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Indigofera tinctoria1.jpg
Indigofera tinctoria
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Indigofereae
Genus: Indigofera

See text

Indigofera astragalina
Indigofera decora

Indigofera is a large genus of over 750 species[1] of flowering plants belonging to the family Fabaceae. They are widely distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.[1]


Species of Indigofera are mostly shrubs, though some are small trees or annual or perennial herbs. Most have pinnate leaves. Racemes of flowers grow in the leaf axils. Most species have flowers in shades of red, but there are a few white- and yellow-flowered species. The fruit is a legume pod of varying size and shape.[1]


Indigo dye[edit]

Several species, especially Indigofera tinctoria and Indigofera suffruticosa, are used to produce the dye indigo. Colonial planters in the Caribbean grew indigo and transplanted its cultivation when they settled in the colony of South Carolina and North Carolina where people of the Tuscarora confederacy adopted the dying process for head wraps and clothing. Exports of the crop did not expand until the mid-to late 18th century. When Eliza Lucas Pinckney and enslaved Africans successfully cultivated new strains near Charleston it became the second most important cash crop in the colony (after rice) before the American Revolution. It comprised more than one-third of all exports in value.

The chemical aniline, from which many important dyes are derived, was first synthesized from I. suffruticosa (syn. I. anil, whence the name aniline).

In Indonesia, the Sundanese use Indigofera tinctoria (known locally as tarum) as dye for batik.

Health and medicine[edit]

Several species of this group are used to alleviate pain. The herbs are generally regarded as an analgesic with anti-inflammatory activity, rather than an anodyne.[2] Indigofera articulata (Khedaish in Arabic) was used for toothache, and Indigofera oblongifolia (hasr in Arabic) was used as an anti-inflammatory for insect stings, snakebites, and swellings.[3]

Indigofera suffruticosa and Indigofera aspalthoides have also been used as anti-inflammatories.[4] A patent was granted for use of Indigofera arrecta extract to relieve ulcer pain.[5]

The Maasai people of Kenya use parts of Indigofera brevicalyx and I. swaziensis as toothbrushes.[6]


Species include:[1][7][8]


Indigofera species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the Turnip Moth (Agrotis segetum).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Indigofera. Flora of China.
  2. ^ "Tico Ethnobotanical Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  3. ^ "(syllabus: Duke University)". 
  4. ^ see references 8–9 in "Antimicrobial Activity of Indigofera suffruticosa". 
  5. ^ US 6083509  "Phytodrug for management of peptic ulcer and methods of preparing and using same"
  6. ^ Bussmann, R. W., et al. (2006). Plant use of the Maasai of Sekenani Valley, Maasai Mara, Kenya. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed 2 22.
  7. ^ Indigofera. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  8. ^ Indigofera: North American species. USDA PLANTS.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kumar, P. Indigo Plantations and Science in Colonial India. Cambridge University Press. 2012.