What Is Henna

What is Henna?

Henna is a natural dye whose temporary stain can range from bright orange to a reddish-brown/ deep burgundy color, depending on where is it applied on the body.

The dye is obtained from a shrub sized flowering plant called Lawsonia inermis. This plant is also known in different regions as the henna tree, Egyptian privet, the mignonette tree, or the Jamaica Mignonette. The lawsone molecule, a burgundy organic compound, binds to the keratin protein found in your hair, skin, and fingernails, and is what gives the henna its dying properties. The compounds are mostly concentrated in the leaves, and the dye is released when the leaves are crushed. Thus, the leaves are harvested, dried, milled, and sifted to form a fine bright green powder. The powder is then mixed into a paste using water, tea, and/or oils and applied to skin, hair, fingernails (or fabric like wool, silk, or leather) to dye them naturally.

Henna has been used for centuries in Africa, the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Europe, for its decorative purposes and medicinal purposes. In India, the art form is popularly known as Mehndi. Their designs usually feature fine thin lines, with floral and paisley patterns with lines and dots. Arab designs usually feature large graceful designs of floral and vine patterns. African designs, on the other hand, are bold with large geometric shapes.

Please note that natural henna does not contain preservatives, toxic chemicals, or artificial dyes. 


Brief Origins Of Henna

Due to centuries of human migration and cultural integration, the native source of henna can be hard to pinpoint. Historians assert that it has been used for cosmetic and healing purposes for 5,000 years. The earliest civilizations believed to have used henna are the Babylonians, Caananites, and Sumerians. Some archaeologists believe that it was brought to India by the Egyptian moguls in the 12th century C.E. Henna was used in ancient Egypt to paint the nails of Pharaohs before their mummification. There is also well-known evidence that both Cleopatra and Nefertiti both used it for decorative purposes.

Other researchers believe that the plant originated from ancient India. There is an evident use of henna around the 4th-5th centuries, in Deccan of western Indian on cave murals. The Ancient Indians traditional started using henna for its natural cooling properties rather than its decorative purposes. They would dip their palms and feet in a paste made from henna to get a cooling effect from the hot Indian dessert. The cooling sensation would last as long as the henna stayed on the skin. The stain left behind after the paste was scraped off gave birth to the idea of using it for decorative purposes.

As established henna has been used for decorative purposes for centuries in Africa, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East by different cultures for special occasions like weddings. Artists use it to create different designs that vary from region to region and these varying designs have different meanings for each culture as they are believed to bring good health, wisdom, fertility, protection, and physical enlightenment. 

Please see our “How To Apply” tab to read how to properly apply our henna.