The double-edged sword effect of indigo naturalis

Food Chem Toxicol. 2024 Mar:185:114476. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2024.114476. Epub 2024 Jan 30.


Indigo naturalis (IN) is a dried powder derived from plants such as Baphicacanthus cusia (Neeks) Bremek., Polygonum tinctorium Ait. and Isatis indigotica Fork. It has a historical application as a dye in ancient India, Egypt, Africa and China. Over time, it has been introduced to China and Japan for treatment of various ailments including hemoptysis, epistaxis, chest discomfort, and aphtha. Clinical and pre-clinical studies have widely demonstrated its promising effects on autoimmune diseases like psoriasis and Ulcerative colitis (UC). Despite the documented efficacy of IN in UC patients, concerns have been raised on the development of adverse effects with long term consumption, prompting a closer examination of its safety and tolerability in these contexts. This review aims to comprehensively assess the efficacy of IN in both clinical and pre-clinical settings, with a detailed exploration of the mechanisms of action involved. Additionally, it summarizes the observed potential toxicity of IN in animal and human settings was summarized. This review will deepen our understanding on the beneficial and detrimental effects of IN in UC, providing valuable insights for its future application in patients with this condition.

Keywords: Dye; Efficacy; Indigo naturalis; Toxicity; Ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • China
  • Colitis, Ulcerative* / drug therapy
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Indigo Carmine / therapeutic use
  • Psoriasis* / chemically induced


  • Indigo Carmine
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal