Brief description about true henna: Henna Lawsonia Inermis Linn
Synonyms : Henne. Al-Khanna. Al-henna. Jamaica Mignonette. Mehndi. Mendee. Egyptian Privet. Smooth Lawsonia.
Habitat : It grows wild and is also cultivated all over India, Egypt, Kurdistan, Levant, Persia, and Syria also grown as a garden plant.
Parts Used : Bark, leaves, flowers and seeds.
Botanical Description : A glabrous much branched shrub or quite a small tree with greyish brown bark. Leaves are opposite, subsessile, elliptic or broadly lanceolate, entire acute or obtuse, 2-3 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. Flowers are numerous, small, white or rose coloured, fragrant. Henna is a middle sized shrub with many branches. It has small white or pinkies fragrant flowers in large terminal bunches, and small round fruits. The name Henna is based on the word Hina which is the Arabic name of the drug.
The plant occurs in several parts of Bangladesh & India, chiefly in the drier parts of the peninsula, and is usually cultivated in hedges. It is also cultivated for commercial purposes in Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The leaves of this plant yields a colouring matter (Henna Dye) 12-15% Hanno-tanic acid, a kind of tannin and an olive green resin soluble in ether and alcohol. Seeds yield an oil, flowers yield a fragrant otto or oil. There is also a glucocide in the plant.
This plant is held in particularly high esteem by Muslims. Arabian and Persian writers recommend a paste of the leaves with oil and resin a valuable application to the head, to cure headaches. Leaves or the herb ground into soft paste with water are also similarly applied with benefit in case of rheumatism. Dye yielded by leaves or leaf paste, is extensively used for staining hands and finger nails to protect them from decay and diseases. In conjunction with catechu and indigo, leaves are also used as a cosmetic hair-dye. Henna helps in treatment of baldness. Coconut oil boiled with henna leaves promotes healthy growth of hair. Regular massage with this oil produces abundant hair. Applied to hair they promote growth, prevent greying, and dyes white hair. Fragrant water distilled from the flowers was formerly employed by the Jews in baths and for perfuming oils and ointments with which they anointed the body for embalming.
Pharmacognosy : Detailed pharmacognostical studies are available. Macroscopic and microscopic characteristics of leaves, petioles and the powdered plant have been well described.
Phytochemistry : The leaves contain soluble matter, lawsone, 2-hydroxy-1:4-napthoquinone resin and tannin, gallic acid, glucose mannitol, fat, resin and mucilage are also present. The colouring matter is napthaquinone.
Pharmacology : 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 oxytocio actions.
Usage : Leaves are used as an antifungal product. The extract is prescribed for external use in headache. It is also used as a cooling agent against burning of skin. The local use is decorative on palms and soles is widespread in the Indian subcontinent. Henna has a cooling and calming effect on the body and mind. 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(aiding menstruation).
Lawsonia Inermis(henna plant) is not approved by the FDA for use as an instant tanning cosmetic, but is approved for use in other cosmetics as a conditioner and red dye and has been used internally as medicine. Henna in its natural form, has been used safely on the skin as a temporary tattoo coloring agent for over 5000 years in many cultures and proves to be safe and non toxic.
The Original Mehndi Mud™ only needs to be left on the skin for one hour to leave a deep dark temporary tattoo that lasts one to three weeks. Like any henna paste the longer it stays on the skin the longer the tattoo lasts. One hour lasts on the average 10 days and with 12 hours it might last 3 weeks. No setting solution (lemon and sugar) or special skin preparation is required. LifeArt suggests witchhazel or fresh lemon juice to wash the skin.
Reference : Atreya Punarvasu ,Agnivesh Ayurveda (i) Stainburg, J. et al.: Mutat Res. 62:383 (1979) (ii) Metcalfe, C.R. and L. Chalk: Anatomy of the Dicotyledone. Vol. I Clarendon Press, Oxford (1950), Wall Foundation Research (1996-2001), (2003 LifeArt products Member of the CTFA).