Also called as true indigo, is a species of plant from the bean family. It’s fascinating deep blue color and wide range of colors obtained by combination with other natural dyes has caused it to be called as ‘the king of dyes’ given that no other dye plants have had such a prominent place as this genus.

Indigo, one of the hues of the rainbow, in between blue and violet, was favored not just for its color, but due to its excellent colorfastness properties and excellent resistance to fading or running.


Indigo —a dye derived from fermenting the leaves— was one of the Philippines’ first major export products. Carried on galleons and sold to Europeans who desired the wide range of blue tones as natural dyeing material for their fabrics. It was once extensively used in the weaving industry including the Abel of llocos, and Abrenian fabrics.

It occurs wild or naturalized in most tropical countries of Africa, in Asia from Arabia to South-East Asia and in Australia. In the Philippines, it has been widely distributed in thickets around towns at low and medium altitudes in the Bataan Islands and northern Luzon to Mindanao. This is due to the fact that indigo, like a common weed adapts to poor site conditions, this species is a prolific seeder that can readily germinate under a harsh environments.

An erect, slightly hairy shrub can grow to heights of 1 to 1.5 meters. Flowers are small, reddish or reddish yellow.


The leaves yield a blue-violet to almost blackish dye when macerated or boiled in water. The dye is applied to fabrics, abaca fiber or paper by simply immersing the materials in a hot dye bath of the leaves for about 2 hours. If a darker color is desired, the material may be soaked in the solution overnight.

The sukumo is fermented in ash lye, calcium hydroxide and wheat bran (Source:

Historically, the Japanese have used another method which involves extracting indigo from the polygonum plant. In this process the plant is mixed with wheat husk powder, limestone powder, lye ash, and sake. The mixture is allowed to ferment for about one week to form the dye pigment which is called sukumo.

The Indigo Leaves are used to make hair dye as well as prepare medicated hair oil. Leaf powder is used as natural black color dye for hair. By applying Indigofera your hair becomes more manageable, moisturized, and shiny.

In the medical area, its roots, when prepared as decoction by crushing, can cure abdominal disorders, leucorrhoea and all types of toxicities, while its leaves can treat toxicities, fever and arthritis. The leaf’s juice is given in the dose of 10-20ml along with honey twice daily for jaundice and inflammation of liver. For poisonous bites the entire plant is being pulverized and applied as a paste over the bitten area.

In addition, Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program Philippines executive director Ruth Canlas says that what is good about indigo is that it can be planted all over the country and even aids in boosting the fertility of the soil because it is an excellent nitrogen fixing agent.   (Ashley Conje)

“Indigo.” How Products Are Made. (2017, March 30). Retrieved from Encyclopedia:
Aragones, E. J., Pitargue, F. J., & Rojo, J. P. (2001). Dye-Yielding Plants of the Philippines Handbook. Cebu City.
Arceo-Dumlao, T. (2016, March 16). Indigo trade getting rid of the blues. Retrieved from Inquirer.Net:
Britannica, T. E. (2016, June 3). Indigo. Plant Genus. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica:
Indigorfera Tinctoria. (n.d.). Retrieved from Mother Herbs:
Philippine Medical Plants. (2013, July). Retrieved from Stuart Xchange Web Site:
Useful Tropical Plants Database. (2017, February 26). Retrieved 2014, from Tropical. The Fern:


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