Madder is a perennial climbing plant with evergreen leaves and small pale yellow flowers. The roots can be over three feet long, and are usually harvested in the second or third year of growth. Considered an ancient or heirloom dye plant; madder has been used throughout history for the brilliant orange and red hues it can produce. The root is utilized as a natural orange to red dye. With the help of a mordant (usually alum), madder is suitable to dye both plant and animal based textiles. The alizarin and purpurin constituents in madder root create rich colors ranging from orange to bright red. Textiles dyed with madder have been discovered in archaeological sites, tombs, and graves dating back to the ancient Egyptians and the Mohenjo-daro site. A decline in the use of madder as a dye occurred in the discovery of the insect based dyes cochineal and lac; with the increasing interest in natural plant based dyes madder root is once again gaining popularity. Due to insufficient evidence madder has no medicinal applications today.
NOTE: Not for internal use!
Magically, this herb has been used to create dyes and inks for centuries. Many magical ink recipes call for Madder root. The Druids incorporated it into girls' coming-of-age ceremonies, probably because of its blood color, and it makes a good dye for wands. Depending on the mordant, water temperature (higher makes browner), and age of the root when harvested, it can produce orange, red (tin), purple, or yellow dye.
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