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Magazine > O2-00021 | Natural Colorants

Natural materials traditionally used for dyeing threads and fabrics. Today, too, these colorants are used by the Israeli firm Eini Bros. to naturally dye threads in the preservation and restoration of antique carpets. The following are some examples of materials used in natural colorant production:

  • Madder (Rubia tinctorum L.) is a herbaceous perennial plant that climbs to a height of 1-4 meters. Its Latin name was given to it since it was an important source of the red dye extracted from its roots in ancient times.
  • Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect that develops on cacti in South and Central America. The insect secretes carminic acid from which the red carmine dye is traditionally extracted.
  • Indigo is a color between blue and violet. The indigotin pigment is found in a number of plants from which blue dye was extracted in ancient times: Isatis (Isatis tinctoria), types of anil (Indigofera), and types of snail (murex).
  • Alkanet (Alkanna tinctoria) is a perennial shrub found in Israel on the sand dunes along the Mediterranean coast, and in southern Europe. Its root bark was traditionally used in ancient times to extract a red/purple dye.
  • Annatto is a red/orange colorant that is also used as food coloring, and is extracted from a compound called bixin found in the tropical plant Bixa orellana.

Additional natural materials traditionally used for extracting dye are the bulbs and petals of the pink hibiscus flower for red/pink; turmeric for yellow; cinnamon for brown/gold; and lavender for purple/red.

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