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Muicle - justicia spicigera is a plant that has been used from the pre-Hispanic era to contemporary times in Mexico. It has been used in traditional medicine for healing diseases such as dysentery, diabetes, leukemia, and anemia, just to mention some human disorders. After extraction with water, it is also used to make indigo dye vats for dyeing baskets, crafts, and clothes.


The pigments, as a powder, have been studied for use in colouring foods. The dyeing characteristics of the J. spicigera pigments have antioxidant properties due to the flavonoids content. Since this plant was used for making infusions to treat some diseases, today J. spicigera is being studied primarily for its dyeing and antioxidant properties. Its uses are in the food and pharmaceutical industries.


Justicia spicigera (Mexican honeysuckle) is a dicotyledonous plant belonging to the acanthaceae family. J. spicigera is also known by various names:Chak lool, ts'i'its, get ink, bisil k'aax, cross k'aax tsiits, and ichkan are Maya words in the Yucatan Peninsula.Charatzicua in Tarascan in Michoacán; * Micle, mohintle, mohintli and mohuite in Hidalgo;Moitli, mayotte, moyotli, mozote, and muhin the Huasteca in San Luis Potosí.Trumpet and blue grass in Veracruz and tsi'isand uhaa-ink-Spanish in Zapotec in Oaxaca.


  • Muicle - J. spicigera contains a range of chemicals, including simple carbohydrates, mucilages, pectin, glycosides, pigments, resin, essential oils, and minerals (potassium, calcium acetate and oxalate, sulphate and sodium chloride). Phenolic compounds, from the secondary metabolism of the plant, have also been found. I can say that the Muicle is a chameleon dye from my experiments with it. It undergoes a metamorphosis with heat, time and oxygen.                                                                                   

    In the first stage, with different fibers, it has been shown that different colours can be obtained from the same bath without the use of modifiers. The first stage yields a silvery grey on silk, linen and wool, but on cotton it yields a very light lilac. As it matures in the heat, it changes from light pink liquor to blood red, which produces a deeper purple in the tissues. It is a vivid dye, because when it rests and matures, the liquid separates and turns to a cloudy yellow cocolour. This leaves the red layer on the surface, and that layer floats and moves producing new liquor, which produces blue. When the fabric is soak on this stage, seems like the fabric hasn't changed much other than looking cloudy shade, but when it's out and oxidise it turns blue. 

    The quality and type of water can vary the results, but the transformation of this dye is fascinating.

    It works wonderfully for overdying with other dyes to produce new colours.

  • Botanical name: Justicia spicigera

    Common names: Muicle, Muitle - Mexican honeysuckle, firecracker bush, moyotle, moyotli, mohintli, trompetilla, yaxan or ych-kaan in Mayan

    Primary dyestuff: leaves and stems

    Key Components: Oxalic acid and hydrolyzable tannin. Flavonoids such as kaempferitrin and kaempferol trirhamnoside have been isolated from leaves and tannins from flowers.

    Class of dye: Flavonoid and tannins

    Light and wash-fastness: High

    Colour: Yields pink, purple, grey and blue.

    pH sensitivity: Sensitive to citric acid and with iron it turns into a golden shade.

    Dye bath method: Suitable for both cold and hot dyeing and overdyeing.

    Recommended quantity of dye: 30-100% WOF


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