Herbs & Plants

Indiagofera tinctoria

Botanical Name: Indiagofera tinctoria
Family: Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Genus: Indigofera
Species: I. tinctoria

*Anila tinctoria var. normalis Kuntze
*Indigofera anil var. orthocarpa DC.
*Indigofera bergii Vatke
*Indigofera cinerascens DC.
*Indigofera houer Forssk.
*Indigofera indica Lam.
*Indigofera oligophylla Baker
*Indigofera orthocarpa (DC.) O.Berg & C.F.Schmidt
*Indigofera sumatrana Gaertn.
*Indigofera tinctoria Blanco
*Indigofera tulearensis Drake

Common Names: True indigo,

Habitat:Indiagofera tinctoria is native habitat is unknown since it has been in cultivation worldwide for many centuries. It is thought to be native to the Malaysian Archipelago and grows spontaneously in Africa.
Tinctoria indigo is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, where it grows as an evergreen. It prefers fertile, well-drained soil, moderate moisture, and full sun, except in very hot climates, where it appreciates some afternoon shade. A medium shrub, the indigo plant will grow to 2 to 3 feet (61-91.5 cm.) in height and spread

Today most dye is synthetic, but natural dye from I. tinctoria is still available, marketed as natural coloring where it is known as tarum in Indonesia and nila in Malaysia. In Iran and areas of the former Soviet Union it is known as basma.

Indigofera tinctoria is an erect, copiously-branched perennial plant growing 1 – 2 metres tall. The spreading or ascending branches become more or less woody and can persist for more than a year.

It is a deciduous spreading tropical shrub or subshrub of the pea family . True indigo features light green pinnate leaves (each with 4 to 7 pairs of leaflets) and short racemes of summer-blooming pink or violet flowers.

One of the most attractive indigo shrubs is Indigofera heterantha, with its long clusters of rosy purple, pea-like flowers. … For many years, the leaves of certain indigo plants were used to make dye to color fabrics a rich blue. It was once the most commonly used natural dye in the world.


Indiagofera tinctoria prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,300 – 1,700mm, but tolerates 640 – 3,000mm. Requires a position in full sun, succeeding in any deep, well-drained and moderately retentive and fertile soil. Prefers a pH in the range 6 – 7, tolerating 4.3 – 8.7.

Seed – pre-soak overnight in warm water and sow in a seedbed with partial shade. Germination takes about 4 days.
Like many species within the family Fabaceae, once they have been dried for storage the seeds of this species may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 – 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen – if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.
Semi-ripe cuttings of lateral shoots with a heel.
Root cuttings.

Germination of Japanese indigo:
Image result for propagation of Indigofera tinctoria plant
Fresh seed is needed to grow Japanese Indigo and seed over two years old is unlikely to germinate. Sow your seeds indoors in early May, about two to three weeks before the date of the last frost in your region. Plant the seeds in a tray of compost, but do not cover the seeds with soil.

Edible Uses: Indigo can be made into and powder which has a variety of edible uses including in sweets, sauce, spices and smoothies.

Mediciinal Uses:
Medicinally, Indiagofera tinctoria is used to treat a wide range of disorders such as epilepsy, nervous disorders, asthma, bronchitis, fever, stomach pain, liver diseases, kidney and spleen diseases, skin conditions, wounds sores, hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, syphilis, snake bites, etc. The plant is also used as cover crop and green manure.

A leaf infusion (sometimes combined with honey or milk) is used to treat a range of disorders including epilepsy and nervous disorders; asthma and bronchitis; fever; complaints of the stomach, liver, kidney and spleen; and as a rabies prophylactic.
Applied externally, the leaves are made into an ointment for treating skin diseases, wounds, sores, ulcers and haemorrhoids.

A tincture of the seed is used in India to kill lice.

A root preparation is applied to relieve toothache, syphilis, gonorrhoea and kidney stones.
A watery root paste is applied topically in India to treat worm-infested wounds. A root infusion is used there as an antidote against snakebites and to treat insect and scorpion stings.

An aqueous acetone extract of the leaves and stems is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids and has been shown to be an effective antioxidant.

Other Uses:
Agroforestry Uses:
The plant is sometimes grown as a cover crop and green manure.
Indigofera tinctoria is useful as a green manure, it is used in India, for example, in coffee plantations and as a cover crop preceding rice, maize, cotton and sugarcane.

In traditional rainfed rice cropping systems in the Philippines, this plant is a popular green manure, increasing rice yield whilst also reducing by 50% the need to supply expensive nitrogen fertilizer.
The residue remaining after indigo extraction is also applied to the land as manure.
Another reason to grow Indigofera tinctoria as a green manure is because it is a good nitrogen catch crop, reducing the amount of fertilizer NO3 leaching to the groundwater.

A deep blue dye is obtained from the leaves. The leaves and twigs do not actually contain indigo but colourless precursors that must be extracted and then processed in order to produce the indigo dye.

The harvested leafy branches are placed in a tank containing water to which some lime has been added, and are weighted down with planks. After some hours of fermentation, during which enzymic hydrolysis leads to the formation of indoxyl, the liquid is drained off and then stirred continuously for several hours to stimulate oxidation of the indoxyl. Afterwards the solution is left to rest and the insoluble indigo settles to the bottom as a bluish sludge. The water is drained and after the indigo has dried, it is cut into cubes or made into balls.
To dye textiles, indigo is reduced to a soluble form by a fermentation process under alkaline conditions. In traditional preparations of the dye, various reducing agents such as molasses are used, together with coconut-milk, bananas and the leaves of Psidium guajava. The alkalinity is maintained by adding lime. After the textile has been dipped into solution it turns blue when exposed to the air.

The twigs are used as toothbrushes.

The dried, crushed leaves are used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a masking agent and tonic.
An extract of the leaves is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a skin conditioner.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.