October 3, 2017

Achiote in the Amazon

Achiote is a rainforest shrub consisting of spiny fruits, which have been used by indigenous communities in the Awajún and Asháninka for its bright red pigment.

Also known as the ‘lipstick plant’, the seeds of achiote fruits can be used to make face paints or food colouring called annatto, which was used in the past by the Aztecs to intensify the colour of their chocolate drink.

This super plant has a triple benefit, it’s used as an insect repellent and the leaves are believed to help treat dysentery, hepatitis, tonsillitis and dermatitis.

The primary traditional use for the plant is as face paint as an expression or meaning.

How it works

To start the process of turning the achiote from seeds to paint, the Awajún first separate the seeds from the fruit:

They then work it through with their hands, crushing the berries to get the liquid:

Boil it to create a paste:

And the face paint is ready to go

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