Colorful Plant Medicine

What is in our air? What is getting into our bodies through our skin– our largest organ? How about protecting your body with plant dyed fibers? It’s basically like soaking your clothes in the tea you make to get over a cold, soothe your soar throat, or relax in the evening.

Picking marigolds in the garden

Picking marigolds in the garden

A special aspect about plant medicine is that it targets the specific part of the body that needs support, while pharmaceutical drugs target and work to temporarily cover up pain, and in the process, often negatively affect another body part, leaving more problems. When taken as a tea, plants like Calendula, (commonly known as marigold) work slowly but steadily to support the well being of a particular body function like anti-inflammation, menstruation aid, and oral health due to the flavonoids present. With this support, the body can focus on healing the hurt part. As a salve, calendula works to heal wounds, bruises, sprains, or skin irritations at a faster and healthier rate than chemically produced ointments due to its ability to increase blood flow and oxygen which helps to increase tissue growth. When soaked up by a fabric like silk, Calendula is also a beautiful soft yellow color.

tea for an eye soak

tea for an eye soak


Historical, spiritual, and medicinal qualities of plant dyes, such as madder root and indigo, are the qualities that I look for when selecting the color for the garments I create. A magical part about plants is that up until modern pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies were the main way to treat ailments. The same plants that were used to heal issues like inflammation, depression, and fevers can also turn a white fabric into a yellow, blue, red, orange, purple, or green fabric.

Being able to create an entirely new and unique form from single strands of yarn is empowering. To be able to add an extra layer of healing color through the warming process of dyeing while plant aromas cleanse the room feels energizing for the soul—and soft on the hands. The experimentation I go through when plant dyeing, since the day I began teaching myself is one of the most exciting parts. Dyeing with plants is always a surprise depending on the specific crop used, how long it's left in the pot, and what fiber is used, but it's always calming and beautiful.

Before dyes were made chemically, they came from the earth. Historically, dyes came from plants and animals. Sea snails produced an extremely desirable Tyrian purple that made fabric more expensive, and were wanted so much that the snails eventually went extinct. The term “roll out the red carpet” came about because madder root and cochineal were red dye-stuff that required labor intensive processes to extract, making the fiber colored by these very expensive. “Placing such a textile under someone’s feet— literally having a person walk on it when it was so valuable— showed just how important the person was” (Textiles by Beverly Gordon). Indigo has also been said to have spiritual connective energies. Many of the plants I use have multiple purposes like each one in this sweater dress. Indigo, turmeric, osage, quebracho, madder root, marigold, beets, etc.

Please leave a comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts on pharmaceuticals, fast fashion industry, slow fashion, plants, the meaning of life! <3

Keep on shining my suns !

Allysun WestComment