Wild Indigo


Baptisia tinctoria-Wild Indigo

Family: Leguminosae

Other names: Indigoweed, Yellow false Indigo,Baptisia

Habitat: Indigenous to Canada and the USA. 

hazardsmallCaution is advised in the internal use of this plant, large or frequent doses are potentially harmful.

Wild indigo was a favourite medicinal herb of the N. American Indians, a decoction of the roots being used as an antiseptic wash for wounds and skin complaints. Modern research has shown that this acrid bitter herb stimulates the immune system and is particularly effective against bacterial infections. A tea made from the roots is cholagogue, emetic, febrifuge and purgative. The fresh root is also considered to be antiseptic, astringent and laxative.

The infusion is used in the treatment of upper respiratory infections such as tonsillitis and pharyngitis, and is also valuable in treating infections of the chest, gastro-intestinal tract and skin. The plants antimicrobial and immune-stimulant properties combat lymphatic problems, when used with detoxifying herbs such as Arctium lappa it helps to reduce enlarged lymph nodes. Wild indigo is frequently prescribed, along with Echinacea, in the treatment of chronic viral infections or chronic fatigue syndrome.

A decoction of the root soothes sore or infected nipples and infected skin conditions. When used as a mouth wash or gargle the decoction treats mouth ulcers, gum infections and sore throats. The fresh root, including the bark, is used to make a homeopathic medicine. This has a limited range of action, but is used especially in the treatment of certain types of flu.

Wild_Indigo,Baptisia-tinctoriaDescription of Wild Indigo:

Baptisia tinctoria is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).

It is hardy to zone 5. It is in leaf 10-Apr It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) It can fix Nitrogen.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils. It needs full sun.It requires dry or moist soil.

Cultivation of Wild Indigo:

Prefers a deep, rich, well-drained neutral to slightly acid soil in full sun. Grows freely in a loamy soil. Plants are shy flowering in British gardens. Plants have a very deep root system and dislike root disturbance, they should be left alone once they are established. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation of Wild Indigo:

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and then sown in a cold frame in late winter or early spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer or following spring. Divide in spring. Larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.

Collection: The root is unearthed in the autumn after flowering has stopped. Clean the root and cut, dry well.

Culinary uses of Wild Indigo:

Edible Parts: Leaves.

Young shoots – cooked. An asparagus substitute. Some caution is advised; see the notes above on toxicity.

Wild_indigo,Baptisia-tinctoriaMedicinal uses of Wild Indigo:

Actions: Anti-microbial, anti-catarrhal.

Part Used: Root.

Indications: Wild Indigo is a herb to be considered wherever there is a focused infection. It is especially useful in the treatment of infections and catarrh in the ear, nose and throat. It may be used for laryngitistonsillitispharyngitis and catarrhal infections of the nose and sinus. Taken both internally and as a mouthwash it will heal mouth ulcersgingivitis and help in the control of pyorrhea. Systematically it may be helpful in the treatment of enlarged and inflamed lymph glands (lymphadenitis) and also to reduce fevers. Externally an ointment will help infected ulcers and ease sore nipples. A douche of the decoction will help leucorrhoea.

Ellingwood has lot to say about this neglected remedy: “The agent has been widely used for many years by our practitioners in the treatment of typhoid conditions, and has established its position as an important remedy. It has an apparent dynamic influence upon the glandular structure of the intestinal canal, directly antagonizing disease influences here and re-enforcing the character of the blood, prevents the destruction of the red corpuscles and carries off waste material. In malignant tonsillitis and diphtheritic laryngitis it has been long used with excellent results. In phagedena with gangrenous tendencies wherever located, it has exercised a markedly curative influence. It is useful in dysentery where there is offensive breath and fetid discharges of a dark prune juice character.

“In scarlet fever, with its specific indications, it is a useful remedy. Large doses are not necessary, but it should be employed early and the use persisted in. In the treatment of low fevers this agent is said to exercise marked sedative power over the fever. Homeopathic physicians prescribe it to control the fever. There is no doubt that in proportion as the cause of the fever is destroyed, the temperature abates. Any inhibitory influence directly upon the heart and circulation cannot be attributed to it, yet it soothes cerebral excitement to a certain extent, having a beneficial influence upon delirium.

“It is advised in all diseases of the glandular system, and in hepatic derangements especially, with symptoms of the character. In the various forms of stomatitis, putrid sore throat and scarlatina; in inflammation of the bowels, where there is a tendency to typhoid conditions, especially ulcerative inflammation of any of the internal organs; in dyspepsia, with great irritability and offensive decomposition of food; in scrofula and in cutaneous infections, the agent should be long continued. In the long protracted and sluggish forms of fevers, with great depression of the vital forces; in ulceration of the nipples or mammary glands, or of the cervix uteri, it is spoken highly of. There is a dynamic influence exercised by Wild Indigo upon the entire glandular structure of the body, more particularly upon the intestinal glands. This influence directly reinforces the blood in its effort to throw off the disease and restore normal conditions. It is because of this influence that it is of value in typhoid.

“Dr. Hainey says that in whatever condition the patient complains of difficult respiration, where the lungs feel compressed, where the patient cannot lie down because of fear of suffocation, if he sleeps, he has found Wild Indigo in small doses every hour positively curative. He got this suggestion from a homeopathist and he has proven it to be reliable. “Others have found typhoid cases with the characteristic symptoms, where the brain seems to be overwhelmed with toxins, where the patient has times where the breathing is rapid or panting, alternated with slow respiration, in which this remedy is very prompt. The condition may also be present in diphtheria, and in the so-call black measles or other highly infectious disorders. “It will thus be seen that the agent is properly classed among the alteratives, as its alterative properties stand first, but its pronounced tonic influence will be quickly observed. It overcomes weariness “that tired feeling, ” produces a sense of vigor & general improved tone and well-being.”

Preparations & Dosage of Wild Indigo:

Decoction: put 1/2-1 teaspoonful of the dried root in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 1 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations: For the treatment of infections it may be used with Echinacea and Myrrh. For lymphatic problems it can be combined with Cleavers and Poke Root.

Other uses of Wild Indigo:

Dye, Insecticide.

Indigo plant leaves uses as this species is related to the tropical plant Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and, like that species, contains a blue dyestuff in the leaves. The dyestuff is only contained in very low concentrations, however, and a very large quantity of leaves would be required to obtain reasonable quantities of indigo. A yellow dye can also be obtained from the plant. If the growing plant is harvested and hung up, it is said to repel flies.

Esoteric uses of Wild Indigo:


The Chemistry:


  • Isoflavones; genistein, biochanin A etc
  • Flavonoids
  • Alkaloids such as cytisine
  • Coumarins
  • Polysaccharides

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Baptisia

Wild IndigoBeuscher N Kopanski L [Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria]

Planta Med (1985 Oct) (5):381-4Beuscher N Scheit KH Bodinet C Kopanski L[Immunologically active glycoproteins of Baptisia tinctoria]Planta Med (1989 Aug) 55(4):358-63

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