The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!


Scientific Names


  • Rubia tinctorum L.
  • Rubiaceae
  • Madder family

Common Names

  • Dyer’s madder
  • European madder

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Parts Usually Used

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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Madder is a European herbaceous perennial plant; a cylindrical, reddish-brown, creeping rootstock up to 3 feet long produces several angular prostrate or climbing stem s, as long as 8 feet, which bear lanceolate leaves in whorls of 4-6. The flowers are small and yellow-green, in clusters on spikes which top the stalks.

Another variety: Used in Ayurvedic medicine, the Indian madder(R. cordifolia), in Sanskrit the name is Manjishta, Chinese name Ch’ien-ts’ao or Qian cao, has similar properties and uses as European madder (Rubia tinctorum).
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Where Found

Grows in the Mediterranean area, native to southern Europe and western Asia.
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Medicinal Properties

Alternative, astringent, deobstruent, diuretic, emmenagogue
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Biochemical Information

Purpurin, pseudopurpurin, manjistin, alizarin
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Madder is a plant known almost exclusively as a dye plant. The long fleshy root, when dried and milled, yields a variety of colors: red, pink, brown, orange, black, lilac, and purple, depending upon the mordant used. Madder has been raised commercially for its dye value.

The trousers of the French soldiers of the 19th century and the head coverings of the Turks, the fezzes, once were dyed red with madder. This striking coloring agent held its own until aniline dyes came along.

It is the roots that contain the red coloring–today we know that it is due to anthraquinone derivatives.

Madder is one of the oldest coloring agents known to us; it was used in pre-Christian times by the Egyptians, Persians, and Indians.

Like many other Mediterranean plants, madder was brought across the Alps by Benedictine monks, and Charlemagne, in his capitulary on the management of his landed estates, called for it to be grown within his domain.
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Madder is useful for all problems with the urinary tract, particularly where the urine becomes alkaline. It has been used for rickets, slow-healing broken bones, inflammations, lack of appetite, diarrhea, dropsy, jaundice, blood purifier, and fever. Externally, a decoction of madder can be used for skin problems, especially tubercular conditions of the skin and mucous tissue.
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Formulas or Dosages

The rootstock is collected when it is 3 to 6 years old.

Infusion: 1 tsp. fresh or dried root to 1 cup water. Take 1 to 1 1/2 cups per day.

Decoction: boil 1 1/2 to 2 oz. rootstock in 4 to 6 qt. water for use as a bath additive.
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How Sold

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Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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