An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Rubia cordifolia

Rubia cordifolia

The Indian madder or common madder (Rubia cordifolia L.) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Rubiaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Order Rubiales,
Rubiaceae family,
Subfamily Rubioideae,
Rubieae tribe,
Genus Rubia,
R. cordifolia species.
The following terms are synonymous:
– 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.

Etymology –
The term Rubia comes from red rúbeus: the root was used to dye red.
The specific epithet cordifolia comes from cor, córdis heart, heart and fólium leaf: with cordate leaves.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Rubia cordifolia is a plant native to an area of ​​Asia that includes Pakistan, India, China, Mongolia, up to Korea and Japan.
However, the plant also grows in Africa: Sudan and Somalia, southern Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa; in Asia we find it in Afghanistan, India, China, Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Its habitat is that of the edges and clearings of forests, scrub vegetation and dune forests, less commonly in meadows or in open rocky areas, at altitudes from sea level up to 2,600 meters.

Description –
Rubia cordifolia is a perennial climbing herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1.5m in height. The stems are thin and quadrangular, which then become woody at the base; the plant climbs with small hooks to the leaves and stems.
The roots can be over 1m long, up to 12mm thick.
The leaves are evergreen, simple, opposite and stipulated, cordate at the base, sharp and obtuse at the apex and show from three to five longitudinal nerves; they are 5-10 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, produced in spirals of 4-7 stars around the central stem; the stipule is interpeziolar. The petiole is 1.5-3 cm long.
The flowers are small, 3–5 mm in diameter, with five pale yellow petals, in dense axillary or terminal racemes. The glass is inconspicuous. The corolla is yellow, 0.5 cm long, tray-shaped and develops five triangular lobes.
The antesis is between June and August.
The fruit is a pair of red to glossy black berries, globose and about 0.5 cm wide.

Cultivation –
Rubia cordifolia is a climbing plant that grows in the forests of. The roots have been used to dye silk and wool red since ancient times due to the alizarin pigment.
The plant is mainly harvested in nature to be used as a dye, food and medicine plant. Before the discovery of synthetic dyes, it was widely used as a coloring plant in Asia and was exported in quantities to other areas of the globe.
Nowadays it is used much less, but it is still used for high quality traditional fabrics.
The plant can be grown as an ornamental climber.
For its cultivation it prefers clayey soils with a constant level of humidity. Robbie are used as food plants for the larvae of some species of moths including the hummingbird moth.
From a climatic point of view it is a very adaptable plant, which grows in a wide range of climates, from warm temperate to tropical and in a partially shaded area.
In cultivated fields it can behave as a weed.
Propagation occurs by seed; this should be sown as soon as it is ripe. Stored seeds can be very slow to germinate. The transplant must then be carried out in the spring.
It can also propagate by division in spring or at any time of the growing season if the divisions are kept well irrigated until they take root.
Larger portions can be planted directly in the open field.

Customs and Traditions –
Rubia cordifolia is a plant once more used and cultivated to obtain a red pigment derived from the roots.
Common names for this plant include manjistha in Sanskrit, Marathi, kannada and Bengali, majith in Hindi and Gujarati, བཙོད་ in Tibetan, tamaralli in Telugu, manditt in Tamil.
Rubia cordifolia was once an economically important source of the red pigment in many regions of Asia, Europe and Africa. It was cultivated extensively from antiquity to the mid 19th century. The roots of the plant contain an anthraquinone called purpurin (1,2,4-trihydroxyantraquinone) which gives it the red color as a textile dye. It was also used as a dye, especially for painting. However, the substance was also derived from other species; Rubia tinctorum, also widely cultivated, and the Asian species Rubia argyi (H. Léveillé & Vaniot) H. Hara ex Lauener (synonym: Rubia akane Nakai) based on the Japanese Aka (ア カ or あ か) = red, and ne (ネor ね) = root. The invention of a synthetic substance, an anthracenic compound, called alizarin, greatly reduced the demand for the natural active ingredient.
The plant is used for dyeing wool, silk, linen and cotton fabrics, as well as for making baskets.
The dye obtained from this species is similar, but inferior, to the dye obtained from Rubia tinctoria.
The roots are an important ingredient in making red inks which may also contain other red coloring plants such as Impatiens tinctoria roots and Osyris quadripartita bark.
The juice from the crushed fruits is bottled and used as a green to bluish ink.
The roots of Rubia cordifolia are also the source of a medicine used in Ayurveda; this is commonly known in Ayurvedic Sanskrit as Manjistha (or Manjista or Manjishta) and the commercial product in Hindi as Manjith. It is known as btsod (Tibetan: བཙོད་, Wylie: btsod, THL: tsö) in traditional Tibetan medicine where it is used to treat blood disorders; diffuse heat (Tibetan: འགྲམས་ ཚད་, Wylie: ‘grams tshad, THL: dram tshe), excess heat in the lungs, kidneys and intestines; reduce swelling; and is a component of the three reds (Tibetan: དམར་ གསུམ་, Wylie: dmar gsum, THL: mar sum), a sub-compound included in many Tibetan preparations for removing excess heat in the blood.
Rubia cordifolia is widely used in traditional medicine.
In traditional Chinese medicine it is known as qiàn cǎo gēn (茜草 根).
The roots are alterative, anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antitussive, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypotensive, constipated, tonic and vulnerary.
They perform 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 bleeding, bronchitis, rheumatism, kidney, bladder and biliary stones, dysentery, etc.
The stems are used in Tibetan medicine, where they are believed to have a bitter taste and refreshing power.
The leaves are antiseptic, astringent and vulnerary. They are used as an antidote for poisons and to treat mouth sores and intestinal problems such as diarrhea.
Rubia cordifolia is also used in the food sector.
The cooked leaves are used as a side dish to rice. They are very popular as lalab (vegetable salad served with sambal), by the Javanese.
The fruits are eaten raw.
Other uses include agroforestry ones.
The plant is traditionally grown in living enclosures in the northwestern Himalayas, where it helps set up barriers against livestock and other animals; delimit company boundaries while providing various medicinal and other uses.

Preparation Method –
The Indian madder is a plant that, especially in the past, was used as a source of natural dyes.
To dye a piece of fabric, a decoction, obtained from the root and sometimes from the lower part of the stem, is simmered in water, after having been previously bitten with alum and with fatty and tannic mordants.
The roots are harvested in the fall from plants that are at least 3 years old. They are peeled and then dried.
In medicinal use, a dressing is prepared by rubbing the leaves between the palms of the hands in the shape of a ball, which is then applied to a wound or cut to stop bleeding.
The leaves are burned and the ashes are applied externally to treat mastitis and skin itching.
The ash from the burnt stems and leaves is used as vegetable salt to soften the vegetables during cooking.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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