Woad, a member of the Cabbage family, is a hardy biennial plant native to northern Europe and the British Isles that is a source of the blue dye chemical, Indigotin, that is also produced by the much stronger and more famous sub-tropical Indigo plant.
Usage of cultivated Woad dates back to the Neolithic Age and since that time the plant has been popular in the production of dye used for warpaint, tattooing, painting pottery and dying clothing. Modern technology is currently looking into this invasive plant as a substitute for commercial dyes and ink, especially in hopes to offer a biodegradable solution to the amount of waste produced by ink jet printer cartridges.
Woad may be an herb worth investigating for its modern medicinal value, as it possesses chemical compounds that may aide in the fight against breast cancer. The plant has been used for centuries and is still popular in Chinese medicine as a treatment for syphilis, hepatitis A, sore throats, colds and more. Highly astringent, it is best in small doses if taken internally but can also be used as an external remedy as a treatment for sores and ulcers.
Woad plants like an alkaline soil, so apply lime to the soil about a week before transplanting. For dark colors Woad needs plenty of nitrogen, which it can get from fertilizers such as dried blood & bone meal. Woad is very easy to grow in sunny or partly sunny locations. As a biennial it grows one year, flowers and produces seed the second year and dies.
Because of the highly invasive nature of this herb, some states and localities have strict prohibitions on growing Woad. Please check with your local state agriculture department before planting Woad, or try it in a decorative pot or container to control its aggressive growth. We cannot ship tour friends in CO, Sorry!