Achiote, also known as lipstick tree, tupi, and annatto among many other names, is a plant grown in both North and South America in tropical climates. The plant produces a pigment called annatto, which comes from the seed extract.1,2
Achiote Seed Uses and Health Benefits
Achiote seeds are processed by being crushed and soaked in water. When the water evaporates, a bright paste is left behind. This is then added to foods like soups and cheeses to give them a yellow or orange color. This seed paste can also be used as a substitute for the spice saffron.1 In addition to its culinary uses, this seed paste can be used for dying clothing or even used as a coloring agent in paint or cosmetics.1 The seeds also contain a variety of medicinal properties.
Among achiote seed uses, the seeds can be pulverized and taken in small doses for treating conditions like high blood pressure.1 Other achiote seed benefits include that they contain pigments known as carotenoids, which can help protect from ultraviolet rays, act as antioxidants, and even protect the body from liver damage. The seeds are also thought to help treat fevers, kidney problems, and dysentery.3 Other achiote seed benefits include for:
- Edema - Edema refers to excess fluid retention that causes swelling. Achiote seeds are said to have a diuretic effect, even in small doses for some people.1 This can help the body get rid of excess fluid and help reduce edema symptoms.
- High Cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia) - Achiote seed powders can be used for treating symptoms of high cholesterol.1
- Diarrhea - It’s thought that achiote seeds can help treat digestive problems like diarrhea.
- Indigestion - Another digestive problem that can be treated with achiote seeds is indigestion.
Achiote Seed Side Effects and Precautions
Studies have shown that extracts from the achiote seeds can raise blood sugar levels in dogs. Although more research is needed to determine these effects on humans, it is best for individuals with diabetes to avoid achiote seeds. High doses may cause an increase in urine output.1 Allergic reactions as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may occur, although the plant is not known to produce widespread side effects among the general population.2,4 More studies are needed to assess the safety of achiote seeds taken for medical purposes.4