I have dyed natural fibres with plant dyes for over 15 years and almost all of the natural dyes that I use are medicinal plants.
Different plants grow in different seasons and their unique features, such as scents and colors, are developed through millions of years of adaptations and adjustments to survive. I strongly believe we need to use their ‘surviving’ features for our own survival. Some of the names of color phytonutrients are familiar to us.
The following are some of the examples:
Red: Carotenoid lycopene which is a scavenger of free radicals in our body and protects heart and lung disease. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), red foods are also known to nourish and protect the heart. In fact, red rose tea is well known to calm the heart, reduce stress and promote good sleep.
Orange/Yellow: Beta cryptothanxin, a carotenoid pigment that helps to repair damage to our DNA. It is also converted to Vitamin A in our body. Vitamin A is crucial for healthy eyes. It supports communication between cells. In TCM, yellow/orange foods are also anti-inflammatory and soothing to cells and tissues. In skincare, I often extract from yellow plants for making soothing and anti-itch creams.
Blue/Purple: Anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant which is known to delay aging and benefit the brain and immune system. It is also beneficial for heart health. In TCM, it is categorized as the dark or black pigment and also believes foods that are blue/black/purple nourish the brain, prevent aging and boost immunity and bone health.
White/Tan: Flavonoids and allicin are strong anti-oxidants. These compounds are usually found in onions, garlics and mushrooms. These foods are known to boost our immune system against infections, such as colds and flu. Interestingly, in TCM, white foods nourish the respiratory system to keep our lungs healthy.
Green: Indole, isocyanate and sulforaphane are cancer blocking nutrients. They protect us from compounds that cause cancer. In TCM, these foods are the first and most important foods that we eat in a year, spring. Traditionally, green foods such as spinach and lettuce, help the liver to remove toxins and build-up over the winter months to allow the organ to function smoothly.
Spring is approaching. Let us start the year fresh by learning, balancing and connecting our well-being to the presence of the botanical world.