Achiote: the Lipstick Tree

The achiote tree produces inedible fruit that looks a bit like a pomegranate cut in half: it is an open pod filled with red seeds that look as if they are bursting with flavor. But since they can’t be ingested, they are instead used for making dyes.

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The Incas used achiote as face paint to ask the gods within the mountains for protection, and the tree is still used to today among the Quechua people.

IMG_5015 To apply achiote: Open the fruit and mix the pulp with water in a small bowl to create the paint. The wet paint will become an orange-red extract as you mix, but turns orange when it dries. It’s used as body paint as well as paint for fabric.

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The plant can be found in the Amazon basin. In this photo, we are painting one another as a symbol of unity within the tribe of Quechua.

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I had the tribe members apply it as a lipstick as well for a natural flush. I have a feeling this was one of the first original lipsticks of ancient times.

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Extra cool fact: For ritual and religious purposes, the Aztecs added achiote (also known as annatto) to turn chocolate into a blood-red liquid for a “blood” offering to the Gods. I got to experiment with Achiote on my trek to Machu Picchu and in the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador.

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