Achiote is a shrub or small, woody tree that grows to 30 feet in height and fruits prolifically. It is best known as the source of the natural pigment and flavoring agent annatto, which comes from the orange-red pulp covering the seeds contained within its spine-covered fruits. It is sometimes called "lipstick tree", due to its lipstick-shaped, deep pink or light red flowers.
WHERE IT CAN BE FOUND:
Mexico, Central America, South America, Caribbean, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Southeast Africa, Florida, Hawaii
PROPERTIES AND USE:
Anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, antiparasitic, antibacterial, febrifuge, hepatoprotective, diuretic, hypoglycemic, reduces acid, lowers cholesterol, cleanses blood, soothes membranes, heals wounds and skin conditions, fights free radicals. Treats diarrhea and dysentery, prostate disorders, infected insect bites, swelling, eye infections, cough.
For diarrhea and dysentery, crush 3 young achiote leaves in 1 glass water, strain, and take in two doses. For swelling, enter a cool herbal bath in which 9 leaves are placed. For conjunctivitis, squeeze the juice from fresh leaves directly into the eye. For inflammation, hypertension, high cholesterol, and prostate disorders, boil 8 to 10 dried leaves in 1 liter water for 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup three times daily after meals. A decoction of the leaves is used as an antibiotic by the Maya of Honduras and Guatemala.
ACHIOTE OIL Makes 3/4 cup
The golden oil found in most Latin American pantries is Achiote Oil, which lends a lightly toasted, peppery-sweet depth to rice dishes, sauces, and soups. It's also lovely drizzled on a plate or atop a salad.
2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds 3A cup extra-virgin olive oil
¥ Toast the seeds in a small saucepan over low heat for 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
¥ Add the oil, swirling the pan to disperse the red-orange color, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to stand for 15 minutes.
¥ Strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the seeds.
¥ Store in a cool, dark area. The oil should keep for up to 1 year.
In addition to use in cooking, you may rub Achiote Oil onto skin conditions.