Madder: Yields shades of warm reds from crimson-orange, British Redcoat and mulberry wine to purple, rust and browns
Source: Crushed powder from the vegetable root
The RED of the madderoot is one of the oldest colours extracted as a dye. Known and cultivated since ancient times from Egypt to India, Asia and Australia, areas of Africa and later parts of Europe like France, England and the Netherlands.
Madder is different from other dye plants as it contains several colour components; a red outer layer, yellow inner layer and a purpurin that produces a purple, all through different processes. "Turkey" red for example is one of many ancient recipes as well as the historical British "Redcoat" red used by the Imperial soldiers for over 300 years as an iconic symbol of the British Empire. Also discovering a more vibrant and stable red recipe using Cochineal, they sometimes used it in combination with Madder. The latter was popular, readily available and inexpensive compared to the pricier Cochineal.
Once the dye secrets of Madder reached France, it was used through fermentation for dying with the after-bath then used to create a spirit. The end product after fermentation is known as Fleurs de garance.
The colour goes back centuries. Traces of cotton dyed with Madder from 3000 BC were discovered in India. Cloth with Madder colour was buried in the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt. In Romans times, not only red but also shades of pink were found in Greece and in the Baths of Titus in Italy, also the ruins of Pompeii. It is noted in ancient literature for example by Hippocrates. Used in artwork, it was called "rubia" by the masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Vermeer and Turner.
In ancient times, the plant was used for many ailments like depression, muscle weakness, temporary paralyses, jaundice, back pain and a remedy for bruises, skin discolourations and freckles. Women also used it to help with a healthy monthly menstrual flow.
The popularity of the red of the madderoot continued to grow globally until 1868. It was then to become the first natural dye to be duplicated synthetically in 1869.
It's as popular today as red dye and still widely used and readily available.