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This fascinating plant is world wide known for the beautiful coloring dye that is used by the Orientals in coloring their hands and body. The Egyptians are said to have prepared both an oil and an ointment from the flowers for making the limbs supple. Egyptian Royalty were said to dye their hair with Henna leaves. Henna’s botanical name is Lawsonia Inermis,its common name is Jamaica Mignonette, Mendee, Egyptian privet, smooth Lawsonia. Its Arabic name is henna and the most popular Indian name is Mendhi.

The earliest civilizations that can be proved to have used henna include the Babylonians, Assyrians, Sumerians, Semites, Ugaritics and Canaanites. The leaves of the henna plant are the source of a red-brown dye widely used for body art, known as mendhi in South Asia. First used in the Near East and South Asia, henna art is now popular around the world.

There are numerous artifacts from Iraq, Palestine, Greece, Egypt, Crete and Rome from 1400 BCE to 1AD that show women with henna patterns on their hands. The early center of the use of henna as a woman's adornment seems to have been in the eastern Mediterranean, where it grows wild. It was used by the Canaanite women in pre-biblical times The Canaanites spread their traditions, including the use of henna, across North Africa between 1700 and 600 BCE, specifically establishing the Berber traditions of henna in Morocco.

 Henna was used in Palestine from the earliest historical period, and there are Roman records of henna being used by Jewish people living in Jerusalem during the historical period of the birth of Christ.





When Islam began in the 6-7th centuries AD, henna was incorporated into the customs of Muslims from the western Middle Eastern women's henna traditions that were widespread and long established. As Islam expanded quickly into other countries, the use of henna went with it. All of the countries that were part of the Islamic world have used henna at some time, most frequently as part of wedding celebrations. Most of them continued to celebrate the "Night of the Henna" and regard henna as a beautiful and suitable ornament for women until present day.

Since 1890 it has been widely used in Europe for tinting the hair, usually in the form of a shampoo, many shades being obtainable by mixing with the leaves of other plants, such as indigo. As a dye for the skin or nails the powder may be mixed with lemon juice, made into a paste with hot water, and spread on the part to be dyed, being allowed to remain for one night.


 The parts used are the leaves that are dried and then crushed to form a dark green powder. The flowers and also the fruit are also used. Flowers are numerous, small, white or rose coloured and fragrant.  The plant lives scarcely in dry decidious forests, widely cultivated as a hedge plant. It is mostly found in Egypt, India, Kurdistan, Iran, Syria.


 It is widely cultivated in tropical countries but probably native to North Africa and Asia. It is widely naturalized in the West Indies and Mexico where it is known as "mignonette." Its leaves produce the henna or alhenna of the Arabs (cyprus of the ancients), a yellow die which is used in Egypt and elsewhere by women to color their nails, and by men to die their beards, and for other similar uses including horses manes and tails. It is known in the West Indies as "Egyptian privet", and sometimes as "reseda".

The small, white and yellow, heavy, sweet-smelling flowers are borne on dwarf shrubs 8 to 10 feet high and reaching a height of up to 6 meters, the plant has fragrant white or rose-red flowers.

Henna is planted today primarily as an ornamental hedge, but is probably best known for the dried, ground leaves traditionally used to produce colorfast orange, red, and brown dyes.  


The constituents of Henna is found in it in a brown substance of a resinoid fracture, having the chemical properties which characterize the tannins, and therefore named hennotannic acid. Dried, powdered leaves of henna contain about 0.5 to 1.5 percent lawsone, the chief constituent responsible for the dyeing properties of the plant. Henna also contains mannite, tannic acid, 2-hydroxy-1:4-naphthoquinone resin mucilage, gallic acid, glucose, mannitol,fat, resin and mucilage are also present.The colouring matter is the quinone .and napthaquinone.




Medicinal Action and Uses

 As a medicinal plant, henna has been used as an astringent, antihemorrhagic, intestinal antineoplastic, cardio-inhibitory, hypotensive, and a sedative. It has been employed both internally and locally in jaundice, leprosy, smallpox, and affections of the skin. The fruit is thought to have emmenagogue properties.

It has also been used as a folk remedy against amoebiasis, headache, jaundice, ranging from beriberi to burns and bruises ans leprosy.Henna extracts show antibacterial, antifungal, and ultraviolet light screening activity. Henna has exhibited antifertility activity in animals and may induce menstruation.

Henna has been used as medical treatment for wide range of ailments to cure almost anything from headache to leprosy and other skin disorders. It is used to create an instant ‘Scab’ on large areas & is believed to have antiseptic properties. As a cooling agent it is used for burning of skin. It also has great dandruff fighting ability.

 Henna is also used for rheumatic and arthritic pains. Alcoholic extract of the leaves showed mild anti- bacterial activity against Staph aureus and E. coli'. Antibacterial and antifungal activities have been confirmed .The antihaemorrhagic properties are attributed to lawsone. The naphthoquinone has emmenogogue and oxytocic actions.

The dried leaf and petiole of henna are generally recognized as safe when used as a color additive for hair. A distilled water prepared from them is used as a cosmetic, and the powdered leaves have been in use from the most ancient times in Eastern countries for dyeing the hair and the nails a reddish-yellow. Traditionally henna is used to decorate hands and feet during weddings and other ceremonies.

Henna features in the Siddha system of medicine. Siddha physicians consider parts of henna to be astringent, detergent, deodorant, cooling and a sedative. Fresh leaves mixed with vinegar or lime juice are bandaged onto the soles of the feet to treat 'burning feet', a symptom of beriberi. Ground leaves are applied to sore joints to ease rheumatism. The juice of the plant can be applied to the skin for headaches, and the oil is applied to hair to prevent it from going grey.

Its flower oil relieves muscular pains, while its seeds are used as a deodorant and to regulate menstruation. Henna flowers induce sleep, cure headaches and bruises. Leprosy has been treated by henna bark, as well as by an extract of leaves, flowers and shoots. The bark has also been used to treat symptoms of jaundice and enlargement of the liver and spleen. It can be applied to the skin to treat eczema, scabies, fungal infections and burns.

The Ayurvedic system uses the henna leaves to treat vitiligo (pale patches on the skin where pigment is lost), and the seeds are used to cure fever. Fruit oil is a folk remedy used in disorders causing hardening of the liver and diaphragm, and an ointment made from young fruit is used to prevent itching.


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