The Ayurvedic and Siddha systems of medicine have indigo as a plant with therapeutic properties that are effective in the treatment of vertigo, palpitations of the heart, asthma, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, and hair-related maladies. The root and leaves of the plant are used by Ayurveda to cure hepatitis, jaundice, anaemia, worm infestations, and urinary complications.
Quick facts about Indigo or Indigofera tinctoria
- Common name: Nili
- Sanskrit name: Nilini, Nilpuspa, Kalkesi
- English name: Indigo
- Scientific name: Indigofera tinctoria
- Rasa: Katu, Tikta
- Guna: Sara
- Virya: Ushna
- Vipaka: Katu
- Karma: Jantughna, Kaphahara, Kesya, Vatahara, Visaghna, Recani
One of the first original sources of the indigo dye, Indigofera tinctoria is a plant that thrives naturally in tropical and temperate Asia, as well as parts of Africa. The origin of the plant and its native habitat is not known as a result of its worldwide cultivation for many centuries. The plant has light green pinnate leaves and pink or violet flowers. In India, the indigo plant is found in the dry forests of South India, as well as those of Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Orissa.
The Indigo plant contains a glycoside called indican, which yields indigo when subjected to acid hydrolysis and aerial oxidation. Other constituents of the whole plant include indigotine, indiruben, galactomannan (composed of galactose and mannose), 2.5% of alkaloids, rotenoids and flavanoids, saponins, quinines, sterols or tri-terpenes, and tannins. The leaves and aerial parts of the plant yield alkaloids, flavonoids, carbohydrates, glycosides, tannins, terpeniods, phenols and a rare flavanol glycoside. There are no saponins and steroids in the methanolic extract of the leaves. The seeds yield a water soluble galactomannan.
Indigo has been found through research to prevent and cure following health disorders:
- Alzheimer’s and nervous disorders: The antioxidants present in the indigo leaves help in the prevention of neural problems (especially in the hippocampus of the brain), which help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and possibly in other nervous disorders as well.
- Epilepsy and seizures: The intake of the extracts of indigo plant have been claimed to be useful in the prevention and treatment of epilepsy as well as seizures, by Ayurveda.
- Lung Cancer: The bio-active components of the leaves of the indigo plant, (such as flavanoids, saponins, tannins, and anthroquinine in addition to steroidal terpens and phenols) help compounding the antioxidant effect of the leaves. The extracts (which have a higher antioxidant activity than ascorbic acid), was found to have cytoprotective properties, as well as have a profound efficiency in the cure of lung cancer.
- Liver, spleen, blood disorders: The extracts of the leaves and roots of indigo plant have a positive effect on the cure of disorders related to the liver, spleen, and blood. While the plant extracts repair the damage done to the liver, they also reduce the infiltration of spleenocytes, inhibit histamine, and lead to the increase in weight of the specified organs.
- Diabetes: The dried leaves of indigo plant, when given as a part of diet to rabbits with diabetes, had a hypoglycaemic effect on them, reducing their blood sugar levels as well as curbing the diabetes.
- Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is effectively cured by the extracts of the indigo plant according to research.