Asian farmers and gardeners have worn these funny blue clothes for millennia to repel ticks, mosquitoes, snakes and other pests
Today, most of our blue jeans and other denim clothing are made with toxic, synthetic indigo dye that’s bad for the environment and our bodies… but for thousands of years, farmers and royalty alike have prized natural indigo dye for its insect-repellent and skin-soothing qualities, which are acknowledged in this 2021 Chinese study.
From the queens of ancient Egypt, who slept under indigo-soaked mosquito netting, to Chinese farmers wading in snake-infested rice paddies, the dye made from various indigo-producing plants have been revered around the world for its ability to ward off biting pests.
Because of its anti-bacterial properties, samurai wore indigo clothing to prevent wound infections. It’s also been used in Chinese folk medicine as a remedy for skin conditions like eczema, and to prevent foul body odors.
Firefighters often wear it for its flame retardant properties.
Japan has become especially famous for its natural indigo “Japan Blue” clothing, as the indigo-producing plant persicaria tinctoria — aka dyer’s knotweed — grows abundantly there.
There are over 20 species of plants used to make indigo dye including, Woad (Isatis tinctoria), French indigo (Indigofera tinctoria), natal indigo (Indigofera arrecta), and Guatemalan indigo (Indigofera suffruticosa).