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This digital dye map was inspired by Rebecca Burgess’ book, Harvesting Color and the belief in the concept of Ayurvastra, or healing cloth, which teaches that what you wear against your skin can also be considered medicine as you absorb up to 65% of what is applied to your skin.

The particular plants included in this map are plants that have a history of use both medicinally and as botanical dyes. It is with Rebecca’s blessing that we have been given the opportunity to begin this project that we hope to grow continuously by adding more and more medicinal dye plants to our database.

Our main intention is to empower and educate people: Empower them to be more interactive with their health, the health of the environment and the health of the fashion industry and to educate them in an attempt to expand their understanding of what can be considered “medicine”.

We have included references for recent medical studies for each plant along with an herbal monograph and photos.

Please refer to Rebecca’s book for more in-depth information on the growing and cultivation of the plants as well as for more dye vat recipes and afterbaths.


Sambucus nigra, Sambucus caerulea

This bountiful lady loves to keep her feet wet. Elderberry grows alongside creeks and in openings of moist forest habitats. Both varieties (blue and black) are used in medicine and as natural dye. The berry and flowers are used in North American and European herbalism to boost the immune system and clear respiratory passages. You can find “Sambucus” in many mainstream drugstores these days as a flu medicine.

More Info Health Study

Vimalanathan, S., R. Schoop, S. Pleschka, and J. Hudson. `Synergistic Inhibition of Influenza Replication Cycle with Echinacea Purpurea and Sambucus Nigra.` Planta Medica 79.13 (2013): n. pag. Web.

French Broom

Genista monspessulana

Considered to be an invasive species, French broom intelligently grows densely in areas where the soil has been disrupted and there is potential for erosion. In this way, it could be considered a medicinal plant for the environment as it also fixes nitrogen in the soil. It yields a beautiful light yellow-green hue depending on the mordant that is used. It’s medicinal properties for humans are yet to be determined, however; its relative, Genista scoparius, commonly referred to as Scotch Broom has been used for centuries. The fresh tips were used to bitter beer before the discovery of hops and the tops were used as a diuretic and cathartic in the earliest printed herbals.

More Info Health Study

Invasion and impacts of nitrogen-fixing shrubs Genista monspessulana and Cytisus scoparius in grasslands of Washington and coastal California KA Haubensak - 2001 - University of California, Berkeley

Sheep Sorrel

Rumex acetosella

Part of the well known Essiac Formula for auto-immune issues

Health Study

Tamayo, Carmen, M. A. Richardson, Suzanne Diamond, and Inga Skoda. "The Chemistry and Biological Activity of Herbs Used in Flor-Essence? Herbal Tonic and Essiac." Phytotherapy Research 14.1 (2000): 1-14. Web.


Phytolacca americana

Once used as a source of ink in the 19th Century, this commonly seen plant is known for its luscious deep red shades and fuschias in natural dyes. Pokeweed is known for its medicinal use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps and other complaints involving swollen glands or the need for an emetic or purgative. It is part of the famous Hoxsey Formula used in cases where blood purification or lymphatic movement is crucial.

More Info

Aitbakieva, Valentina R., and Artem V. Domashevskiy. "Insights into the Molecular Antiviral Mechanism of Pokeweed Protein from Phytolacca Americana." Biochemistry & Pharmacology: Open Access Biochem Pharmacol (Los Angel) 5.3 (2016): n. pag. Web.

Biden/ Tickseed Sunflower

Bidens polylepis

The sticky seeds from this common meadow plant are sometimes mistaken for ticks. The color produced from Biden flowers is one of the strongest shades of orange seen in any natural dye. It is an astringent, antimicrobial and anti-infective. What this can mean for the bladder is that it’s an excellent addition to any UTI formula. It’s relative, Bidens pilosa, is used in Brazilian Folk Medicine as a cancer cure.

More Info Health Study

Kviecinski, Maicon Roberto, Karina Bettega Felipe, Tatiana Schoenfelder, Luiz Paulo De Lemos Wiese, Maria Helena Rossi, Edlayne Gonçalez, Joana D’Arc Felicio, Danilo Wilhelm Filho, and Rozangela Curi Pedrosa. "Study of the Antitumor Potential of Bidens Pilosa (Asteraceae) Used in Brazilian Folk Medicine." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 117.1 (2008): 69-75. Web.


