Gipsywort as Source of Black Dye
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Jacqueline Owens
Posted on: July 29, 1999

I am successfully growing most of the seeds I last ordered from you. The gipsywort is doing nicely. I bought it because your catalogue listed it as a dye plant that would give "permanent black dye for wool and silk". I can find no information at all about it in my literature and have had no information forthcoming from my online natural dye group. I would appreciate knowing where your information comes from so I can pursue it.

The reference to the black dye is in Margaret Grieve’s book, "A Modern Herbal" (available from Richters). Grieve says: "Common Gipsyweed (Lycopus europaeus) frequent throughout Europe, yields a black dye, stated to give a permanent colour to wool and silk. As its name implies, it was formerly used by gipsies to stain their skins darker." It was also called "Egyptian’s Herb" as explained by Anne Pratt "because of the rogues and runnegates which call themselves Egyptians, and doe colour themselves black with this herbe."

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