Indian Madder was an economically important source of a red pigment in many regions of Asia, Europe and Africa. It was extensively cultivated from antiquity until the mid-nineteenth century. The plant roots contain an organic compound called Alizarin that gives its red color to a textile dye known as Rose madder. It was also used as a colorant, especially for paint, that is referred to as Madder Lake. Its roots are utilized for making medicines. At the same time, the roots are also present in Ayurvedic healing culture, in which it is referred to as Manjistha or simply just Manjith. The Indian madder plant itself is rather controversial, because it is rather dangerous to be consumed orally, but some people just do it anyway. This plant was used in Indian medicine as a coloring agent. Indian Madders are used as food plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Hummingbird hawk moth
Indian Madder is a perennial herbaceous prickly creeper or climbing herb that grows up to 10 m long. The plant is found growing in forest edges, scrub vegetation, moist deciduous forests, grassland or open, rocky areas, shrubs, grass slopes, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests. It prefers loamy soils with a constant level of moisture. Roots can be over 1 m long and up to 12 mm thick, long, cylindrical, flexuose with thin red bark. Stem has long internodes, slightly woody at the base, quadrangular, sometimes prickly or hispid and often glabrous.
The evergreen leaves are 5-10 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, produced in whorls of 4-7 star like around the central stem. Leaves are ovate-heart shaped, entire, pointed, and heart-shaped at base, rarely rounded, 3-9 palmately veined, and upper surface mostly hairless and rough. It climbs with tiny hooks at the leaves and stems.
Flower & Fruits
Flowers are small, 3-5 mm across, with five greenish yellow or pale yellow petals, in dense racemes. Flowering normally takes place from August September. Fertile flowers are followed by small globose or 2-lobed berry, 4-6 mm in diameter. They are initially green turning to bluish-black, sometimes red or purple as they mature. The fruit consists of globose seeds that are 13 mm in diameter.