Annatto (Bixa Orellana) medicinal herb which is from the achiote bush was one of the plants that was grown in my backyard. This plant is grown in Southeast Asia and was introduced
to the Spanish in the seventeenth century. The common names for this
herb are Achiote, Bija, Atta, Amarillo, Urucu, Baixa, Onoto, Annato, Annotta, Lipstick tree, Ruku, Uruku, Biva orillana linon, Atsuete, Sutis, Asuite and Poor man's saffron. It is also called Roucou and it is has its place in the herbs list. The seeds, bark, shoots and the leaves are primarily used as herbal medicine.
I distinctly remembered my grandmother, God bless her soul, would ask us, her grandchildren to go pick the pulp off this plant at a specific time. Whenever this request was made then we knew it would either be run down, a Jamaican dish made with coconut or our Jamaican custard, also made with coconut, would be our night's dinner.
This she would use as coloring and at the same time it gave the dishes a nice flavor and the color would be a bright golden color or red depending on the amount used. Therefore, this is a natural food coloring which is referred to as the carotenoids.
My grandmother knew that this herb had great medicinal benefits, to what extent, I doubt she ever knew. The fact of the matter is that she used these herbs on a regularly basis because she knew and experienced the benefits she received from these plants.
Annatto is rich in tocotrienols as well as antioxidants. It also possesses constituents such as bixin, norbixin, crocetin, bixol salicylic acid, threonine, isobixin amongst others. The medicinal properties are diuretic, laxative, mucilaginous, astringent, depurative, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, tonic and antimicrobial.
The seeds are very beneficial in the treatment of jaundice and it can be used in cosmetics and used as dye. The pulp, mixed with oil can be applied to burns and wounds, infections of the vagina and aids in healing without leaving scars. A tincture made from this medicinal herb can be used for diabetes and venereal diseases.
Its medicinal uses cannot be avoided. It is a good remedy and a natural cure for menopause conditions and it can also improve the sexual libido as well as treat cold, fever, hepatitis, malaria, pains, insect repellent and use as a dressing for swellings.
This herb is very beneficial for children when taken internally because it will get rid of worms form their bodies and it will relieve colic. In Venezuela, it is used to treat liver problems.
On the culinary side recado rojo is a special blend of spices that are made in Mexico and which has a red colour due to the seeds that are added to this spice. It is also used to put color in cheese and it is an ingredient in certain soaps.
The dry annatto seed pods are generally made into a medicinal tea to cure loose bowels and to shrink hemorrhoids.
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