Herbal Textiles

 

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BY DR. N.N.MAHAPATRA

 

Ayurveda is the knowledge of life, to live a vigorous and disease free life. Ayurveda treats people as a whole which is a combination of bone, mind and soul.” Color has plays an important role in human life since Stone Age to present silicon age. Color application not only improves surface appearance of the substrate but also expresses emotion and ideas of the wearer.


Dyeing is one of the processes of decorating textiles with different kinds of dyes like natural or synthetic. Plants and herbs are major sources of the natural dyes and their parts, such as stems, wood, leaves, fruits and seeds etc, are used for extracting color components. Natural dyes are known for their soft, lustrous colors and endurance. Even after a long period of time, they retain a great beauty and charm. Originating from natural sources, they do not create any pollution problem and in some cases, the 'waste' obtained in the process becomes an ideal fertilizer.
 

Due to current eco-consciousness there has been a revival of inherent in eco-friendly natural dyes throughout the world. The application of herbal products on the textile substances is a very new concept. It gives a new direction towards the treatments of various diseases through textile industry. Herbal Textile uses dyes made entirely with herbal extractions, without using any sort of chemicals. The herbs used are different from vegetable dyes as they are not only natural but also have medicinal value. These herbs are applied directly to the fabric with the help of natural ingredients, so that the medicinal value of the herbs can be kept intact. No chemical process is adopted while dyeing. Even bleaching of cloth is done naturally by exposing it to sunlight. The herbs also do not pollute the environment through contamination of water resources in areas close to processing units. All kinds of shades of red, yellow, brown, orange and green etc. can be prepared with the help of these herbs. When the textile is dyed with the extractions obtained from various herbs, they are referred to as Herbal Textile. When the dyeing is done with herbal extractions, no chemicals are used in its dyeing process. Whereas, some chemicals such as copper sulphate and ferrous sulphate are used as catalysts when dyeing is done with vegetable dyes. So, herbal dyes are different from vegetable dyes as they also carry some or the other medicinal value.

 
The concept of herbal textiles is derived from Ayurvastra - a branch of Ayurveda, the ancient 5,000 year old Indian system of Vedic healthcare. Loosely translated, “ayur” is Sanskrit for health, “veda” means wisdom, and “vastra” is cloth or clothing. Ayurvastra clothing is made from organic cotton fabric that has been permeated with special herbs and oils that promote health and cure special diseases depending upon the blends of embedded herbs and oils. Since long time Ayurvastra cloth has been in use in the treatment of a broad range of diseases such as diabetes, skin infections, eczema, psoriasis, hypertension and high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, and even some forms of cancer. Ayurvastra clothing is believed to help restore balance within the body's systems and strengthen the immune system. Environmental friendly fibers such as organic cotton and recycled polyester have become popular among fabrics and apparel manufacturers. However, after these fabrics or finished garments are manufactured, they have to be dyed with chemical dyes that are harmful to the environment as well. Vegetable dyes, an alternative are used sometimes, but in this type of dyeing too, certain chemicals such as copper sulphate and ferrous sulphate are used as catalysts. Thus, the concept of herbal textile came into being with much research on individual and industrial levels,.

The Concept of Herbal Textile

Herbal Textile is dyed entirely with herbal extractions, without using any sort of chemicals. The herbs used are different from vegetable dyes as they are not only natural but also have medicinal value. These herbs are applied directly to the fabric with the help of natural ingredients, so that the medicinal value of the herbs can be kept intact. No chemical process is adopted while dyeing. Even bleaching of cloth is done naturally by exposing it to sunlight. The herbs also do not pollute the environment through contamination of water resources in areas close to processing units. All kinds of shades of red, yellow, brown, orange and green etc. can be prepared with the help of these herbs.
 

What Is a Herb?

Herbs are garden plants that are grown and harvested for culinary, aromatic, medicinal, and fibrous uses. Plant herbs are placed in the garden for their unmistakable fragrances, attractive textures, appealing colors, and variety of home uses.

Some of the herbs used in textiles are:

Turmeric: Turmeric belongs to the same family as ginger, Sometimes known as "Indian saffron", it is the source of the familiar yellow color of many Asian curry dishes. Both the culinary spice and dye are obtained from its root. Turmeric was and is still used for textile painting and printing in India.

Indigo: Indigo's ability to produce an extensive range of beautiful blue shades has made it the most successful dye plant ever known. The commercially available indigo powder is made from leaves of Indigoferatinctoria, which requires hot, sunny, and humid growing conditions to flourish.

Madder: Madder's leafy tops sprawl untidily over the ground and their clusters of tiny yellow flowers look insignificant. Yet to the dyer, madder is a miracle of nature because its roots contain alizarin, one of the most valuable red dye pigments ever known.

Pomegranate: The succulent pomegranate fruit yields an ocher-yellow dye and the skin is rich in tannin, which improves
Color fastness.

