Herbaceous perennial growing to 3 ft (1 m). Has a smooth stem, clover-like leaves, and purplish-blue flowers in small terminal clusters.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to eastern parts of North America, wild indigo grows from North Carolina to southern Canada in dry, hilly woods.
Wild indigo contains isoflavones, flavonoids, alkaloids, coumarins, and polysaccharides. The isoflavones are estrogenic, while the polysaccharides are immunostimulant.
History & Folklore
Wild indigo was commonly used as a poultice by Native Americans and New World settlers to treat snake bite. The Mahicans used a decoction of the root to bathe cuts and wounds.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Wild indigo is a strong antiseptic and immunostimulant, though at more than moderate doses it can produce nausea and vomiting. It is considered particularly effective for upper respiratory infections such as tonsillitis and pharyngitis, and is also valuable in treating infections of the chest, gastrointestinal tract, and skin. Its antimicrobial and immunostimulant properties combat lymphatic problems—when used with detoxifying herbs such as burdock (Arctium lappa), it helps to reduce enlarged lymph nodes.
Wild indigo is frequently prescribed along with echinacea (Echinacea spp.) for chronic viral conditions or chronic fatigue syndrome. A decoction of the root soothes sore or infected nipples and infected skin conditions. When used as a gargle or mouthwash, the decoction treats canker sores, gum infections, and sore throats.
Best taken on professional advice.