An achuete blossom
| Bixa orellana|
Bixa orellana or Achuete in Tagalog is a plant belonging to the Bixaceae family. It is popularly known to produce a golden yellow to golden brown dye used in cooking.
The shrub or small tree grows from 4 to 6 meters in height. The leaves are entire-ovate, with a length of 8 to 20 cm, and a width of 5 to 12 cm. Its flowers are white or pinkish, from 4 to 6 cm in diameter, and borne on terminal panicles. The capsules are oval or somewhat rounded, reddish brown, with a length of about 4 cm, and covered with long, soft spines. They also contain many small seeds, which are covered with a red pulp, and these yield the popular natural food color used in cooking. These seeds contain fatty oils with palmitin, stearin and phytoeterol.
Habitat and Description
Bixa orellana is pantropic in cultivation. It is a native of the American continent, particularly in South America. Today, achuete is widely cultivated in the Philippines.
- It is at present times used as flavoring and food coloring in Southeast Asia, Central, South and Northern South America.
- The dye of achuete when mixed with lime could be applied externally as remedy for erysipelas or cellulitis.
- When mixed with coconut, it can also be used for burns, skin diseases and headaches.
- Decoction of the seeds are very good remedy for gonorrhea.
- Seeds are found to be haemostatic or are able to stop bleeding.
- Infusion of the pulp surrounding the seeds is prescribed as a purgative in dysentery.
- The oil of the seeds is effective in leprosy.
- Decoction of barks is employed in febrile catarrhs or inflammation of the air passages of the head and throat.
- Achuete has long been used by American-Indians to make body paint.
- It is also used as an ingredient in cosmetic preparation such as lipstick through which the name "lipstick tree" was derived.