Onion: The outer skin of this common vegetable is one of the most useful and readily available dyestuffs. It is ideal for a novice dyer's first experiments since it reliably produces rich, vibrant shades of orange, yellow, rust, and brown on all fibers.

Manjistha: It is an Ayurvedic herb that is usually used as blood purifier and diuretic.

Sandalwood: Sandalwood is heavy and yellow in color as well as fine grained and unlike many other aromatic woods, it retains its fragrance for decades.

Neem: It is a large Semi-evergreen tree, trunk ex-dues a tenacious gum, bitter bark used as toxic, seeds yield aromatic oil, sometimes placed in Genus Melia.
 

Herbs and Textile Industry

Globally, as many countries have been enforcing a ban on textiles that have been using chemical dyes, which are hazardous to health. Many Textiles are using natural vegetable dyes, especially medicinal plants, have been commanding a huge market due to their obvious advantages. Nowadays much of the stress in textile industry is given on Herbal dyes that use only natural plants and minerals for all steps of the production process. The advantage of the dyes extracted from the medicinal plants origin from renewable resources, limited chemical reactions involved in their preparation, biodegradable properties, health curing properties, and harmony with nature.


The traditional cotton dyeing embedded with innumerable hazardous chemicals and pesticides pose a serious threat to the human skin and environment. A liberal use of dangerous chemicals in the textile industry leads to severe health problems that affect the nervous system. Alternatively, organic cotton prohibits the use of such chemicals, with a gentle attitude towards environment and skin. The word 'organic' denotes agricultural products that use no synthetic chemicals or pesticides. Herbal dyeing is famous for its Eco friendly and herbs integrated in a fabric. In this process, natural textiles are dyed with herbs like Turmeric, Henna, Aloe Vera, Indigo etc. In the whole process, no chemicals are used; the textiles are 100% safe and chemical free.

Benefits of Herbal Textiles

Herbal clothing can help reduce exposure to allergens and other irritants and give a comfortable feeling.

1. Manual farming and organic practices have a lower carbon footprint as the entire process consumes less fuel and energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to chemical textiles.
2. Not grown from genetically modified cottonseed.
3. Grown with natural rather than synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, no chemical defoliants used.
4. Eco-friendly processing that does not compromise workers' health and helps reduce water and electric consumption and toxic runoff.
5. Strict testing ensures the absence of contaminants like nickel, lead, formaldehyde, amines, pesticides and heavy metals.
6. People with allergies and chemical sensitivity especially benefit from organic cotton clothing, as conventional cotton may retain harmful toxic residues. Even if you don't have sensitive skin, organic cotton will just feel better against your skin.
7. Children are at greater risk for pesticide-related health problems. Organic Cotton though grown without using pesticides & insecticides is still dyed using hundreds of so called low impact chemical dyes adults. Millions of children in the US receive up to 35% of their estimated lifetime dose of some carcinogenic pesticides by age five through food, contaminated drinking water, household use, and pesticide drift.

The Healing Effects of Herbal Textile

As we now know that herbal textile uses dyes made from herbs having medicinal property, it is but natural that the end products made through it will definitely have some or the other health benefits. Herbal Textile can, in fact, fight diseases like hypertension, heart ailments, asthma and diabetes depending upon the herb used to make the dyes. Some of the examples will help to understand these healing effects of herbal textile.

 Indigo: This herbal dye helps fight skin disease.
 Cuscus Grass: It helps fight asthma.
 Turmeric: It can cure pain and is also beneficial for enhancing skin qualities.
 Sandalwood: Its mild fragrance has a soothing effect that helps in fighting stress.

Some of the other herbal dyes are catechu, pomegranate rind, madder, castor oil, sweet basil, lime, wild turmeric, henna, curry leaf tree, aloe, certain herbal fruits, etc. each having its own healing effects.
Herbal textile are mostly used in making bed coverings, undergarments, and other such garments that stay close to human skin so that all its benefits could be absorbed through the skin.

Environmental Benefits

1. Improved soil fertility
2. Increasing cotton yields
3. Massive savings of precious water. This is important, as cotton is a water-hungry crop, which can cause problems in areas with scarce natural water availability. It has a positive effect on the content of organic matter and helps to avoid soil acidification. It improves soil structure by increasing soil activity, thus reducing the risk of erosion
4. It promotes the development of earthworms and above ground arthropods, thus improving the growth conditions of the crop. Furthermore, organic crops profit from root symbioses and are better able to exploit the soil, and organic fields accommodate a greater variety of plants, animals and microorganisms.

Other Benefits of Herbal Textile

Not only the herbal textiles are eco-friendly also certain residual waste product derived after dye production can be further used for making other environmental friendly products.