Tanacetum vulgare

Flowers from this midsummer blooming plant can be harvested and dried and used to make a vibrant yellow dye. It is used as a diuretic among other things. Tanacetum vulgare is a toxic plant, carefully used for killing intestinal worms. It is also used in reducing menopausal problems and must be avoided during pregnancy. It’s relative Tanacetum parthenium, is tauted for its anti-migraine and anti-inflammatory effects.

More Info

"Anti-inflammatory Effects of South American Tanacetum Vulgare." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

Curly Dock

Rumex crispus

This plant loves open fields with damp soil. It yields a soft, rich carmel color. It has many uses including a poultice for burns, skin irritations and boils. The young spring leaves were used as a tobacco substitute by Native Americans. This plant has most recently been studied for antioxidant and antimicrobial activities.

More Info

Rececca, pp108-109 "Determination of Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Rumex Crispus L. Extracts." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.


Equisetum arvense

More Info

"Composition and Antimicrobial Activity of Equisetum Arvense L. Essential Oil." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

Black Walnut

Juglans SPP

Yielding a rich brown dye that carries a hint of brassy yellow, this nutty offspring was once used as dye for Confederate uniforms, and is currently used as temporary tattoo ink. Medicinally, black walnut is a rich source of omega oils, and is an anti-inflammatory tonic.

More Info

Rebecca pp 96-97 Sharma, Radhey Shyam, Vandana Mishra, Ram Singh, Nidhi Seth, and C.r. Babu. "Antifungal Activity of Some Himalayan Medicinal Plants and Cultivated Ornamental Species." Fitoterapia 79.7-8 (2008): 589-91. Web.


Alcea rosea “Nigra”

This hardy lady grows in gardens across the country and has even naturalized in some parts. She has been used in Asian folk medicine as a remedy for a wide range of ailments. Her efficacy in treating stones of the kidney , bladder and utinary tract have recently been proven in clinical studies.

More Info Health Study

Rajaei, Ziba, Nema Mohammadian, Marzieh Ahmadi, Abolfazlkhajavi Rad, Mousa-Al-Reza Hadjzadeh, and Nafisehsadat Tabasi. "Alcea Rosea Root Extract as a Preventive and Curative Agent in Ethylene Glycol-induced Urolithiasis in Rats." Indian Journal of Pharmacology 44.3 (2012): 304. Web.

Desert Rhubarb a.k.a. Wild Carrot

Rumex Hymenosepalus

Wild carrot thrives in the wild west and loves the sandy soils that lay beside washes. The traditional uses of this plant are varied, but all use it topically or internally for anti-bacterial functions. A study conducted over ten years ago focused on measuring this plant’s antimycobacterial chemical constituents.

More Info Health Study

Rivero-Cruz, Isabel, Laura Acevedo, José A. Guerrero, Sergio Martínez, Rogelio Pereda-Miranda, Rachel Mata, Robert Bye, Scott Franzblau, and Barbara N. Timmermann. "Antimycobacterial Agents from Selected Mexican Medicinal Plants." Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 57.9 (2005): 1117-126. Web.

Madder Root

Rubia tinctoria

Used as a dye for four thousand years, it’s brilliant red is a trademark color for Persian rugs. Easy to grow, Madder is cultivated in gardens and nurseries around the country. It’s close relative, Rubia cordifolia, has been used in

More Info Health Study

Evaluation of the wound healing activity of a crude extract of Rubia cordifolia L. (Indian madder) in mice R Karodi, M Jadhav, R Rub, A Bafna

Prickly Pear Cactus

Opuntia SP

The efficacy of the cactus has recently been proven as an anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-hyperlididemic upon other uses.

Health Study

Feugang, Jean Magloire. "Nutritional and Medicinal Use of Cactus Pear (Opuntia Spp.) Cladodes and Fruits." Frontiers in Bioscience 11.1 (2006): 2574. Web.

Hopi Tea

Thelesperma megapotamicum

Known as “hohoysi” by the Hopi Indians, the red extract of this plant is used as a botanical dye in basket making and is gathered when the flowers open. The flower on this herb stands out in a radiant yellow beam extending from its long slender stalks. Some Medicinal uses include toothache remedy, blood purifier, stomach settler and nervous stimulant. It is considered extremely useful for the Kidneys.

