The history of indigo is foremost that of a very valuable cloth dye. Its economical importance was due to the rarity of the natural substances from which blue hues could be obtained. Initially, the plant Indigofera tinctoria was used for such purposes in India and reached the Greek and Roman world as a luxury product called Indigo (from the Lat. indicum, Indian). Different European plants were also used during the Middle Ages, but the dye they produces was neither intense nor resistant. Thus, the discovery of wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) native of North America has generated an intense trans-Atlantic commerce with this new type of indigo. The Native Americans used the root of the plant medicinally as well, in the treatment of wounds that would not heal and of the infections of the mouth and throat. Indigo was thus added to the miraculous plants from the new continent, entering the European materia medica and used in healing numerous afflictions.
|natural indigo dye|
|Baptista tinctoria - American wild indigo|
During the nineteenth century indigo started to be used in homeopathy as well, especially an immune system stimulant, in combination with other plants, but also in cases of localized infections. As an antimicrobial tincture, it is usually associated with Echinacea and wild cedar.
The History of Pharmacy Collection from Cluj-Napoca, includes five jars for indigo used in Transylvania apothecaries. The first two jars, made of wood, were obtained from the Unicorn pharmacy in Cluj; the first is dated to the nineteenth and the second to the eighteenth century. The third jar, also made of wood, was once used in the Bononi pharmacy in Recaş (Timiş County). The fourth container is a glass jar with the signature INDIGO printed on paper, part of the old Orient collection. The final item is a small bottle from a homeopathy set from the pharmacy in Baia Mare.
|wooden apothecary jars from the Unicorn pharmacy in Cluj with the signature INDIGO|