Friday, April 20, 2007

Henna History from the vegan bunny hugger

Henna History from the vegan bunny hugger

So first off I met Khadija of Henna Sooq online at the Long Hair Community.

It was in this forum that I began seeing many mentions about henna. As a vegan, environmentalist and Buddhist I was attracted to the cultural, historical and medicinal aspects of henna.

Henna also known as (Lawsonia inermis, syn. L. alba) is a flowering plant, the sole species in the genus Lawsonia in the family Lythraceae.

Its uses have included being a dye for hair, skin and fingernails, a dye and preservative for leather and cloth, and medicinally as an anti-fungal.

The two most predominant uses of henna are skin and hair dye. Traditionally Henna is most commonly used to adorn the body with artistic designs for special events such as a wedding or other significant occasion. However with the popularization of “temporary tattoos, and body art” many people are beginning to utilize henna for adornment for any occasion.

Medicinally henna has a few more uses. The henna flowers can be crushed in oil for their scent; a combination of dark chocolate, roses and tobacco. This oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties similar to melaleuca (tea tree) oil. Further it was said that henna oil or powder and vinegar or other acidic liquid (lime or lemon juice) applied to the forehead was an effective headache reliever. Henna is also used as an ornamental shrub in North America and the United Kingdom.

Henna is cultivated in the tropical savannah and tropical arid zone from Africa to the western Pacific. Henna is indigenous to North Africa, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and South.

Henna powders produced in temperatures between 35°C and 45°C have the highest dye content. Thus geographically speaking Rajathani and Jamila Henna are the two henna powders associated with the highest dye rate.

Henna does not thrive where minimum temperatures are below 11°C and temperatures below 5°C will kill the henna plant. So it is usually imported to places such as the UK or the North America or grown in greenhouses.

Henna is cultivated as a commercial crop in Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Morocco, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Niger, and Pakistan. Nigeria exports most of its henna to Algeria, and Yemen. India is the biggest producer of henna (Rajathani and Jamila).

India, Pakistan, the Yemen, Morocco, Egypt, Iran and the Sudan are the main growers and exporters of henna. Large quantities of henna are produced at home for the local market, and much smaller quantities sold on the international market.

Some unreputable companies, that are usually not mandated by the FDA sell things called “neutral and black henna” these are false powders that have no relation to henna at all. There are no such plants as black henna or neutral henna.

There are products sold as such may be indigo or cassia obovata which are used to produce a Blue/Black or Cassia Obovata can be used to condition the hair but will not color the hair and is not related to the henna plant.

Others may contain unlisted dyes and chemicals such as Para-phenylenediamine (PPD). PPD is a black dye which is illegal and can cause severe skin eruptions, lesions, and burns.

Henna is usually labeled by where it is grown. There are major types of henna such as Jamila, Yemeni, Moroccan and Rajasthani. Most popular for hair use seem to be Jamila, Yemeni, Morroccan and Rajathani. The difference according to Henna Sooq is Dye Release time and redness/brownish tint of stain. Jamila has a longer dye release (sometimes taking 8-10 hours to release) and shows a more brown stain. Where as Rajathani henna has a quicker dye release and produces more of a black cherry stain.

In tropical savannah and tropical arid zones where henna is grown , the henna plant flowers during August and September as the monsoons subside. The highest dye releases come from these summer crops. The high heat and sudden rainfall make for a very potent Henna dye.

Once dry Henna appears to have a short shelf life as do many dried herbs or spices. Henna powder becomes stale and loses dye content in about three months unless it is packaged in airtight packaging such as a foil/vacuum sealed wrapper. It is recommended that prepackaged henna be stored in an air tight foil container in the freezer.

When dried henna leaves are powdered, the dye potency decreases in contact with air or light. This is why henna bought in bulk that comes in clear jars (such as the health food stores) or Henna kept in loose, porous packaging for more than three months makes pale orange stains, sometimes little or no stain at all.

One can test henna for dye release by making a small batch and watching for red tinge to appear on the edge of the sample. Once henna has lost its potency it is not useless, it still has conditioning effects and can be used to strengthen and cause a slight straightening of hair shaft.

Henna can be used in conjunction with other herbs and plants to provide different “effects” to the hair.

Some additives include:

Chamomile: for golden highlights

Cassia Obovata: For Golden highlights and extra conditioning, also known as neutral henna)

Hibiscus Petals: To impart Red/Purple tones

Red Zinger Tea: To impart Red tones

Red Sandalwood: To promote red tones

Blueberry Tea/Juice: To promote Burgundy/Purple Tones

Blackberry Tea/Juice: Promote deep burgundy/red tones

Cranberry Tea/Juice: Promote Red/Burgundy Tones

Black Tea: To promote Brown tones

Coffee: To promote brown tones

Black Walnut: To Impart Brown tones

Powdered Cloves: To impart brown tones

Indigo Powder: To promote Dark Brown or Black Tones (Note: this is recommended as a separate process)

My personal favorite henna recipe is as follows and causes my henna to be bright red almost purple in direct light:
150 grams Henna (I prefer Rajasthani because of super quick dye release)
50 grams Powdered AMLA (Indian Gooseberry Fruit, Embelica Officinalis )
2 Tablespoon Coconut Milk
1.5 cups boiled water with 1/2 cup Hibiscus petals
2 tablespoons red sandalwood
Mix together and let sit in warm oven for 1 hour or until you see dye release.
Apply to towel dried hair and wrap in saran wrap. Cover it with a hat and sit for at least 2 hour.

