Indigo - traditional medicine

The roots, stems and leaves of Indigo have bitter properties and have been used for a wide variety of medical conditions in Asia over many centuries. However, the use of indigo in traditional medicine is not supported by scientific evidence, and its use in this way may be harmful.

Indigo remedies

A jar of indigo seeds from the Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens.
Image: Indigo seeds from Kew's Economic Botany Collection.

Ayurvedic uses range from cancer of the ovaries and stomach, epilepsy and other nervous system conditions (particularly depression), bronchitis, haemorrhaging, spleen disorders and disorders of the lungs and kidneys.

Other traditional uses are for heart and urinary problems, as well as premature greying and hair loss. A paste made from the leaves is used to treat sores, stubborn ulcers and haemorrhoids.

In some parts of India the plant used to be well known for treating rabies and accordingly was given the name 'the dog-bite shrub'. A report from 1890 states: "A wineglassful of the juice of the leaves is administered in the morning, with or without milk, for three days, to those who have been bitten by dogs supposed to be mad.........no disagreeable effect is produced, but when a larger dose has been given it has proved purgative."

This information is provided for general interest only. It is not intended as guidance for medicinal use. Further information on using herbal medicines is available.