Perhaps because this plant is famous for its bright color it has not been given as much attention as a source of medicine in the West. Because of this there is not sufficient evidence or research to support the uses of annatto. Studies have been done instead to test for its safety as a natural food coloring. There are however many traditional benefits of this plant.
Annatto is known to have diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, astringent, and expectorant properties. It is rich in antioxidants including beta-carotene, which help to protect cells from free radical damage. With anti-bacterial properties it can be used to destroy harmful microbes. It is believed to protect both the liver and kidneys, which as a diuretic annatto does have the benefit of removing waste from the urinary system, thus relieving the work of these organs of elimination.
This herb is also used traditionally for digestive problems, including diarrhea, heartburn and upset stomach. In Peru the dried leaves, known as achiotec, are infused into a tea to treat a range of conditions including digestive problems, prostate disorders, high cholesterol, obesity, and to support the liver and benefit the skin.
The seeds of the annatto plant are known to have expectorant properties, making them useful for the common cold and bronchial problems. Annatto can be used for reducing inflammation, helping to expel mucus, and suppressing coughs.
This plant also appears to raise blood sugar levels, making it a possible natural treatment for diabetes. At the same time with insufficient research people who have diabetes should be careful when using annatto as a medicinal aid as it can affect blood sugar.