More Info Health Study

Ateya, A.-M., T. Okarter, J. Knapp, P. Schiff, and D. Slatkin. "Flavonoids of Thelesperma Megapotanicum." Planta Medica 45.08 (1982): 247-48. Web.


Foeniculum vulgare

Arguably one of the most multi-purpose use herbs, fennel is used for culinary, medicinal, creative and insecticide purposes. As a dye, the leaf and stalk produce a range of strong greens. It is considered modern phytotherapy such as antioxidant, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, bronchodilatory, estrogenic, diuretic, lithontripic, galactogogue, emmenagogue, antithrombotic, hypotensive, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, memory enhancing, and antimutagenic activities.

More Info

Rahimi, Roja, and Mohammad Reza Shams Ardekani. "Medicinal Properties of Foeniculum Vulgare Mill. in Traditional Iranian Medicine and Modern Phytotherapy." Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine 19.1 (2012): 73-79. Web.


Isatis tinctorum

Woad is known as far back as the time of the ancient Egyptians, who used it to dye the cloth wrappings applied for the mummies. The dye extracted from woad is indigo, the same dye extracted form “true indigo”, but in a lower concentration. Chemicals from woad might be used to prevent cancer. It has also been used medicinally as an external poultice applied to the region of the spleen, and as an ointment for ulcers, inflammation and staunch bleeding. Production of woad is increasing in the UK for use in inks, particularly for inkjet printers, and dyes. The plant can cause problems, however: Isatis tinctoria is classified as an invasive species in parts of the United States.

More Info

"Isatis Tinctoria–From the Rediscovery of an Ancient Medicinal Plant towards a Novel Anti-inflammatory Phytopharmaceutical." N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

Japanese Indigo

Polygonum Tinctorium

As it is impossible to yield a natural blue dye from a plant indigenous to the U.S., this plant is a propagated visitor in the U.S. and is happy with plenty of water and recently amended soil. It is not commonly thought of as a medicinal plant, however; Ayurvastra recent studies have justified its use as such given the high content of bioactive compounds including antioxidants.

More Info Health Study

Honda, G., V. Tosirisuk, and M. Tabata. "Isolation of an Antidermatophytic, Tryptanthrin, from Indigo Plants, Polygonum Tinctorium and Isatis Tinctoria." Planta Medica 38.03 (1980): 275-76. Web.


Solidago speciosa

The useful biological applilcations of saponins present in Solidago have been studied generally based on their membrane-disrupting properties, ranging from their use as fish and snail poisons to potentially interesting anti-cancer and ion channel-blocking properties. Used as an anti-inflammatory, hypocholestrolemic, immunie stimulating and flavor-modifying substance whose properties are widely recognized and commercially utilized outside of the U.S.

More Info Study

Balandrin, Manuel F. "Commercial Utilization of Plant-Derived Saponins: An Overview of Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Industrial Applications." Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Saponins Used in Traditional and Modern Medicine (1996): 1-14. Web.

Natural Dye Plants found in

Protein-based Fibers Mordant Recipe

This recipe was taken directly from Rebecca Burgess’ book, Harvesting Color, with the author's permission.

This mordant recipe is useful for incorporating both powdered alum and iron. Most recipes in this book call for alum. However, several recipes, including fennel, sheep sorrel, and French broom, recommend using iron to prepare your fibers before dyeing, because it has a tendency to create deep green colors from dye baths that might otherwise yield yellow. Powered iron or ferrous sulfate can be purchased from dye supply stores. Another option for iron is to make a solution from rusty objects (see Rebecca’s book for this information).

  1. Weigh the material to be dyed. Measure out your mordant by calculating 10 percent of the material weight (for instance, to dye 10 ounces of raw wool, you’ll need 1 ounce of mordant).
  2. Fill stainless steel or enamel vessel with water and plant over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add powdered mordant and dissolve thoroughly.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add your fiber to the mordant bath and leave it in for 1 hour. Use a thermometer to monitor the water temperature—it should be within a range of 185 to 200°F.
  4. Remove fiber and rinse prior to hanging to dry (see Note). In the case of wool, make sure the temperature of the rinse water is similar to avoid felting. The final rinsing stage removes any extra mordant that didn’t bond to the fiber. Unbonded mordant can release and bond to the pigment within the dye vat-leaving less dye available for fibers.

