Henna
Overview
 
Henna is a flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

 used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 and wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

. The name is also used for dye
Dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

 preparations derived from the plant, and for the art of temporary tattoo
Tattoo
A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattoos on humans are a type of body modification, and tattoos on other animals are most commonly used for identification purposes...

ing based on those dyes. Additionally, the name is misused for other skin and hair dyes, such as black henna or neutral henna, which do not derive from the plant.

The English name "henna" comes from the Arabic  (ALA-LC
ALA-LC Romanization
ALA-LC is a set of standards for romanization, or the representation of text in other writing systems using the Latin alphabet. The initials stand for American Library Association - Library of Congress....

: ḥinnāʾ / pronounced ħɪnˈnæːʔ) or colloquially , loosely pronounced /ħinna/.
Henna is a tall shrub or small tree, 2.6 m high.
Encyclopedia
Henna is a flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

 used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 and wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

. The name is also used for dye
Dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

 preparations derived from the plant, and for the art of temporary tattoo
Tattoo
A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattoos on humans are a type of body modification, and tattoos on other animals are most commonly used for identification purposes...

ing based on those dyes. Additionally, the name is misused for other skin and hair dyes, such as black henna or neutral henna, which do not derive from the plant.

The English name "henna" comes from the Arabic  (ALA-LC
ALA-LC Romanization
ALA-LC is a set of standards for romanization, or the representation of text in other writing systems using the Latin alphabet. The initials stand for American Library Association - Library of Congress....

: ḥinnāʾ / pronounced ħɪnˈnæːʔ) or colloquially , loosely pronounced /ħinna/.

Description

Henna is a tall shrub or small tree, 2.6 m high. It is glabrous, multibranched with spine tipped branchlets. Leaves are opposite, entire, glabrous, sub-sessile, elliptical, and broadly lanceolate (1.5–5.0 cm x 0.5–2 cm), acuminate, having depressed veins on the dorsal surface. Henna flowers have four sepal
Sepal
A sepal is a part of the flower of angiosperms . Collectively the sepals form the calyx, which is the outermost whorl of parts that form a flower. Usually green, sepals have the typical function of protecting the petals when the flower is in bud...

s and a 2 mm calyx tube with 3 mm spread lobes. Petals are obvate, white or red stamens inserted in pairs on the rim of the calyx tube. Ovary
Ovary
The ovary is an ovum-producing reproductive organ, often found in pairs as part of the vertebrate female reproductive system. Ovaries in anatomically female individuals are analogous to testes in anatomically male individuals, in that they are both gonads and endocrine glands.-Human anatomy:Ovaries...

 is four celled, style up to 5 mm long and erect. Fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

s are small, brownish capsules, 4–8 mm in diameter, with 32–49 seeds per fruit, and open irregularly into four splits.

Cultivation

The henna plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

, and northern Australasia
Australasia
Australasia is a region of Oceania comprising Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes...

 in semi-arid zones. Henna's indigenous zone is the tropical savannah
Savannah
Savannah or savanna is a type of grassland.It can also mean:-People:* Savannah King, a Canadian freestyle swimmer* Savannah Outen, a singer who gained popularity on You Tube...

 and tropical arid zone, in latitudes between 15° and 25° N and S from Africa to the western Pacific rim, and produces highest dye content in temperatures between 35 °C and 45 °C. During the onset of precipitation intervals, the plant grows rapidly; putting out new shoots, then growth slows. The leaves gradually yellow and fall during prolonged dry or cool intervals. It does not thrive where minimum temperatures are below 11 °C. Temperatures below 5 °C will kill the henna plant. Henna is commercially cultivated in UAE, Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

,Algeria,Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

, Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, western India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

 and Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

. Presently the Pali district of Rajasthan
Rajasthan
Rājasthān the land of Rajasthanis, , is the largest state of the Republic of India by area. It is located in the northwest of India. It encompasses most of the area of the large, inhospitable Great Indian Desert , which has an edge paralleling the Sutlej-Indus river valley along its border with...

 is the most heavily cultivated henna production area in India, with over 100 henna processors operating in Sojat City.

Uses

Henna has been used since the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 to dye skin (including body art
Body art
Body art is art made on, with, or consisting of, the human body. The most common forms of body art are tattoos and body piercings, but other types include scarification, branding, scalpelling, shaping , full body tattoo and body painting.More extreme body art can involve things such as mutilation...

), hair, fingernails, leather, silk and wool. In several parts of the world it is traditionally used in various festivals and celebrations. There is mention of henna as a hair dye in Indian court records around 400 CE, in Rome during the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, and in Spain during Convivencia. It was listed in the medical texts of the Ebers Papyrus
Ebers papyrus
The Ebers Papyrus, also known as Papyrus Ebers, is an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to circa 1550 BC. Among the oldest and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt, it was purchased at Luxor, in the winter of 1873–74 by Georg Ebers...

 (16th c BCE Egypt) and by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (14th c CE (Syria and Egypt) as a medicinal herb. In Morocco, wool is dyed and ornamented with henna, as are drumheads and other leather goods.

Use of henna for body art has enjoyed a recent renaissance due to improvements in cultivation, processing, and the emigration of people from traditional henna-using regions.

For skin dyeing, a paste of ground henna (either prepared from a dried powder or from fresh ground leaves) is placed in contact with the skin from a few hours to overnight. Henna stains can last a few days to a month depending on the quality of the paste, individual skin type, and how long the paste is allowed to stay on the skin.

Henna also acts as an anti-fungal and a preservative for leather and cloth.

Henna flowers have been used to create perfume since ancient times, and henna perfume is experiencing a resurgence. Henna repels some insect pests and mildew.

