Alkanet – The Story of Ancient Roots


Its history goes back to at least 70 C.E. You might have seen it called Burlgoss, Orachanet, Alkanna tinctoria, or Anchusa. You might have known that tinctoria, in Latin, means “used for dyeing or staining,” and Anchusa comes from the Greek word anchousa, meaning “paint.”

Use and Identification

It’s called Alkanet Root. The plant it comes from has been cultivated for centuries in central and southern Europe, but it can thrive in all kinds of temperate environments. In fact, in many areas of the NE United States, Alkanet is regarded as a weed. Specific documentation goes back to the journals of Greek-born physician and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides, who served in the Roman army, and in his travels, kept extensive lists of the medicinal herbs he encountered.

His journals comprise a five-volume “encyclopedia” called De Materia Medica, which was translated into Latin and later published in an illustrated version (around 512 C.E.) These “journals” have been read as an authoritative source on medicinal herbs for over 1500 years.

Depending on How Much You Use

As a colorant for soap – based on who you talk to and how much you use – the powder made from Alkanet Root adds dark reds to shades of purple with hints of blue. The powder can be added at trace, but when used for coloring in cold-processed soap, is most often infused into the base oil mix by steeping the powder in a portion of the mix, draining the steeped oil – now Alkanet-infused – and adding it back into the overall base-oil mix.


The Alkanet powder we carry comes from wildcrafted roots, meaning the roots were harvested from plants grown without human intervention or cultivation. At the heart of wildcrafting is a commitment to sustainability, taking care not to over-harvest, which distinguishes it from large-scale commercial collection.

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