 The solid as well as liquid wastes from herbal dyeing process can be recycled to be used as manure in fields.
 Some of the environment conscious industries engaged in producing herbal textiles, make organically recycled textile paper bags by stitching the leftover organic and herbal dyed fabrics which can counter the growing menace of plastic bag pollution.
 It also promotes cultivation of herbs required for the dyeing process of herbal textiles.

The Process of Herbal Textile Manufacturing

The process of producing herbal textiles begins with 100% organic yarn / fabric in production of herbal cloth and then clothing very carefully in a precisely controlled process. No chemical process is adopted while dyeing and processing the fabric. The process of herbal dyeing starts with the gray cloth passing through several stages of treatment as stated below before it becomes colorful and ready to wear. Fabric and yarns that can be used for herbal dyeing are certified organic cotton, natural cotton, silk wool, linen, jute, hemp and their natural blends.

1. Desizing: The washing of processed grey cloth starts with removing sizing, gums and oils used in the course of weaving by washing with natural mineral-rich water and sea salts.

2. Bleaching: The bleaching of cloth is done naturally by exposing it to direct sunlight, then it is bleached with biodegradable, naturally derived, organic cleaning agents and surfactants like Saptala (Acacia sinuata), Phenila (Sapindusmukorossi) etc.

3. Mordanting: To make the colors bright and fast, natural mordants such as, myroballans, rubhabs leaves, oils, minerals, alum, bark of lodhra (Symplocosracemosa), kenduka (Diospyroseebenum), fruit extracts of haritaki (Terminaliachebula), iron vat, etc, are used, but mordants like copper, chrome, zinc, tin, etc, are avoided due to the environmental reasons.

4. Dyeing:

 The organic cotton yarn or fabric is dyed in a carefully controlled mixture of herbal dyes depending upon the disease or ailment being treated.
 The dyes used for dyeing herbal clothing comes by blending and carefully preparing different medicinal herbs, plants, flowers, roots and barks.
 The temperatures of the dyes, the duration and number of the dye soaks, the blend of herbs, and even the equipment used are carefully controlled.
 These herbs are applied directly to the fabric with the help of natural ingredients, so as to keep the medicinal value of the herbs intact.
 All kinds of shades of red, yellow, brown, orange and green, etc, can be prepared with the help of these herbs.
 The medicated cloth is allowed to cool and repeatedly washed to remove any loose particles and is always dried in shades.

5. Finishing: The finishing process used after herbal dyeing is also organic and is given by sprinkling pure water on the cloth and then stretching under pressure, using hand rolls, aloe vera, castor oil etc.

6. Recycling Residue: The entire process is organic. It does not pollute the environment like synthetic dye. Solid and liquid waste is separated through the process of filtration and used for farming purposes - as manure and for watering the fields and the waste is used as bio-manure and also to generate bio gas.
 


Herbal Dyes-Production and Consumption

Herbal textiles can be priced more competitively than the conventional fabrics due to its low production cost. If a comparison is made, a plain chemical dye costs around $ 75 per kg while a herbal dye costs approx. $ 5 a kg. Most of the herbs used in dyeing of herbal textile are cultivated in South East Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, India being the leading producer. The Handloom Weavers Development Society (HLWDS) of Kerala, India has exported herbal and organic textile worth Rs. 50 Lakh to US, Europe and Japan. The herbal textile is becoming so popular that the Japanese Government has given HLWDS a grant of $40,218.Wholesale Supply of herbal textiles is done into international markets of USA, Canada, France, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Maldives, Mauritius, Japan and Sri Lanka.

Uses/Application of Herbal Textiles

The most effective time to use herbal clothing is when the body is at rest such as during sleep or meditation because this is when the body is naturally healing and reestablishing balance. Skin is recognized as being the body's largest organ. The skin can act as a barrier but also as a conduit for outside substances to enter the body. Many environmental toxins and chemicals in conventional clothing are assimilated into the body through the skin. Anything which can improve the skin's natural ability to block and resist harmful chemicals and toxins from entering the body will be beneficial to health. Keeping this in mind, herbal textile is often used in making bed coverings, undergarments, towels, meditation clothes, sleepwear, and other such garments that stay close to human skin so that all its benefits could be absorbed through the skin. The technology for making herbal clothing is also being utilized for making coir mats, mattresses, door mats and carpets. For coir mats, the fibers are first soaked in herbal dyes and then woven into coir mats. Aura Herbal Textiles Ltd ,Ahmedabad is certified by Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for their all natural/herbal dyeing process. Certified organic fabrics, textiles and yarns are used as the raw material. Dyeing, weaving, printing all is done under keen supervision to maintain quality standards. Dyeing of fabrics up to 120" width has been achieved. Even lengths of up to 1000 meters in different fabrics like voile, poplin, twill , flannel, corduroy, denim, knits, silks is now achieved at Aura. Aura Herbal Textiles Ltd has beautiful. 

 


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