Dioscorea verticillata Lam.
Galium cordifolium (L.) Kuntze
Rubia alata Wall.
Rubia clematifolia Reinw. ex Miq.
Rubia conotricha Gand.
Rubia cordata Thunb.
Rubia javana DC.
Rubia lanceolata Hayata
Rubia longipetiolata Bullock
Rubia mitis Miq.
Rubia pratensis (Maxim.) Nakai
Rubia pubescens (Nakai) Nakai
Rubia purpurea Decne.
Rubia scandens Zoll. & Moritzi
Rubia secunda Moon
Rubia sylvatica (Maxim.) Nakai
Common Name: Indian Madder
Rubia cordifolia is a climbing or creeping herbaceous perennial plant, supporting itself upon other plants by means of its recurved prickles[
]. The stems become woody at their base[
The plant is mainly gathered from the wild for use as a dye plant, food and medicine. Prior to the discovery of synthetic dyes, Indian madder was widely used as a dye plant in Asia, and was exported in quantity to other areas of the globe[
]. It is used much less nowadays, but is still employed for high-quality traditional textiles[
]. The plant can be used as an ornamental climber[
When growing in cultivated fields, the plant can behave as a troublesome weed[
Africa - Sudan to Somalia, south to Angola, Mozambique S. Africa; Asia - Afghanistan, India, China, Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines.
Forest edges and clearings, scrub vegetation and dune forest, less commonly in grassland or open, rocky areas, at elevations from sea-level up to 2,600 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Rubia cordifolia is a very adaptable plant, found growing in a range of climates from warm temperate to tropical[
Prefers a loose moist leafy soil in some shade[
]. Tolerates dry soils but quickly becomes scorched when growing in full sun[
Leaves - cooked. Used as a side dish with rice[
]. It is much esteemed as a lalab (a vegetable salad served with sambal), by the Javanese[
Fruit - raw[
]. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter[
The ash of burnt stems and leaves is used as vegetable salt to soften vegetables when cooking[
Indian madder is widely used in traditional medicine.
The roots are alterative, anodyne, antiphlogistic, antitussive, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypotensive, styptic, tonic and vulnerary[
]. They have an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, Pneumococci etc[
]. The roots are used internally in the treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding, internal and external haemorrhage, bronchitis, rheumatism, stones in the kidney, bladder and gall, dysentery etc[
The roots are harvested in the autumn from plants that are at least 3 years old. They are peeled and then dried[
The stems are used in Tibetan medicine, where they are considered to have a bitter taste and a cooling potency[
]. Febrifuge, they are used in the treatment of blood disorders and spreading fever of kidneys and intestines[
The leaves are antiseptic, astringent and vulnerary[
]. They are used as a poison antidote and to treat mouth sores and intestinal problems such as diarrhoea[
A wound dressing is made by rubbing the leaves between the hand palms into a ball, which is then applied to a wound or cut to stop bleeding[
]. The leaves are burnt and the ashes are applied externally to treat mastitis and itchy skin[
The plant is traditionally grown in living fences in the northwestern Himalayas, where it helps to exclude livestock and other animals; mark out land boundaries; whilst also providing a range of medicinal and other uses[
A red dye is obtained from the stems and the root[
]. It is used for dyeing wool, silk, linen and cotton fabrics, as well as basket-making material[
]. To dye a piece of cloth, it is simmered in a decoction of the root and sometimes of the lower part of the stem in water, after having previously been mordanted with alum and (for chintz) with fatty and tannin mordants[
]. The dye obtained from this species is similar, but inferior, to the dye obtained from Rubia tinctoria[
The roots are an important ingredient in recipes of red inks that may also contain other red dye-plants such as the roots of Impatiens tinctoria and the bark of Osyris quadripartita[
The juice of crushed fruits is bottled and used as green to bluish ink[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate[
]. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for the first year. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer.
Division in spring or at any time in the growing season if the divisions are kept well watered until established[
]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.