Ratanjot is the common name of a plant in India, almost certainly in the Boraginaceae family, that has medicinal properties and also yields a red dyestuff that is used in foods, cosmetics etc. The plant is commonly traded in markets through much of India. Arnebia speciosa Aitch. & Hemsl. (syn Arnebia nobilis) is probably the main source of ratanjot, though at least 15 different species share this common name and many of these also have medicinal uses and supply a similar red dye. Onosma hispida Wall. ex G.Don (often wrongly referred to as Onosma echioides) is probably often also used as a source of ratanjot and the following species in Boraginaceae are likely to be also used at times:- Alkanna tinctoria L.; Arnebia benthamii (Wall. ex G.Don) I.M.Johnst.; Arnebia euchroma (Royle) I.M.Johnst.; Arnebia hispidissima (Sieber ex Lehm.) A.DC.; Maharanga emodi (Wall.) DC.; and Onosma hookeri C.B.Clarke[
Alkanna lehmannii (Tineo) A.DC.
Alkanna matthioli Tausch
Alkanna tuberculata (Forssk.) Meikle
Anchusa bracteolata Viv.
Anchusa rhizochroa Viv.
Anchusa tinctoria (L.) L.
Anchusa tuberculata Forssk.
Baphorhiza tinctoria (L.) Link
Buglossum tinctorium Lam.
Lithospermum commutatum Bianca
Lithospermum lehmannii Tineo
Lithospermum tinctorium L.
Lycopsis cyrenaica Spren.
Nonea violacea Aucher ex DC.
Onochilis tinctoria Bubani
Rhytispermum tinctorium Link
Common Name: Alkanet
Alkanna tinctoria is a herbaceous perennial plant with prostrate, branched stems, growing 20 - 40cm tall[
This species is harvested from the wild especially for use as a red dye, and is also a popular herbal remedy, especially within its native range. It is occasionally cultivated as a dye plant[
]. One report says that it is cultivated for its seed[
Many members of this plant family contain a liver-damaging alkaloid and so internal usage is inadvisable[
N. Africa - Morocco to Egypt; S. Europe - Spain to Slovakia and Greece; W. Asia - Turkey to Israel and Syria.
Maritime sands, uncultivated ground[
], calcareous soils[
] and pine forests[
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Plants are hardy to about -10°c[
Prefers a well-drained sandy or loamy soil[
] in sun or partial shade[
]. Dislikes acid soils[
] but thrives in alkaline soils[
]. A very drought tolerant plant when established[
], succeeding in a hot dry position[
], it is a useful plant for dry sandy or alkaline soils[
Used as a vegetable[
]. No further details are given.
A red dye obtained from the roots is used as a food colouring[
The root is antibacterial, antipruritic, astringent and vulnerary[
]. It is used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions including jaundice, kidney stones, skin troubles; bruises, wounds, sprains; diarrhoea, ulcers, fractures, abscesses[
]. Combined with the resin of Pistacia atlantica, olive oil and laurel, it is used to treat blood clots in the leg[
The boiled root is used to treat fractures, abscesses, rheumatism (oil). It is combined with clarified butter to treat wounds; combined with clarified butter and '‘atrufān' to treat burns and infected wounds. It is used as an antiseptic for skin diseases such as eczema, itching and scabies); combined with Ferula assa-foetida and Nigella sativa to treat wounds. The decoction, combined with clarified butter, is dropped into the eyes to treat problems there[
It is used externally in the treatment of varicose veins, indolent ulcers, bed sores and itching rashes[
The root is harvested in the autumn and can be dried for later use[
The fresh leaves are used to treat sore throat[
A red dye is obtained from the roots[
], it is used by pharmacists as well as in perfumes and to stain wood or marble[
]. The dye is also used in thermometers[
] and as a litmus to test for acids and alkalines[
]. It can make wood look like rosewood or mahogany[
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.
Division in spring. Fairly easy, they can be planted straight out into their permanent positions if required.
Basal cuttings of new growth in late spring. Harvest the young shoots when they are about 10 - 15cm long and pot them up into individual pots in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse. They should root well within a few weeks and can be planted out in the summer[
Root cuttings in late winter[