burns. In parts of Mexico, it is used as an insect repellent.
In Brazil and Mexico, it is used as a diuretic, astringent, and purgative, and by some indigenous peoples of South America for diarrhea and dysentery.
In the Caribbean areas, it has long been used in baths. As a tea, it is used for removing intestinal worms; and some Caribbean cultures have used annatto to treat diabetic conditions, as it seems to be able to lower blood sugar levels.