Indigofera tinctoria (Neelini Herb or Indigo herb) is a plant species from the Fabaceae family that was and still is one of the sources for indigo dye. Neelini is a shrub that can grow one to two meters in height. It may be a perennial, a biennial, or an annual plant, depending on the climate where it grows. It is also cultivated as a ground cover that is soil-improving.
Neelini’s leaves are green when fresh and gray-black upon drying. The tender branches have a bluish-red tinge and the flowers are colored red or pink. The fruits are contained in cylindrical pods that are pale green-gray when young and become dark brown upon ripening.
Other names for neelini include: neela (Hindi); indigo or Indian indigo (English); neela chettu, aviri, nilimandu chettu (Telugu); Amari, avuri, or neelam (Tamil); and leela or lita (Malayalam).
Dye is obtained through processing the indigo plant’s leaves, which are immersed in water and are subsequently fermented to naturally convert the indican into indigotin (blue dye).
Aside from being a dye source, neelini is used to treat spleen and liver disorders, fever, gray hair, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and other ailments.
The thirteenth century merchant traveler Marco Polo was the first to document indigo preparation in India. Thus, indigo was often used in paintings in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Growing Neelini Herb
Indigofera tinctoria is believed to be a plant native to Malaysia, yet it is also widely grown in parts of Africa.
It is also widely cultivated in China, India, Java, tropical America, and Malagasy.
The neelini herb plant is quite adaptable and can be grown up to three hundred meters in altitude.
The Indogo plant grows well in secondary forest, grassy fields, bush margins, sandy coasts along riverbanks and roadsides, and grassy fields that are seasonally flooded.
When it’s not growing in cultivated areas, the neelini indigo plant is found growing on roadsides and thickets in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
In Madagascar, neelini is found growing on roadsides, in villages, grassland, and other areas.
For medicinal purposes, the parts used are the roots, seeds, and leaves.
Health Benefits of Neelini Herb
Neelini’s major components make it beneficial for health.
In Ayurveda (the traditional Indian healing system), Neelini or Indigo Herb can be used for health conditions like:
- Liver disease
- Heart palpitation
Neelini’s leaves, stems, and roots are thermogenic, bitter, and tonic, which make the plant useful for promoting hair growth. A leaf paste is applied to the hair and left on for twenty minutes before rinsing. Its trichogenous action also reduces gray hair.
Neelini or Indigo Herb is also an ingredient in various commercial hair tonics.
Neelini is an excellent liver tonic as it can ease constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, splenomegaly, ascites, and liver disorders.
As it balances the vata and kapha doshas, neelini is useful for cold and cough, bronchitis, asthma, and rhinitis. Its stems, roots, and leaves have expectorant properties.
Indigofera tinctoria improves flexibility as it relieves joint inflammation and pain. It is also useful in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
In Ayurveda, neelini can also help with rabies. Upon being bitten by a dog, a leaf paste is applied to the bite mark. Additionally, a mixture of 50 milliliters of herbal neelini juice extract, and an equal amount of milk, is administered each morning to ease hydrophobia.
Hepato-protective activity for the Liver
Researchers from the Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu conducted an anti-hepatotoxic efficacy test of indigo powder extract on rats’ paracetamol-induced liver damage. Rise in serum levels of AST (aspartate amino transferase), ALT (alanine amino transferase), and other compounds were reported. Neelini extract’s anti-hepatotoxic efficacies were reported.
Nephro-protective activity for the Kidneys
The Govt. Siddha Medical College in Chennai conducted a kidney toxicity study. A water decoction of indigo leaves was given to rats with Cisplatin-induced renal damage. The water decoction decreased the toxicity caused by the Cisplatin. Changes were observed in urea and creatinine levels as well as in body weight.
The indigo-based trial drug protected kidneys from injury. Thus, indigo has considerable nephron-protective activity against renal damage induced by Cisplatin.
Neelini Herb has a bitter taste and a heating energy. Moreover, it balances the vata and kapha doshas.
Indigofera tinctoria is the main source for indigo dye. It is also useful for conditions like hair loss, gray hair, digestive issues, respiratory issues, musculoskeletal issues, and rabies, among other medical conditions. Neelini also possesses nephro-protective and hepato-protective properties.
Women can take neelini during lactation, although you should first consult with your doctor on usage during pregnancy. Additionally, neelini should be taken with caution and should be avoided by those who are suffering from diarrhea.