Evergreen perennial growing to 3 ft (1 m). Has whorls of finely toothed lance shaped leaves, greenish-white flowers, and black berries containing 2 seeds.
Habitat & Cultivation
Madder is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. It flourishes in open areas and on roadsides, and amid rubble. The root is unearthed in autumn.
Madder contains anthraquinone derivatives (including ruberythric acid, alizarin, and purpurin), an iridoid (asperuloside), resin, and calcium.
History & Folklore
Throughout history, madder has been used principally as a red dye for a variety of fabrics. In the ancient world, madder root was taken medicinally to treat jaundice, sciatica, and paralysis, and it was also used as a diuretic. When ingested, madder imparts its distinctive color to bones, milk, and urine, and it probably owed much of its reputation as a diuretic to this property.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Madder fell largely out of use in the 19th century, and is now only rarely employed to treat kidney and bladder stones.