Specification & Spread

Madder roots and rhizomes — rhizomaта ет radices rubiae
Common madder — rubia tinctorum l.
Iberic madder — rubia iberica (fisch. Ex dc.) C. Koch ( = rubia tinctorum l. Var. Iberica c. Koch)
Madder family — rubiaceae
Other names: common madder, marzana, dyeing root.

Common madder

It is a perennial herbaceous more or less pubescent plant with a strong main root, from which the second-order roots extend at a depth, and a long horizontal rhizome.
The stems are branching, clinging, tetrahedral, spiky-roughened on edges from bent down spines and up to 2 meters long. The internode is shorter than leaves.
The leaves is in verticils of 4-6, lanceolate, elliptical or ovate, narrowed at base with short, distinct petiole. Along the margin and below along the veins it is acanthceous.
The flowers are small, with a greenish-yellow, five-toothed regular corolla, in the axillary diachiae, gathered in leafy, multi-flowered paniculate inflorescences.
The fruit is juicy, berry-shaped, single or double seed, black and with coloring juice.

It flowers in June – July, it bears fruit in August – October.

Iberic madder

Iberic madder differs slightly from common madder.
On young shoots the leaves are sessile, on the old it is with petioles. From the bottom side, the leaves have gray pubescence, along the veins and edge there are hooked cloves.

Spreading and habitat. The origin of common madder are Mediterranean countries. In the wild state it is found quite rarely in Central Asia (Turkmenistan) and in the south and southeast of the European part of Russia, where it grows along the banks of rivers, irrigation canals and among bushes. It introduced into the culture for industrial purposes.

Iberic madder grows in the Caspian region, in the Caucasus and Transcaucasia (Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Azerbaijan, and partly Georgia and Armenia) in oak forests, bushes, in vineyards and gardens. The main areas for harvesting of Iberic  madder are North Ossetia, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia (Russia); Azerbaijan.


The rhizomes and roots of madder contain 5-6% of anthracene derivatives of the alizarin group, the main ones are:

  • alizarin,
  • and its 2-xylosylglucoside – ruberythrinic acid.

In addition, there are:

  • flavonoids,
  • iridoids,
  • organic acids.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. The raw materials from wild plants are harvested in early spring (March – the first half of April) or at the end of the growing season (from the beginning of August until frosts) manually, digging out rhizomes and roots to a depth of 20-30 cm. At the same time the rhizomes prevail in the raw material. In farms, the raw material harvesting is carried out in the third year of culture, digging up the entire underground part of the plant. In such the raw material is usually dominated by roots.

Security measures. To save the thickets, the harvesting on the same plantations is carried out once in 2-3 years. In orchards and vineyards, where the madder is a weed, it can be collected annually, during replowing.

Drying. The collected raw materials are shaken off the ground, the above-ground part is separated, the large roots are cut into pieces transversely and, without washing the roots, quickly laid out in a thin layer under sheds or in attics with good ventilation. The drying is possible in dryers at about 45 °C. During the drying, the raw material is inverted to prevent it from molding.

Storage. It is stored in a dry, well-ventilated and dark place.

Whole raw materials

There are cylindrical, longitudinally wrinkled pieces of rhizomes and roots of different lengths, 2-18 mm thick, usually with a peeling flaky cork. The rhizomes in the center usually have a cavity.
The colour of the rhizomes and roots outside is reddish-brown, reddish-brown bark and orange-red wood are visible on the fracture.
The smell is weak and specific. The taste is sweetish, then it is slightly astringent and bitter.

Milled raw materials

The pieces of rhizomes and roots of various shapes are passing through a sieve with holes of 7 mm diameter.
The colour is reddish brown and orange red.
The smell is weak and specific. The taste is sweetish, then it is slightly astringent and bitter.

Properties and application

Common madder has the ability to gradually loosen and destroy urinary calculi. The mechanism of this action was previously associated with ruberithrinic acid, acidifying the urine, as a result of which the urine became capable of loosening calculi containing calcium and magnesium phosphates.

At present, the main importance is attached to the chemical relatedness of madder dyes, interacting with calcium and magnesium phosphates. Indirect evidence of a similar mechanism of chemical interaction of stones with madder preparations is considered to be stained in a test tube, loosening and heterogeneity, as well as the lifetime colour of bones in experimental animals, which common madder causes. As a result of loosening, the stones crumble into smaller stones and sand.

Common madder preparations:

  • have diuretic properties
  • have a bactericidal effect on coccal flora,
  • reduce the tone of the circular muscles and
  • strengthen the peristaltic contractions of the longitudinal muscles of the renal pelvis and ureters, thereby promoting the movement of stones and their removal from the kidneys and urinary tract.

Application of madder

It is applied:

  • in urolithiasis to facilitate the discharge of small stones, mainly magnesium and calcium phosphates, to reduce spasms.

It is contradicted with :

  • glomerulonephritis,
  • severe renal failure and
  • stomach ulcers.