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    Indigo Naturalis

    This year’s AAD Annual meeting took place in San Francisco, home of Levi Strauss, the jeans manufacturer. How appropriate, as the jeans were originally dyed with indigo.1

    Old World plant

    A well-known group of Old World plants are the source for the blue powder2 the Chinese call qing dai (青黛), including Baphicacavthus cusia, Polygonum tinctorium, Isatis indigotica and Indigofera tinctoria. Known best as a dye in the Western world, indigo naturalis has been used in China for the treatment of many ailments.3 This “indigo” should not be confused with Wrightia tinctoria, also known as Sweet Indrajao, Pala indigo plant, or Dyers's oleander, which is also used medicinally, more so in the Ayurvedic approach to health.4 Commercial preparations of W. tinctoria are available in the U.S.5

    Over the past few years, indigo naturalis has been finding a role in the treatment of psoriasis. A Medline search for “indigo psoria*” reveals 26 articles with all but one having been published in this century and over two thirds published since 2009, the earliest being in 1982.6  Dr. Lin and colleagues have been the movers and shakers in this field, publishing about the use of indigo for treating plaque psoriasis in both children7 and adults.8

    NEXT: Mechanism of action

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