The very term ‘indigo' associated with a plant's name brings to the mind that it must be yielding a rich blue pigment. But, unfortunately, wild indigo is a plant that is an inferior alternative to the original indigo dye that has provided people across the globe with a deep blue color for over 4000 years now. Indigenous to North America, the wild indigo is a shaggy plant that has bluish green leaves and yellow colored flowers that are akin to the ones found on the pea plant. According to history, the Mohegans of south New England precipitated the root of wild indigo to acquire a medicine with which they washed cuts and gaping wounds and this practice is followed even now. In fact, wild indigo has antiseptic properties and is immensely beneficial in treating fevers when they are accompanied with injuries.
Wild indigo grows annually. It is a straight plant that grows up to three feet tall with even, rotund branching stems and has bluish green leaves. The leaves of the plant are separated like in clovers and are three fourth of an inch in length. When they are dehydrated, the leaves transform into a bluish black hue. Wild indigo bears canary-yellow flowers between May and September on the topmost branches and they are half an inch long. The seed produced by the wild indigo flowers are pods that resemble oblong-shaped capsules.
At some stage in the early 19th century, the US Pharmacopeia approved wild indigo for nearly a decade since doctors conducted tests of extracts obtained form the plant to heal typhoid fever. While experimenting with the quantity of usage as well as overdoses of the wild indigo root tincture and powder, doctors detected symptoms that were akin to those witnessed when the disease just begins. Such results encouraged the homeopathy (a medical system established on the principle of ‘like cures like') to anticipate that it would be able to heal the disease when it occurs. Presently, doctors use wild indigo basically as a homogenous amalgam of four herbs that can be used to enhance the body's immune or resistant role. In addition to wild indigo, the combination of herbs includes Echinacea purpurea root, Echinacea pallida root and white cedar (Thuja occididentalis). Hypothetically, this amalgam of herbs is supposed to be effective in increasing the immune motivating properties in the human body.
In a sound and well calculated double-blind research carried among 263 people suffering from the new inception of ailments like common cold, this combination of herbs were found to considerably enhance the cold signs when compared to the regular panacea. People consuming the herbal mixture recovered from the ailment three days ahead of the time taken by placebo or the common panacea. Another double-blind, placebo-controlled research conducted on about 250 people suffering from common cold also showed speedy recovery.
This "four herb" amalgamation medication has also shown that it can be helpful in enhancing the consequences of antibiotics among people suffering from bacterial contagions. In a clinical examination conducted on 53 people suffering from the acute worsening of unceasing bronchial problems were either provided with antibiotics and placebo or the same antibiotics along with the herbal combination. And like in the previous experiments, the results depicted that those who were administered antibiotics along with the herbal combination recovered much faster than the other group that was given antibiotics with placebo. Supporters of the herbal amalgamation remedy profess that this medication functions by harmonizing or intensifying the immune system in the body. Although there is enough proof that the four herb combination including wild indigo has an influence on the immune system, but there is lack of precise information on whether the substance is beneficial, harmful or indifferent to the human system.
As an herbal remedy, wild indigo, considered to motivate the immune system in the body, has multiple uses. While wild indigo is especially beneficial in curing upper respiratory infections like tonsillitis and pharyngitis, the herb is also very useful in healing contagions of the chest, gastrointestinal tract and even the skin. The anti-microbial and immuno-stimulant features of wild indigo help to fight against lymphatic disorders. Wild indigo is very useful in diminishing lymph swellings when it is used along with detoxifying herbs like burdock. Many herbal practitioners recommend usage of wild indigo along with Echinacea to cure chronic viral condition or chronic fatigue syndrome. Decoction or a remedy prepared by boiling the wild indigo root extracts in boiling water helps to comfort the sore or infected nipples and contagious skin. While the extract from the wild indigo roots are widely used as gargle or mouthwash, the decoction heals canker sores, gum diseases, and even sore throats.
Since the days of the Indians in the US, wild indigo has been used as an antiseptic to heal cuts and wounds. Till date herbal practitioners prescribe the use of wild indigo as a gargle or for application as an external antiseptic. Although these are proven, there is no scientific research to support the efficiency of the herb in healing these ailments.
The North Indians in America expensively used the wild indigo to heal various disorders. In fact, a medication prepared from boiling the roots of the herb in boiling water was a favorite among the American Indians as an antiseptic. They used the decoction to wash wounds and even skin disorders. Recent researches have proved that this pungent and sour herb kindles the immune system and is especially effectual against all types of infections caused by bacteria. However, here is a word of caution for those applying the plant extracts internally. It needs to be emphasized that vast as well as recurrent use of the herb may be injurious to health. A tea prepared from the wild indigo root extract increases the flow of bile, induces nausea and vomiting, at the same time reduces fever and stimulates evacuation of the bowels. When wild indigo roots and barks are boiled in water and the medication is used to rinse the throat or used as a mouthwash, it helps in healing mouth sores. Additionally, fresh roots and barks of wild indigo are widely used as homeopathic remedies. Although wild indigo has inadequate results in controlling flu, but is still used extensively to heal particular types of the disorder.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Any soil that combines all three of these types of particles in relatively equal amounts is ideal for the growth of wild indigo. The herb has a preference for deep, nutritious and well-drained indefinite to mildly tart soil in complete sunlight. Once the wild indigo is planted it is important that they are left undisturbed as the herb has a deep root system and has an aversion to root disturbance. The herb has a two-way relation with specific bacteria in the soil and these bacteria helps to form lumps of the wild indigo by affixing nitrogen from the atmosphere. While an amount of this accumulated nitrogen is utilized by the growing wild indigo, some of it is also used by plants in growing in its neighborhood.
Wild indigo seed: It is conducive to sow the wild indigo seeds when in a chilly casing soon after they are ripened. Wild indigo seeds that have been stored for some time needs to be soaked in warm water for 24 hours before sowing them in cold encasings either in later winter or early spring. When the seeds grow into seedlings each of them are to be picked and placed in separate pots. And as soon as they are large enough to be handled, these plants should be placed in their permanent position of growth during the summer or the next spring.
Division in spring: Larger plants can be directly planted in their permanent place of growth. On the other hand, it is better to plant smaller clusters of the seedlings in separate pots and keep them in cold frames until they grow up to substantial size.
Wild indigo may be consumed in various ways, including decoction as well as tincture to heal a number of ailments. However, this should be done according to prescription.
Side effects and cautions
Scientists have done enough research with wild indigo and even undertaken wide-ranging tests regarding the safety of using the herb. Medical examination of harmonized use of wild indigo as a remedy used with other herbs has proved that it is not harmful. However, the researchers involving the safety of the use of wild indigo among young children, pregnant or nursing women or people with acute liver or kidney disease is yet to be established.
Collection and harvesting
After flowering has stopped, the root of wild indigo is dug out in the fall. Then the root is cleaned, cut, and dry well.
Wild indigo or its extracts may be combined with Echinacea and myrrh for effective healing of infections. Whereas, for treatment of disorders related to the lymph, best results can be obtained when wild indigo is blended with cleavers and poke root.