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Chinese Herb Egg Dyeing

Using plants in creative projects provides a safe, non-toxic option our environment. We know the power of herbs for their medicinal use, but what about their color power? We put 11 Chinese medicinal herbs to the test to see what colors we could produce when trying to dye eggs.

Photo of colorful eggs dyed with chinese herbs

We first selected our herbs. Several years ago, we dyed eggs using raw herb powders and had mixed results. This year, we decided to use whole herbs with a different selection of herbs. You'll see that many of the selections are a type of "fruit" - this was by design as we assumed the fruits would produce the best results. But as you'll see in the video, 2 very vibrant colors came from roots!

Herbs Used:

  • Shan Zhu Yu (Cornus Fruit)
  • Wu Wei Zi (Schisandra Berry)
  • Zi Cao (Arnebia Root)
  • Jiang Huang (Turmeric Root)
  • Wu Mei (Mume Fruit)
  • Gou Qi Zi (Goji Berries)
  • Qian Cao (Madder Root)
  • Sang Shen Zi (Mulberry Fruit)
  • Zhi Zi (Gardenia Fruit)
  • Hong Hua (Safflower)

The Process

  1. Add 2 cups of water to a small pot, then add a large handful of one herb to the pot. (Weight will vary by density of herb.)
  2. Boil the herb for 10 minutes
  3. Strain the liquid into a container for cooling to room temperature.
  4. Continue the process, cooking each herb individually for 10 minutes and adding each to their own container.
  5. Add the cooked herbs to your compost bin for future garden fertilizer.
  6. When all herb decoctions are cooled, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar OR 1 tablespoon of alum to each. (See our comments later regarding which herbs were mixed with alum and the results.) Stir gently to mix.
  7. Add eggs to the colors decoctions as desired. We used a mix of brown and white eggs to see how the results would vary based on the color of the egg.
  8. Check results after 2 hours for desired color intensity. We dyed some for up to 24 hours.
  9. Remove eggs and allow to thoroughly dry. Some decoctions added a residue to our eggs - we wiped some of it off after photographing our results.
  10. Admire your beautiful eggs!

Our Findings

We discovered We Wei Zi and Zi Cao added a film on our eggs. While the herbs produced interesting patterns of color on the eggs, we would not recommend them for dyeing eggs. Brown eggs added a nice variety of colors to our mix compared to only using white eggs. Qian Cao, Sang Shen Zi, Hong Hua, and Bu Gu Zhi provided the deepest coloring results. Zhi Zi, Jiang Huang, Wu Mei, and Gou Qi Zi provided good coloring results as well, but were not as vibrant. Shan Zhu Yu did color without leaving a film, but was very pale in color.

Our herbs were selected for their coloring potential, but Chinese medicinal herbs can be very powerful! If you plan to eat your eggs, remember the eggs have medicinal herbs on the outer shell. You may wish to wash your eggs thoroughly before eating them. If any eggs have cracks in them, consider the herb's TCM actions before eating it.

We hope you have fun with your herbs and please let us know on our social media pages if you try dyeing your eggs with herbs or other natural plant options! Happy Spring!

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