The Origin of Herbal Dyeing - GIBIE

The Origin of Herbal Dyeing

Natural dyes or herbal dyes is a colourant made within the majority from plants, historically and based on the evidence found by archaeologists, the origins of natural dyeing, with plants or insects, was invented in China in the Neolithic period more than five thousand years ago.

Read more about the How to Achieve Amazing Results from Herbal Dyeing?.

The first invented herbal dyeing colours were shades of red, brown and oranges in the Neolithic period and later to the Bronze Age; then they invented the blue, yellow and green.

The researchers identified the appearance of the indigo-blue later, but the chemical analysis couldn’t identify the indigo plant they used to make the dyes.

The process of dyeing depends on soaking the textile in the dye solution extracted from herbal resources; the soaking may take from days to weeks until the colour is completely transmitted to the textile.

The herbs have a big potential for healing; the Ayurvastra is a branch of the ayurvedic ancient Indian tradition of medicine, they use the ayurvedic dyeing technics to heal agents especially with skin problems. Read more about The Importance of Ayurvedic Dyeing.


The red shades and pinks dyes were made from many herbal sources like avocado pits and henna and especially the madder roots because it was available in different temperate zones worldwide. The rose madder was used as an identification of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb more than 1300 years before Christ; the red was used too in the Roman empire 27 years before Christ a mentioned in the records of the Roman naturalist Pliny, the Elder. The red dye was used in Europe, the French and Netherlander military wore red dyed coats before the invention of the chemical dye in 1869.



The orange dye could be a combination of red and yellow dye or extracted from orange flowers like the Navajo tea.


The yellow dyes were made from various plants like the red, for example, it was extracted from pomegranate peel or onion’s skin and many yellowish flowers. The Mediterranean and Europeans used the yellow dye before the iron age, it was used too by the Europeans it the eighteenth century, extracted from the inner of the eastern black oak tree and the indigenous people of native America also used it. It is extracted from Xanthorhiza roots which make a really rich yellow, the artists of native America used snake-weed and yellow union’s skin to make the yellow dye.


Greens dyes are rare; it was an unexpected fact! Yes the combined yellow and blue dyes to make a shade of green. The greens dyes were used primarily by the medieval and modern period of England; they were dyeing the wool in strong blue extracted from the woad plant. Then dyeing it again in yellow using the Genista tinctorial, they called this shade of green the Lincoln green. The green clothes of the iron age found by the archaeologists show traces if iron, they were boiling the cloth with the yellow dye in an iron basin, the northern Americans used the lichen to make sea green dye. 


India is the origin of the blue dye; it was an indigo dye, they supplied the Europeans and the Romans with this exclusively made from Indigofera tinctoria that affected the Greek empire colours in the old world.

The European used the woad and the indigenous plants of the Middle East which available in Europe from more than two thousand years, but from the eighteenth century, they used the higher quality Indian blue dye imported by the British.

In native America, the blue dyes were discovered in Florida, and Carolina extracted from Marsdenia, in Japan and China they were using polygonum tinctorum to extract the indigo dye.


From the 5thto the 15thcentury in Europe they were combining the red and the blue dye to make the purple and violet dye by dyeing the cloth with a strong blue dye then adding some red dyes, and that gave them a shade of purple, they also were using the madder with the alum to produce purple dyes.

Artists used many herbal resources to produce the purple and violet shade like the berries and lichens.


Cutch was the main source of the brown dye it is an extract from the acacia tree especially from the Semigallia catechu, the Indians used it to dye cotton, and it gave them a greyish shade of brown with iron.

The indigenous people artists used the black walnut to produce a dark brown closer to black, and it is used now for dyeing baskets, the Native Americans also used the ashes of the juniper to produce the brown dye.

Grey & Black

Black Herbal Dyeing

The southeastern Native Americans used the maple to produce the grey dye; they also used the ochre combined with a pitch from pinyon tree

The Advantages of the Herbal Dyeing

The herbal dyeing causes a much less environmental impact as it is extracted from natural things, so it will not be harmful to nature and throwing them won’t cause pollution.

If you are looking for a soft colour or shade, the herbal dyes can satisfy your needs and give you the exact colour you want.

The herbal dyeing won’t cause a health problem; itis super safe to use on the human body because it doesn’t contain chemical substances can cause harm to human’s health and many herbal extracts used by the pharmacological and esthetic laboratories found on makeup and skin medical products. Read more about Why Ayurveda Dyeing is Beneficial?

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