AskDefine | Define woad

The Collaborative Dictionary

Woad \Woad\, n. [OE. wod, AS. w[=a]d; akin to D. weede, G. waid, OHG. weit, Dan. vaid, veid, Sw. veide, L. vitrum.] [Written also wad, and wade.] [1913 Webster]
(Bot.) An herbaceous cruciferous plant (Isatis tinctoria) of the family Cruciferae (syn. Brassicaceae). It was formerly cultivated for the blue coloring matter derived from its leaves. See isatin. [1913 Webster]
A blue dyestuff, or coloring matter, consisting of the powdered and fermented leaves of the Isatis tinctoria. It is now superseded by indigo, but is somewhat used with indigo as a ferment in dyeing. [1913 Webster] Their bodies . . . painted with woad in sundry figures. --Milton. [1913 Webster] Wild woad (Bot.), the weld (Reseda luteola). See Weld. Woad mill, a mill grinding and preparing woad. [1913 Webster]

Word Net



1 a blue dyestuff obtained from the woad plant
2 any of several herbs of the genus Isatis



Old English wād



  1. Common name of the plant Isatis tinctoria whose leaves are used to make a blue dye.
  2. The dye made from the plant Isatis tinctoria.


Common name of the plant Isatis tinctoria
The dye made from the plant
For the American radio stations, see WOAD (AM) and WOAD-FM.
Woad (or glastum) is the common name of the flowering plant Isatis tinctoria in the family Brassicaceae. It is commonly called dyer's woad, and sometimes incorrectly listed as Isatis indigotica (a newer and invalid name for the same plant). It is occasionally known as Asp of Jerusalem. Woad is also the name of a blue dye produced from the plant. Woad is , to rhyme with road.
Woad is native to the steppe and desert zones of the Caucasus, Central Asia to eastern Siberia and Western Asia (Hegi), but is now found in southeastern and some parts of Central Europe as well. It has been cultivated throughout Europe, especially in Western and southern Europe, since ancient times.

History of woad cultivation

In Europe, woad was the only source for blue dye available until the end of the sixteenth century when trade routes began bringing indigo from the far east.
The first archaeological finds of woad seeds date to the Neolithic and have been found in the French cave of l'Audoste, Bouches du Rhone (France). In the Iron Age settlement of the Heuneburg, Germany, impressions of the seeds have been found on pottery. The Hallstatt burials of Hochdorf and Hohmichele contained textiles dyed with woad.
Julius Caesar tells us (in de Bello Gallico) that the Britanni used to mark their bodies with vitrum; this has often been assumed to mean that they painted or tattooed themselves with woad. However vitrum does not translate to "woad", but probably more likely refers to a type of blue-green glass which was common at the time. The Picts may have gotten their name (Latin Picti which means painted folk or possibly tattooed folk) from their practice of going into battle naked except for body paint or tattoos. (This has been commemorated in the humorous (modern) British song The Woad Ode.) However, more recent research has cast serious doubt on the assumption that woad was the material the Picts used for body decoration. Contemporary experiments with woad have proven that it does not work well at all as either a body paint or tattoo pigment. Highly astringent, when used for tattooing or placed in wounds woad produces quite a bit of scar tissue and, once healed, no blue is left behind. The common use of dung as an ingredient in traditional woad dye preparations also make it unlikely to have been suitable for application to wounds. "... a recess of the Diet held in 1577 prohibited the use of 'the newly-invented, deceitful, eating and corrosive dye called the devil's dye.' This prohibition was repeated in 1594 and again in 1603." With the development of a chemical process to synthesize the pigment, both the woad and natural indigo industries collapsed in the first years of the twentieth century. The last commercial harvest of woad until recent times occurred in 1932, in Lincolnshire, Britain.
In Germany, there are attempts to use woad to protect wood against decay without dangerous chemicals. Production is also increasing again in the UK for use in inks, particularly for inkjet printers, and dyes, as woad is biodegradable and safe in the environment, unlike many synthetic inks. Isatis tinctoria is viewed as an invasive species in parts of the United States.

Woad and health

Recently, scientists have discovered woad might be used to prevent cancer, having more than 20 times the amount of glucobrassicin contained in broccoli. Young leaves when damaged can produce more glucobrassicin, up to 65 times as much.
Indigowoad Root (Chinese: ; pinyin: bǎn lán gēn) is a traditional Chinese medicine herb that comes from the roots of woad, but often incorrectly listed under the synonymic name, Isatis indigotica. It is also known as Radix Isatidis. The herb is cultivated in various regions of northern China, namely Hebei, Beijing, Heilongjiang, Henan, Jiangsu, and Gansu. The roots are harvested during the autumn and dried. The dried root is then processed into granules, which are most commonly consumed dissolved in hot water or tea. The product is very popular throughout China, and used to remove toxic heat, soothe sore throat and to treat influenza, measles, mumps, syphilis, or scarlet fever. It is also used for pharyngitis, laryngitis, erysipelas, and carbuncle, and to prevent hepatitis A, epidemic meningitis, cancer and inflammation. Possible minor side effects include allergic reactions causing dizziness; only large dosages or long term usage can be toxic to the kidneys. These treatments have not generally been evaluated clinically.


External links

woad in Catalan: Herba del pastell
woad in Danish: Vajd
woad in German: Färberwaid
woad in Spanish: Isatis tinctoria
woad in French: Pastel des teinturiers
woad in Italian: Isatis tinctoria
woad in Cornish: Liwles
woad in Dutch: Wede
woad in Japanese: アイ (植物)#.E3.82.A6.E3.82.A9.E3.83.BC.E3.83.89
woad in Norwegian: Vaid
woad in Polish: Urzet barwierski
woad in Portuguese: Pastel
woad in Finnish: Värimorsinko
woad in Swedish: Vejde
woad in Turkish: Çivit otu
woad in Walloon: Waisse
woad in Chinese: 板蓝根
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