Indian madder often known as common madder or , is a species of flowering plant in the coffee family, Rubiaceae. It has been cultivated for a red pigment derived from roots.
Common names of this plant include manjistha in Sanskrit, Marathi, Kannada and Bengali. Majith in Hindi and Gujarati.
Indian Madder is a perennial climbing herb, that can grow to 1.5 m in height. The evergreen leaves are 5-10 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, produced in whorls of 4-7 starlike around the central stem. Leaves are ovate-heartshaped, entire, pointed, heart-shaped at base, rarely rounded, 3-9 palmately veined, upper surface mostly hairless and rough. It climbs with tiny hooks at the leaves and stems. The flowers are small, 3-5 mm across, with five greenish yellow or pale yellow petals, in dense racemes. Fruit is a small red to black berry, 4-6 mm diameter. The roots can be over a metre long, up to 12 mm thick. Indian Madder was an economically important source of a red pigment in many regions of Asia, Europe and Africa. It was extensively cultivated from antiquity until the mid nineteenth century. The plant's roots contain an organic compound called Alizarin, that gives its red colour to a textile dye known as Rose madder. It was also used as a colourant, especially for paint, that is referred to as Madder lake. Indian Madder is found throughout the Himalayas, at altitudes of 300-2800 m. It is also found in the Western Ghats, Sri Lanka, Korea, Mongolia, Russia (Far East) and SE Asia. Flowering: June-August.
The plant is used both, internally as well as externally. The roots of Manjistha are used for medicinal purpose. Externally, Manjistha is highly recommended in skin diseases associated with edema and oozing. The wound and ulcers dressed with Manjistha ghrita heal promptly and get dried up and well cleansed.