Wild indigo (Baptisia australis) is a thin branched leafy shrub reaching 1 to 2 metres in height with trifoliate leaves, narrow flowers with tubuliferous spikes of a brick colour. Wild indigo is considered toxic and is on the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of toxic plants.
The plant belongs to the same family as the common clover, the pea family (Fabaceae). It flowers from June to September. It is most commonly found along the Pacific coast of the Americas.
The root is commonly used to make medicine. It is an herbaceous perennial having a smooth stem, clover like leaves, and purplish-blue flowers in small terminal clusters. The wild indigos are spectacular in flower; and, if they were easily propagated, they would be more common as an ornamental. The plant was also useful as a dye with the leaves, yielding an indigo colour, and hence its name. The wood also yields a red colour.
This herbal remedy is also effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders such as stomach pains, indigestion, and gas, bloating and also in curing lymphatic disorders. Chronic fatigue syndrome is also treated with Wild Indigo root. It is effective in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections as well as treating sore throat, tonsillitis and pharyngitis.
The ingestion of an infusion of leaves is useful for rheumatic and bronchial infections. Used externally, a boiled liquid may be used to strengthen the hair, prevent hair loss and the appearance of gray hair and also relive skin irritations. The herb has been used in traditional medicine as immune stimulant antiseptic, laxative, emmenagogue and anti-parasitic agent and to treat colds and flu, liver diseases, infections of the ear, nose and throat, heals ulcers in the mouth and gingivitis.
Wild indigo root should be avoided by pregnant women and people with autoimmune disorders, and should be used only under the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner.