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Indigo Herb Description - Drug Interactions, Dosage and Some of its Useful Properties

Taxonomic Class

Fabaceae

Common Forms

Available as a blue powder and as tablets.

Source

Indigo comes from the leaves and branches of a genus of plants called Indigofera. There are many Indigofera species worldwide, but only a few exist in the United States (such as I. tinctoria and I. suffruticosa). I. tinctoria is the source of natural blue indigo dye, which has been used for hundreds of years.

Chemical components

Leaf fermentation produces blue indigo dye. The dye comes from a gluco side component of several Indigofera species called indican, which is synthesized with different ingredients to produce various coloring agents.

Actions

Studies suggest that I. tinctoria may protect against hepatic damage induced by carbon tetrachloride, whereas other species may have a hepatotoxic effect. Aqueous decoctions of I. arrecta have decreased blood glucose levels in both animals and humans. Studies with I. arrecta in mice have demonstrated an increase in plasma insulin levels, and the herb is believed to cause insulin release by stimulating pancreatic beta cells.

Indirubin, a minor component of I. tinctoria, has been useful in treating chronic myelocytic leukemia and animal tumors. I. tinctoria has been found to significantly increase the survival of rats with cancer I. aspalathoides, similar to I. tinctoria, is believed to have anti-inflammatory activity.

Reported Uses

I. arrecta has been reported to treat diabetes; the leaves and plant juice of I. tinctoria have been used to treat some cancers (gastric and ovarian). The Chinese have used Indigofera as an analgesic, an antipyretic, and an anti-inflammatory, and for purifying the liver. Natural indigo is also used to treat hemorrhoids and scorpion bites and as an emetic. Indigo is used with other plants to treat boils, carbuncles, hemorrhagic disease, infantile febrile seizures, and mumps. No controlled therapeutic trials support these claims; indigo's use is based on anecdotal reports and traditional folklore.

Dosage

No consensus exists.

Adverse Reactions

EENT: eye irritation.

Skin: dermatitis (with dyes).

Interactions

None reported interactions or side effects for the herb.

Contraindications and Precautions

No known contraindications.

Special Considerations

Caution the patient to keep indigo away from the eyes. Instruct him to flush eyes with water if contact occurs.

Urge women to report planned or suspected pregnancy.

Points of Interest

All commercially available natural indigo is prepared synthetically. I. tinctoria is believed to be the active ingredient in a well-known, traditional Chinese medicine used for chronic myelocytic leukemia.

Commentary

The many species of the Indigofera plant are the common sources of natural blue dye. There is no clinical evidence to substantiate the therapeutic effects of natural indigo, alone or in combination with other ingredients. Because of the lack of clinical trials, this product cannot be recommended.

   

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