Woad Uses Beyond Dye: What Can Woad Be Used For In The Garden

woad use
woad use
(Image credit: MiaZeus)

What can woad be used for? The uses of woad, for more than dyeing, are surprisingly plenty. Since ancient times, people have had many medicinal uses for woad, from treating a fever to healing lung infections and the measles and mumps viruses. That said, you should always check with your doctor before using an herb for a medicinal purpose.

What is Woad?

Woad, Isatis tinctoria, is a plant that is easy to grow and is often considered a weed. It is also an herb. Known as dyer’s woad, it has been used for millennia as a blue dye. It is native to Europe and Asia, and in the U.S. woad can be seen as invasive. In many places, you can harvest it to use just by foraging for woad in the wild. If you grow it in your garden, take care in preventing it from spreading out of beds. This useful biennial plant is hardy in zones 6 through 9 and grows easily in beds. It won’t take much care if you choose to cultivate woad. Any type of soil is appropriate as long as it drains well. Expect to get small, yellow flowers throughout the summer that will attract pollinators.

Medicinal Woad Uses

Although it has been used for many years as a dye, woad also has medicinal uses. Medicinal woad plants have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine because of their antibiotic and antiviral properties. There is some evidence that woad is also medicinally active against fungal infections, cancer cells, and parasites and reduces inflammation. People who use woad medicinally use it to treat a variety of infections, including:

  • Influenza
  • Viral pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Measles and mumps
  • Eye infections
  • Laryngitis
  • Chicken pox and shingles

There are two ways that woad can be used as a medicine: by making a decoction from the roots or making a tea of the leaves. Both are dried before being used, and vinegar is often added to the decocting or steeping water to help extract the medicinal compounds. While woad has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, and it is considered a low-risk herb, it is important to always check with your doctor before trying a new herb or supplement. Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.