Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.
Preparation: The indigo is slowly drawn out of the leaves and stems by composting them in alkaline water. The resultant blue water is dried so that only the indigo powder remains.
Dosage: 1.5 - 3 grams
Main actions according to TCM*: Clears Heat, resolves Fire toxicity and cools the Blood. Disperses Stagnation and reduces swelling. Drains Liver Fire, dispels Summer-Heat and extinguishes Wind to stop tremors.
Contraindications*: Use with great care in stomach cold. Do not use if the Heat is due to Yin Deficiency Fire.
Source date: 1172 AD
Number of ingredients: 3 herbs
Formula key actions: Clears Heat, cools Blood and relieves toxicity. Promotes urination. Eliminates Summer-Heat. Stops convulsions.
Source date: Qing Dynasty
Number of ingredients: 10 herbs
Formula key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), natural indigo are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity treat the latter while, at the same time, removing infectious toxins from the body. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.
As suggested by its category natural indigo are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that natural indigo typically help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition natural indigo can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.
Natural indigo also taste Salty. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Salty ingredients like natural indigo tend to have a draining effect in the body because they clear accumulations, remove Phlegm and soften hard lumps.
The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such natural indigo are thought to target the Stomach, the Liver and the Lung. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.
Indigo naturalis is a safe, inexpensive, and effective alternative topical treatment for skin and nail psoriasis.1
Oral Qing-Dai (Naturalis Indigo) is effective for inducing remission in patients with moderate ulcerative colitis activity and can be tolerated.2
1. McDermott L, Madan R, Rupani R, Siegel D. (2016). A Review of Indigo Naturalis as an Alternative Treatment for Nail Psoriasis. J Drugs Dermatol , 15(3):319-23.
2. 張莉、段麗萍、楊衛紅、呂愈敏、林三仁 (2004)。<含青黛成分中藥導致便血的臨床特點及可能致病機制>。胃腸病學和肝病學雜誌，2。