Baptisia tinctoria is sometimes known as yellow wild indigo or false indigo. The Latin name for the genus derives from the Greek word bapto, to dye or color, as it was a well-known dye plant in antiquity, though inferior to true indigo. The species name tinctora also indicates its common use in coloring and tinting.

It is an indigenous perennial commonly found throughout the Eastern U.S., but most abundantly in northern New England. It is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae), and like all legumes, is nitrogen fixing for the soil.

This herb was a favorite of the early Eclectic physicians around the mid to late 1800s. These early day “naturopaths” used baptisia in the treatment of various watery conditions, anything associated with the lymphatic system, and mood disorders they described as “melancholia.” Of late, baptisia has become somewhat obscure, and sadly so, as this slightly bitter and mildly astringent herb offers many wonderful properties.

In cold and flu season baptisia is among the herbs that can effectively address the accompanying discomforts of irritated throat and upper respiratory tract congestion and irritation. It is often synergistically combined with other immune supporting herbs, and is a good lymphatic tonic to help move things out of the body. It is also used as a hepatic tonic to support healthy liver function, including proper bile production.

This herb is rarely found as a single remedy as large doses can be cathartic and emetic, and may cause restlessness.  The safest use of this catalyzing plant is in a blend of other specific synergistic herbs.

The alcoholic extracts are most commonly used as the dried plant is not widely available.

Writer Mindy Green is a founding and professional member of the American Herbalists Guild and an advisory board member to the American Botanical Council, publisher of Herbal Gram Magazine. Ms. Green served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies (1995-2003). The California School of Herbal Studies is among Mindy’s business ventures as co-owner and a faculty member (1985-1995). She is a nationally certified Registered Aromatherapist and has served on the education committees of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists and the Aromatherapy Registration Council. She now runs her own consulting company, Green Scentsations, LLC.

 A prolific writer and lecturer, Ms. Green has authored over 60 published articles on herbs, aromatherapy, skin care, holistic health and integrative care.  She is co-author of Aromatherapy, A Complete Guide to the Healing Art; author of Calendula and Natural Perfumes, and has contributed to numerous books on herbs and healing.  As a botanical-therapies expert, she has been interviewed more than 400 times by leading magazines and newspapers.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.