Henna (Lawsonia inermis)

Henna (Lawsonia inermis)

Other common names: Jamaica mignonette, hina, Al-Khanna, Al-henna, Mehndi, Mendee, Egyptian privet, smooth Lawsonia.

*Not to be confused with neutral henna or black henna, two terms used for hair/skin products that are not actually derived from this plant.

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Family: Lythraceae

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, User: Atamari

Actions:

Emmenagogue, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial.

Harvest:

Henna produces the most dye when grown in a hot, dry climate. The time of harvest is at the end of each dry season, (in some countries this occurs just as the rainy season begins). Usually this takes place in summer and winter.

Part used: Fruit, leaves and flowers.

Constituents: Hennotannic acid and other tannins, resins, coumarins, fraxetin, gallic acid, lawsone, sugars, and others.

Indications:

Promoting menstruation, energetic cooling, reducing fever, easing pain and inflammation

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, User: Atamari

in joints/muscles.

Medicinal preparations:

Internal

I wouldn’t administer it internally, due to the fact that it’s so often adulterated. Centuries ago, the fruit was used to treat infections and promote menstruation. However, there are so many safer herbs to use for these purposes, that I don’t recommend taking henna internally.

External

For cosmetic and ceremonial purposes, henna leaves are powdered and used to make a dye.

It is also sometimes used in ayurvedic medicine, with a liniment made from the flowers or powdered leaf being applied to the skin to reduce fevers and inflammation in the body. At the time of this writing, I am not familiar enough with ayurvedic medicine to recommend it or dismiss it – if you wish to use it to balance an overly hot energetic constitution (or for another purpose), I would suggest seeing a qualified ayurvedic practitioner to help you do so safely.

Contraindications:

Some henna products contain metallic salts, which can chemically react with other hair products, especially dyes/bleaches. Please see a professional hair dresser if you wish to colour your hair after having used a commercial henna hair dye or treatment.

Cited from Wikipedia: 

Henna is known to be dangerous to people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, User: 235uranium

(G6PD deficiency), which is more common in males than females. Infants and children of particular ethnic groups, mainly from the Middle East and North Africa, are especially vulnerable. Though user accounts cite few other negative effects of natural henna paste, save for occasional allergic reactions, pre-mixed henna body art pastes may have ingredients added to darken stain, or to alter stain color. The health risks involved in pre-mixed paste can be significant. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does consider these risks to be adulterants and therefore illegal for use on skin. Some pastes have been noted to include: silver nitrate, carmine, pyrogallol, disperse orange dye, and chromium. These have been found to cause allergic reactions, chronic inflammatory reactions, or late-onset allergic reactions to hairdressing products and textile dyes.

In addition, please avoid so-called “black henna” and para-phenylenediamine (PPD) products at all costs. The latter is illegal to sell (for use on the skin) in Western countries, however this law is not well enforced, and you have to be careful that you know exactly what you’re putting on your body. Some travellers end up having it applied when they are overseas, thinking it is “real” unadulterated henna. Using “black henna” or a product that contains PPD can cause lifelong allergies, permanent scars and multiple chemical sensitivities – some of these products’ additives have even been found to cause leukaemia in children. These cosmetics/dyes may not be properly labelled, in order to sell them to unwitting buyers. Please know your source and be careful.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

Henna has been used for thousands of years in India, Africa and the Middle East, for

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, User: Nvvchar

ceremonial skin art, hair dye and other purposes. It has ties to marriage and fertility, as some cultures have their young brides adorned with intricate henna art when they are preparing to meet their husband-to-be for the first time. Some cultures also adorn the groom. The Night of the Henna is a term used for this tradition, and it takes place all over the world. Henna is known as a plant associated with joy – it has been used to celebrate all types of festive events, not just for weddings.

Henna has a cool constitution. I also suspect it to have a moist constitution, but I’m still getting to know it energetically.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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