Profile: Rubia tinctoria is a perennial climbing herbaceous vine in the bedstraw family with roots that can grow up to three feet long. Madder root has been used as a textile dye for thousands of years, providing orange and red tones to a variety of textiles. Madder root-dyed fabrics have been found in archeological sites reaching back to ancient India and Egypt. Madder is a beautiful natural dye alternative that is considered an heirloom dye plant.
Madder can be used to color both plant and animal-based fabrics with the addition of a mordant (typically alum). Madder root's alizarin and purpurin components produce vibrant hues ranging from orange to brilliant red. The discovery of the insect-based colors cochineal and lac caused a reduction in the usage of madder as a dye; however, with the growing interest in natural plant-based dyes, madder root is regaining prominence. Madder has no medicinal applications now due to a lack of proof. Rubia tinctoria is a member of the Rubiaceae family of plants.
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