Rubia tinctoria is an herbaceous, perennial, climbing vine in the bedstraw family with roots that can extend to three feet in length. For thousands of years, madder root has been utilized as a textile dye, imparting orange and red tones to a range of fibers. Fabrics dyed with madder root have been discovered in archeological sites dating back to ancient India and Egypt. Considered an heirloom dye plant, madder is a wonderful choice in natural dye options.
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. 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. Rubia tinctoria belongs to the Rubiaceae family.