True Indigo (Indigofera Tinctoria)
Our true Indigo (Indigofera Tinctoria) is grown in Andhra Pradesh, South India and takes around a year to fully grow. The Indigo plant loves warmth and humidity and is sown in rich fertile land from February to April.
True Indigo shrubs grow from one to two metres high, with light green pinnate (feathered) leaves and pink or violet flowers. The best time to harvest is just before the flowers start to open.
The Indigo plant is cut a few inches from the ground leaving only the roots and some foliage. Indigo is a perennial plant, it lives for more than two years. Only half the leaves should be harvested at one time.
The history of Indigo dates back as far as 2400BC during the Egyptian period where pieces of cloth have been depicted as having blue stripes. The Greeks and Romans between 300-400AD considered Indigo a very luxurious product and used it for paints, medicines and cosmetics.
Indigofera Tinctoria means ‘dyers indigo bearing plant’, Tinctoria means dyer and Indigofera means Indigo bearing.
When harvested the Indigo leaves are left to dry in the sun for at least two days, during this time the leaves oxidize and turn slightly blue. Once completely dry the leaves need to be separated from the stems, this can be done by treading on the leaves.
The leaves are soaked in water and left overnight in order to draw out the blue dye naturally present in the leaves.
Indigo pigment paste is extracted through fermentation in large concrete tanks. The Indigo paste is then filtered and pressed into “cakes” and/or grounded into dye powder.
With an extensive range of medicinal properties, Indigo is an active ingredient in many Ayurvedic medicines. The leaves can be made into a paste and applied externally to heal wounds, including insect bites and skin disorders.
“Aravindasavam”, a liquid Ayurvedic medicine made from Indigo roots is used for children to help improve digestion, body weight and strength.
“Neelibhringadi” oil includes the juice extract of the Indigofera Tinctoria plant and is applied in small quantities onto the hair on a daily basis to improve hair quality, strength and to reduce greying.
“Neelimuladi Gulika”, is used in Malayalam Ayurvedic practices for treating fever and is combined with several other flowers and fruits to create a tablet form medicine.
WEB RESOURCES ON TRUE INDIGO
Indigofera Tinctoria on Wikipedia.
Indigofera Tinctoria: Uses, research, side effects on Easyayurveda.com