Note: Keep in mind that fibers will absorb perhaps 50 percent of the mordant, so when rinsing the fiber, be sure to capture the wastewater and add it back into your mordant bath for reuse.

Plant Dye Extraction Master Recipe

This recipe was taken directly from Rebecca Burgess’ book, Harvesting Color, with the author's permission.

This recipe is a classic—useful for many plants in this book (Harvesting Color), and many more that have not yet been discovered for use in the dye vat. I have found that woody perennial shrubs, barks, and roots yield stronger colors if repeatedly heated. The dyer can experiment with this recipe as feels appropriate to extract the best color. This recipe should be started in the evening and finished the following morning—resting the dye vat overnight is important for color extraction.

  1. Fill your dye vat with water and the appropriate quantity of plant matter based on the recipe you are using.
  2. Boil the plant matter from 60 to 90 minutes, based on what you see in the dye pot. By the end of the evening boiling period, the water should have begun to change color.
  3. Let the bath sit overnight.
  4. Reboil the dye pot for another 60 to 90 minutes; at this point, the dye should be fully extracted.
  5. The plant matter can be fully or partially extracted at this point, to make room for your yarns or fabrics. If you are dyeing unspun fibers, fully strain the dye pot of plant matter to avoid tangling.
  6. Place fiber to be dyed—e.g., raw wool, roving, yarns, or fabric—into the dye vat and heat to a simmer (185-200 °F) for 60-90 minutes. You can experiment with leaving material in overnight (with the heat off) to see if stronger colors can be obtained.
  7. Remove fibers and let them cool to room temperature before rinsing them gently in warm water.
  8. Hang to dry out of direct sunlight.

Cellulose Fibers Mordant Recipe

This recipe was taken directly from Rebecca Burgess’ book, Harvesting Color, with the author's permission.

Preparing cotton, hemp, linen, (nettle) or ramie for dyeing requires an extra step after the fabric is mordanted in alum. Cellulose or plant-based fibers will typically dye lighter than protein fibers like wool will. A second mordanting, this time in tannin solution, will amplify and deepen your dye results.

  1. Complete the Mordant Recipe for Protein Fibers, using the 10:1 fiber to alum ratio. You can either hang the fibers to dry overnight or continue immediately with the application of tannin.
  2. In a large pot, dilute your tannin solution with water. Heat the solution on medium heat until it reaches between 180 and 200 °F. Add the cellulose fibers and let sit on the heat for 1 hour.
  3. Rinse well and hang to dry.

Essiac Formula

This formula originally hails from the Ojibway Indian Tribe. The formulation was passed on to a Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse in the early 1920’s. It then became known as the &dquo;Essiac&dquo; Tonic (Essiac is Caisse spelled backwards).

This formula works at the cellular level to cleanse and rejuvenate degenerated tissues by effectively removing toxins and fluid wastes from the body. It also supports gastrointestinal health and soothes irritated and inflamed tissues.

Essiac Tonic can be used as a preventative or therapeutic treatment.

Hoxsey Formula

The herbs used in this formulation were put together by the renowned herbalist Harry Hoxsey. The plants are considered by practitioners to be classic alteratives, traditionally known as blood purifiers.

This formula supports enhanced metabolic functions and to assist the body better elimination through the organ system leading to a better absorption and assimilation of nutrients on the whole.

It is generally used as a blood, lymphatic and glandular alterative.

Please Note

The use of mordants and wildcrafting have an environmental impact. For more information on how to be a responsible natural dyer and wildcrafter, please refer to Rebecca’s Book.

There are many variables to consider when working with natural dyes. Colors will vary depending on many factors including, but not limited do, the type of fiber being dyed, the soil from which you’re harvesting, the mordants being used, the season in which you’re dying, etc.. Plant based fibers generally yield less rich colors than Protein based fibers.


This content is for informational purposes only. Please consult a qualified doctor, naturopath or other qualified health care practitioner before you take any herbal medicines.

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a qualified health care provider trained in the field of botanical medicine.