Rubia Cordifolia is a flowering plant in the same family as coffee. The source of the colour is a compound called alizarin, and the plant has been cultivated for dye since antiquity in Asia and the Middle East. In more recent Western history, 17th Century English soldiers dressed in uniforms dyed with madder, giving them the name ‘The Redcoats’.
Madder is Saeed's favourite dye, chiefly because the range of colours from one simple root makes it versatile and unpredictable - it gives us anything from dark scarlet red to light blush pink, as well as bright orange and peach tones.
Madder has been used both as a wearable and drinkable medicine for centuries. Manjistha, a form of madder made into a tea or tincture, is prescribed as a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial in India, as well as an aid in digestion and stress relief. It is also used topically to heal bruises and chronic skin conditions.