A flowering plant species, henna is the only member of the genus Lawsonia.
Since the ancient times, people have been using henna to dye their hair, skin, finger nails and also various types of fabric like silk and wood as well as leather. Therefore, the name henna denotes a dye that is made from the plant leaves. The dye is also used to make temporary tattoos. The name henna is also used to refer different skin and hair dyes like neutral henna and black henna, which are basically obtained from the leaves of this herb.
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Henna can be described as a small tree or a tall shrub that usually grows up to a height of anything between 1.8 meters (6 feet) and 7.6 meters (25 feet). Henna is glabrous by nature and has several branches - the branchlets of this tree are tipped like spikes. The leaves of this tree appear opposite to one another on the stem. The leaves are glabrous and directly attached to the stems (sub-sessile). The shape of the leaves is elliptical as well as lanceolate, meaning they are elongated, but broader in the middle. They measure about 1.5 cm to 5.0 cm (0.6 inch to 2 inches) in length and 0.5 cm and 2.0 cm (0.2 inch to 0.8 inch) in width. In the dorsal side, the leaves taper to form an elongated point (acuminate) having dented veins.
The flowers of the henna plant comprise four sepals, a calyx tube measuring 2 mm (0.079 inch), and spread lobes that measure about 3 mm (0.12 inch). The petals of henna flowers have an oblong shape having white or red hued stamens that occur in pairs along on the calyx tube. The erect ovary of the flower comprises four cells and it measures 5 mm (0.20 inch) in length. The fruits of henna are small and resemble brownish capsules, each of which measures anything between 4 mm and 8 mm (0.16 inch and 0.31 inch) across. Each henna fruit encloses roughly 32 to 49 seeds. When ripened, the fruits split open in four parts.
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In the past, people in ancient Egypt as well as some regions of North Africa have been used henna as a cosmetic. Even in the Arabian Peninsula, the Horn of Africa, South Asia and the Near East, henna has been used for cosmetic purposes over hundreds of years. Even to this day, bridal henna nights continue to be a key custom in several of these regions, especially in families that follow their traditions closely.
Roots, leaves, flowers, bark.
Henna leaves are used for several purposes, including cosmetic and therapeutic. One of the main benefits of henna is that this herb is a wonderful conditioner for all types of hair. Henna possesses natural protective as well as curative properties. Not only application of henna helps to restore the health of damaged hair, but it also maintains the scalp's acid-alkaline equilibrium.
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In addition, henna is also an excellent anti-dandruff agent and takes care of the health of our scalp. It possesses anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and, hence, using it regularly helps to keep dandruff as well as scaly scabby scalp at bay.
Henna is also known to be a potent natural cleaning agent. The best part of using henna on your hair and scalp is that it cleanses without upsetting the natural acid-alkaline balance. Application of henna to your hair makes your hair clean, healthy, lustrous as well as easy to handle. Taking henna treatments helps people having fine, thin floppy hair to make their hair become denser, shiny, and have more mass. In addition, use of henna makes the hair more bouncy. This is attributed to henna's ability to augment the structure of the hair, causing the hair to have denser as well as stronger strands.
It has been found that henna leaf extracts possess hypoglycemic (reduce levels of blood glucose) as well as hypolipidemic (lowering high levels of blood cholesterol) actions, thereby helping to keep diabetes under control. In addition, henna extracts can also be used to control tuberculosis bacteria Tubercle bacilli and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Henna extracts also possess hepato-protective attributes and they protect the liver from harms caused by carbon tetrachloride.
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The leaves of henna are also useful for curing skin related conditions like boils and burns. Applying a thick paste of henna leaves on boils and burns helps to get relief instantaneously. The leaves are said to be very effective for treating burn injuries due to fire. Crush the leaves, add some water to it and apply the rough paste to the affected area. The leaves of this herb are also useful for treating mouth ulcers as well as blisters formed inside the mouth.
The most widespread use of henna is in the form of a conditioner for the hair. It is effective for treating hair loss. Add some henna leaves to mustard oil and boil it. Apply this oil to your scalp regularly for healthy hair growth. Alternatively, you may add dry henna and lemon juice to water and prepare a thick paste. Apply the paste on your hair, allow it to remain for about an hour and then wash your hair. You will be surprised to see how shiny your hair has become.
Henna is also effective for treating dysentery. Take some henna seeds and pulverize them into a powder and add it to ghee. Taking small amounts of this mix with water will help in curing dysentery.
In addition, the flowers of henna are useful for treating headaches. Make a paste of henna flower and vinegar and apply it on your forehead for quick relief. Henna flowers are also used to alleviate other types of pain. Blend the flowers of henna with rose oil and warm wax and apply the paste to the painful areas of the body. In fact, henna leaves paste with water also provides relief from sore soles.
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In the past, people used henna for treating amoebic dysentery (an acute case of headaches, diarrhea attributed to a parasite), enlarged spleen, skin disorders, jaundice as well as cancer. Even in present times, people use henna internally for curing ulcers in the stomach and intestines.
Interestingly, henna also serves as a sunscreen. In various parts of the world people apply henna paste as temporary tattoos during traditional celebrations, festivals, at fairs and other places and occasions during summer. After about five weeks, when the tattoo is gone, people find that the tattooed areas have not tanned despite going out in the sun. Precisely speaking, the body parts tattooed temporarily with henna paste do not come in contact with sun.
As the henna paste is prepared using powdered dry henna leaves, lemon juice, sugar and water, it is a natural substance and definitely healthier compared to the chemical-based sunscreens available in the market. Besides being used as temporary tattoos, henna leaves are widely used in the form of a natural dye to color hair, hand, nails and fingers. Folk medicines of different regions of the world have used henna in the form of a cardio-inhibitory, astringent, intestinal antineoplastic, sedative and hyposensitive agent. In addition, it has also been used as a medicine to treat headaches, amoebiasis, leprosy and jaundice.
Henna is also effective in naturally conditioning as well as revitalizing hair and nails. When you use henna paste to dye your hair and nails, the tannins as well as different Lawsone molecules present in the herb attach with the keratin in your hair and nails. It has been established that henna helps to make the hair and nails stronger, protect the nail beds from becoming fungus colonies, and heal split hair ends as well as cracked cuticles.
Several parts of the henna tree including its leaves, roots and bark are used for therapeutic purposes. Below are some of the specific remedial uses of these herb parts in different parts of the world.
Northern Africa, northern Australia, western and southern Asia as well as the semi-deserts and tropical regions are considered to be the original home of henna. The herb yields maximum dye when it is cultivated in places where the temperature ranges from 35°C to 45°C (95°F to 113°F). The henna plant grows faster and develops new shoots between the rains. After this, the growth of the herb becomes slow. When the weather conditions are dry or cool for prolonged periods, the leaves of henna turn yellow and eventually drop to the ground. This herb cannot flourish in places where the minimum temperature is less than 11°C (52°F). On the other hand, the plant will die if the temperature drops below 5°C (41°F).
In many places in India, Persia as well as places the length of the Mediterranean Sea's African coast, people usually grow the henna tree as an ornamental plant.
Chemical analysis of the henna plant has revealed that it mainly encloses carbohydrates, phenolic compounds, glycosides, mucilage, tannins and gums. Henna leaves also enclose 2 percent resin, while the flowers enclose an essential oil. The seeds of henna enclose 10.5 percent fixed oil.
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