Rubia tinctorum, the common madder or dyer's madder, is a plant species in the genus Rubia.
The plant's roots contain several polyphenolic compounds like 1,3-Dihydroxyanthraquinone (purpuroxanthin), 1,4-Dihydroxyanthraquinone (quinizarin), 1,2,4-Trihydroxyanthraquinone (purpurin) and 1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone (alizarin). This latter gives its red colour to a textile dye known as Rose madder. It was also used as a colourant, especially for paint, that is referred to as Madder lake. The substance was also derived from another species, Rubia cordifolia.
Purpurin extracted from common madder could replace cobalt in lithium-ion batteries. Eliminating cobalt would mean eliminating a hazardous material, allow batteries to be produced at room temperature, and lower the cost of recycling batteries. Extracting purpurin from farmed madder is a simple task; alternately, the chemical could be synthesized in a lab.
Rubia tinctorum is used in herbalism (to prevent kidney stones) and Ayurveda. No human trials have been done, so its true efficacy is unknown, but animal studies done so far have shown that the plant is carcinogenic and antidiarrheal in rats. In one study, madder was found to have antimicrobial properties in vitro. Madder root may cause birth defects and miscarriages.
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- Inoue K, Yoshida M, Takahashi M, Fujimoto H, Ohnishi K, Nakashima K, Shibutani M, Hirose M, Nishikawa A, Possible contribution of rubiadin, a metabolite of madder color, to renal carcinogenesis in rats, Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Apr;47(4):752-9. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2009.01.003. Epub 2009 Jan 8.
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- Inoue K, Yoshida M, Takahashi M, Shibutani M, Takagi H, Hirose M, Nishikawa A, Induction of kidney and liver cancers by the natural food additive madder color in a two-year rat carcinogenicity study, Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Jan;47(1):184-91. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2008.10.031. Epub 2008 Nov 7.
- Yokohira M, Yamakawa K, Hosokawa K, Matsuda Y, Kuno T, Saoo K, Imaida K, Promotion potential of madder color in a medium-term multi-organ carcinogenesis bioassay model in F344 rats, J Food Sci. 2008 Apr;73(3):T26-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2008.00685.x.
- Westendorf J, Pfau W, Schulte A, Carcinogenicity and DNA adduct formation observed in ACI rats after long-term treatment with madder root, Rubia tinctorum L, Carcinogenesis. 1998 Dec;19(12):2163-8.
- Blömeke B, Poginsky B, Schmutte C, Marquardt H, Westendorf J, Formation of genotoxic metabolites from anthraquinone glycosides, present in Rubia tinctorum L, Mutat Res. 1992 Feb;265(2):263-72.
- Inoue K, Yoshida M, Takahashi M, Fujimoto H, Shibutani M, Hirose M, Nishikawa A, Carcinogenic potential of alizarin and rubiadin, components of madder color, in a rat medium-term multi-organ bioassay, Cancer Sci. 2009 Dec;100(12):2261-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2009.01342.x. Epub 2009 Sep 2.
- Karim A, Mekhfi H, Ziyyat A, Legssyer A, Bnouham M, Amrani S, Atmani F, Melhaoui A, Aziz M, Anti-diarrhoeal activity of crude aqueous extract of Rubia tinctorum L. roots in rodents, J Smooth Muscle Res. 2010;46(2):119-23.
- Kalyoncu F, Cetin B, Saglam H., Antimicrobial activity of common madder (Rubia tinctorum L.), Phytother Res. 2006 Jun;20(6):490-2.
- Madder, WebMD.