Wild Indigo Root
Wild indigo or false indigo (baptisia tinctoria) is native to eastern North America. It grows from southern Quebec to Georgia and from the east Atlantic to the Midwest. Growing up to three and a half feet tall, it is an herbaceous shrub-like perennial with multiple branches. As a member of the fabaceae or lentil family, it has clover-like leaves. Its yellow blossoms resemble those of the pea plant. Traditionally wild harvested, wild indigo is becoming uncommon with increased demand as a nutritional supplement. Commercial cultivation in the United States has had some success.
The name of the plant, wild indigo, refers to its traditional use as a dye substitute for Asian or true indigo (indigofera tinctoria). When dried, the leaves turn dark blue. The extract from these leaves is used to make yellow and blue dyes.
The medicinal part of the plant is the root, which is harvested in the fall, washed and dried. Decoctions or teas made by boiling the dried root in water have long been used by Native Americans to aid in digestion. It is also used as a topical antiseptic for burns and wounds. Used as a gargle or mouth wash in traditional medicine, wild indigo decoctions are believed to treat gum diseases and sore throats.
Wild indigo activates macrophages in white blood cells and increases inerleukin-1 production. This assists the body’s natural immune system and supports healthy tissues. It aid the body’s resistance to micro-organisms and toxins and is used to treat septic conditions, low fever, poisoning, and tonsillitis. Because of its immunity-building and anti-viral properties, it has gained popularity in managing influenza, mononucleosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is also believed that wild indigo is beneficial in treating upper respiratory infections and lymphatic disorders.
Large doses of wild indigo are believed to be toxic and it should not be used by women who are pregnant or nursing.
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