Benefits and Uses of Achuete (Atswete, Annatto)

achuete-annatto

Local names: Achiti (Ilk.); achote (Tag.); achoete (Tagb.); achuete (Tag., Sbl., Bik., P. Bis., Ilk.); asoti (Ibn.); atsiute (Sbl.); apatut (Gad.); asuite (Ilk.); asuti (Tag.); atseuete (Tag.); atsuite (Ilk.); chanang (Sul.); chotes (S. L. Bis.); janang (Sul.); sotis (C. Bis.); annatto (Engl.).

achuete-annatto

Achuete is usually planted in and about towns throughout the Philippines. It is a native of tropical America, and is now pantropic in cultivation.

This tree grows from 4 to 6 meters in height. The leaves are entire, ovate, 8 to 20 centimeters long, and 5 to 12 centimeters wide, with broad, more or less heart-shaped base, and pointed wide, with board, m, and pointed tip. The flowers are white or pinkish, 4 to 6 centimeters in diameter, and borne on terminal panicles. The capsules are ovoid or somewhat rounded, reddish brown, about 4 centimeters long, and covered with long, slender, rather soft spines; and contain many small seeds, which are covered with a red pulp, which yields a well-known dye.

The seeds are used locally for coloring food. The coloring matter of the fruit, annatto, is employed commercially for coloring butter and in the preparation of various polishes for russet lather. According to Burkill, the roots impart to meat the taste and color of saffron. A fairy good fiber may be obtained from the bark.

Etti reports that the coloring matter in the seeds is bixin. Wehmer records that the seeds contain a fatty oil with palmitin, a little stearin, and phytosterol.

The leaves and dye are official in the Dutch and Mexican Pharmacopoeias.

In the Philippines, the achuete dye is much used with lime as an external application in erysipelas. Father de Sta. Maria reports that achuete is effective for burns, and mixed with coconut, is applied to the throat. According to Guerrero, a decoction of the bark is employed in febrile catarrhs. The red, resinous substance of the seeds is considered an efficient remedy for certain skin diseases. Tavera says that the fine powder, which covers the seeds, is used as haemostatic, and internally as a stomachic.

The root-bark is antiperiodic and antipyretic. In French Guiana an infusion is prescribed as a purgative in dysentery. The leaves are used snakebite. They are applied as poultices as topicals to relive headache. A decoction of them is employed as a gargle for sore throat. The leaves, pounded and macerated in water, are diuretic and a remedy for gonorrhea. The fresh branches in infusion produces a kind of gum or mucilage like gum Arabic and is considered in the Antilles as a good emollient.

The seeds are slightly astringent and in decoction are very good remedy for gonorrhea. The seeds also posses antiperiodic and antipyretic properties, but to a lesser extent. The pulp (annatto) surrounding the seeds is astringent and slightly purgative and is given in dysentery and diseases of the kidneys. The pulp of the seeds, if applied immediately to burns, is said to prevent the formulation of blisters or scars. In Uruguay, the seeds ground and boiled in re employed in burns. The pulp is also prescribed for stomachache. The seeds are said to be an antidote to cassava and Jatropha curcas poisoning. The oil of the seeds is effective in leprosy.

Bureau of Plant Industry, DA


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