Indian Gooseberry, Emblic myrobalan, Amla, Amalaki Information

Herb Information

Name: Indian Gooseberry

Biological Name: Emblica officinalis

Euphorbiaceae family

Other Names:
Indian Gooseberry, Emblic myrobalan, Amla, Amalaki;

Parts Used: Fresh Fruit, Dried fruit, the nut or seed, leaves, root, bark and flowers. Ripe fruits used generally fresh, dry also used.

The bark of Amla is gray in color and peals in irregular patches. Its feathery leaves, which smell like lemon, are of linear oblong shape and size 10 to 12 mm length and 3 to 6 mm width. Its flowers are monoecioius having greenish yellow color. They grow in auxiliary clusters and start appearing in the beginning of spring season.

Amla fruit, depressed globose with six vertical furrows, start developing by the middle of spring and the fruit ripen towards beginning of autumn. The color of the fruit is pale yellow.

Amla has been regarded as a sacred tree in India. The tree was worshipped as Mother Earth and is believed to nurture humankind because the fruits are very nourishing. The leaves, fruit and flowers are used in worship in India. In Himachal Pradesh the tree is worshipped in Kartik as propitious and chaste.

Active Ingredients:
The active ingredient that has significant pharma-cological action in amla is designated by Indian scientists as 'phyllemblin'. The other ingredients present are gallic acid, tannins, pectin, and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
It is a tonic, has a haematinic and lipalytic function. It is one of the strongest rejuvenatives in Indian pharmacopoeia. It contains 30 times the amount of Vitamin C found in oranges.

Medicinal Applications:
Fresh fruit is refrigerant, diuretic and laxative. Green fruit is exceedingly acid. Fruit is also carminative and stomachic. Dried fruit is sour and astringent. Flowers are cooling and aperient. Bark is astringent. It is one of the highest natural source of Vitamin C (3,000 mg per fruit)

Dosage and Uses:
Amla is used in the following forms: Decoction and Infusion of leaves and seeds; liquor, essential oil; confection; powder; paste and pickles. An astringent extract equal to catechu is prepared from the root by decoction and evaporation.

As a vermifuge: AKA Gross Gunk on the skin and scalp Juice of the fruit with honey is used.

For scabies or itch Apply the seed burnt, powdered and mixed in oil for scabies or itch.

Caution: May cause acute diarrhea. No other information is available.

Benefits of Emblica officinalis

Enhances production of Red Blood Cells. Strengthens teeth, hair and nails.

Very Powerful anti-inflammatory herb. Useful on hemorrhoids mixed with honey or witch hazel.

Prevents premature greying of hair and makes them strong and free from dandruff.

Conditions for which Indian Gooseberry is Useful For:
hair (premature gray/balding) hemorrhoids
painful urination
urinary problems

AMLA,Embelica Officinalis, Amlaki,Indian Gooseberry

A really interesting article about AMLA and other ayuvedic things.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

AMLA Oil- The wonder fruit

AMLA also called Indian Gooseberry or Embelica Officianlis is a citris type inedible fruit from the arid parts of Yemen, Arabia, Morrocco, and India. Its fruits are used in oils and in powders.

The dried fruit is a detergent and is used as a shampoo.

Amla oil is prepared from dried Amla berries which have been soaked in coconut oil for several days in order to extract the oil soluble vitamins from the fruit.

The filtered and purified oil is commonly called Amla oil. Because the oil blend is coconut and AMLA berries it is a very good conditioner and consequently one of the worlds oldest!

Amla oil has a long history of use as an aid for improving the health of hair and scalp. In fact, it is one of the world's oldest, natural hair conditioners.

Medicinal Amla Fruit is rich in Vitamin C and Pectin (Which means when used with Henna to make a gel you can omit pectin!) The fruit, because of its high acidity helps to exfoliate and clarify the scalp.

Customarily, a small amount of Amla oil is applied to the hair after washing. This not only bring forth a rich, natural shine and soft texture, but also helps rejuvenate hair that is dull and damaged. It has an herbal almost Piney smell that is green, refreshing and fades to be barely noticable. It it easily absorbed into the scalp and is an excellent product to use for rejuvinating scalp massages or to tame fly-aways.

I've been using this oil on my fiance and mines hair for they last few weeks and my SO has noticed his hair seems to be getting thicker. Also it appears that the act of massage and time we spend together during this activity has made us closer.

Prices run between 2.99-9.99 a bottle depending on supplier. You can purchase it online at or visit a local Indian Market and ask for AMLA oil.

The powder is also inexspensive and can be mixed with warm water, applied to the scalp and hair and rinsed out. This will leave the scalp exfoliated and the hair shaft clarified. A box of powder can run from 1.99 to upwards of 9.99 a pound.

This product has been used for centuries and has the added benefit of being vegan and biodegradible. Also the plant itself is known for its ability to treat wastewater zones and clarify the soil.

The powder can also be applied to the face for an gentle exfoliating mask.

The AMLA plant is truly one of the power houses on the Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants.