Gipsywort Use as a Skin Dye
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Brenda
Posted on: December 10, 2006

Gipsywort, Lycopus europeaus. I am on the third year of growth this summer. The instructions said that you can harvest on the third year’s growth for the skin dyeing effect. I would like to try to dye my skin this summer and I would like to know what part of the plant I harvest and when and how I use it. I love your company and tell everyone about you. My girlfriend and I will be doing a spring order soon.

Here is what Herbalpedia says about gipsywort:

"The plant has been of use as a cloth dye for centuries... It is supposed to have been given its common name, Gypsywort, because itinerant fortune-tellers stained their skin with the strong black dye from the herb in order to pass themselves off as Egyptians or Africans to lend credence to their tales."

Margaret Grieve, in her book "A Modern Herbal", says this about gipsywort:

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... Anne Pratt says it received its old name of Egyptian’s Herb ‘because of the rogues and runnegates which call themselves Egyptians, and doe colour themselves black with this herbe.’

The fresh juice of the herb is the source of the dye, but it is not clear from the sources I checked how the juice is applied or whether it is mixed with anything else.

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