Henna's coloring properties are due to lawsone
Lawsone
Lawsone , also known as hennotannic acid, is a red-orange dye present in the leaves of the henna plant as well as jewelweed . Humans have used henna extracts containing lawsone as hair and skin pigments for more than 5000 years...

, a burgundy organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

 that has an affinity for bonding with protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

. Lawsone is primarily concentrated in the leaves, especially in the petioles of the leaf. Lawsone content in leaves is negatively correlated with the number of seeds in the fruits.

Body art

Whole, unbroken henna leaves will not stain the skin. Henna will not stain skin until the lawsone
Lawsone
Lawsone , also known as hennotannic acid, is a red-orange dye present in the leaves of the henna plant as well as jewelweed . Humans have used henna extracts containing lawsone as hair and skin pigments for more than 5000 years...

 molecules are made available (released) from the henna leaf. Fresh henna leaves will stain the skin if they are smashed with a mildly acidic liquid. The lawsone will gradually migrate from the henna paste into the outer layer of the skin and bind to the protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

s in it, creating a fast stain.

Since it is difficult to form intricate patterns from coarse crushed leaves, henna is commonly traded as a powder made by drying, milling
Mill (grinding)
A grinding mill is a unit operation designed to break a solid material into smaller pieces. There are many different types of grinding mills and many types of materials processed in them. Historically mills were powered by hand , working animal , wind or water...

 and sifting
Sieve
A sieve, or sifter, separates wanted elements from unwanted material using a woven screen such as a mesh or net. However, in cooking, especially with flour, a sifter is used to aerate the substance, among other things. A strainer is a type of sieve typically used to separate a solid from a liquid...

 the leaves. The dry powder is mixed with lemon juice, strong tea, or other mildly acidic liquids to make a preparation with toothpaste-like consistency, which can be used to make finely detailed body art. The henna mix must rest for 6 to 24 hours before use, to release the lawsone from the leaf matter. Essential oils with high levels of monoterpene alcohols such as tea tree
Tea tree
Tea tree or Ti-tree is a popular name that has been applied to a number of different, unrelated plants:*Camellia sinensis , from which black, green, oolong and white tea are all obtained....

, eucalyptus
Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is a diverse genus of flowering trees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Members of the genus dominate the tree flora of Australia...

, cajeput, or lavender
Lavender
The lavenders are a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. An Old World genus, distributed from Macaronesia across Africa, the Mediterranean, South-West Asia, Arabia, Western Iran and South-East India...

 will improve skin stain characteristics.

The paste can be applied with many traditional and innovative tools, including resist, a cone, syringe, Jac bottle or fingers. A light stain may be achieved within minutes, the longer the paste is left on the skin, the stronger the stain will be, and should be left for several hours. To prevent it from drying or falling off the skin, the paste is often sealed down by dabbing a sugar/lemon mix over the dried paste, or simply adding some form of sugar to the paste. It is debatable whether this adds to the color of the end result some believe it increasing the intensity of the shade. After time the dry paste is simply brushed or scraped away.

Henna stains are orange soon after application, but darken over the following three days to a reddish brown. Soles and palms have the thickest layer of skin and so take up the most lawsone, and take it to the greatest depth, so that hands and feet will have the darkest and most long-lasting stains. Steaming or warming the henna pattern will darken the stain, either during the time the paste is still on the skin, or after the paste has been removed. Chlorinated water and soaps may spoil the darkening process: alkaline products may hasten the darkening process. After the stain reaches its peak color it will appear to fade, as the stained dead cells exfoliate
Exfoliation
Exfoliation has several meanings:* Exfoliation describes the loss of leaves from a plant.* Exfoliation , is a cosmetic technique aimed at removing dead skin cells from the face and body....

.

Hair dye

Henna has been used as a cosmetic hair dye for 6,000 years. In Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra and Nefertiti
Nefertiti
Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they started to worship one god only...

 were known to have used it. It was commonly used for many centuries in areas of India, the Middle East, and Africa.

In Europe, henna was popular among women connected to the aesthetic movement and the Pre-Raphaelite artists of England in the 1800s. The fashion for Orientalism
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

 led young women with a bohemian
Bohemian
A Bohemian is a resident of the former Kingdom of Bohemia, either in a narrow sense as the region of Bohemia proper or in a wider meaning as the whole country, now known as the Czech Republic. The word "Bohemian" was used to denote the Czech people as well as the Czech language before the word...

 inclination to begin tinting their hair with henna. Dante Gabriel Rosetti's wife and muse, Elizabeth Siddal
Elizabeth Siddal
Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal was an English artists' model, poet and artist who was painted and drawn extensively by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Walter Deverell, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and most of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's early paintings of women.-Early...

, had naturally bright red hair. Contrary to the cultural tradition in Britain that considered red hair unattractive, the Pre-Raphaelites fetishized red hair. Siddal was portayed by Rosetti in many paintings that emphasized her flowing red hair.The other Pre-Raphaelites, including Frederic Leighton, Evelyn de Morgan
Evelyn De Morgan
Evelyn De Morgan was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter.She was born Evelyn Pickering. Her parents were of upper middle class. Her father was Percival Pickering QC, the Recorder of Pontefract...

, Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys
Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys
Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys , but usually known as Frederick Sandys, was an English "Pre-Raphaelite" painter, illustrator and draughtsman, of the Victorian era....

, and French painters such as Gaston Bussière (painter) and the Impressionists further popularized the association of henna-dyed hair and young bohemian women.

Opera singer Adelina Patti
Adelina Patti
Adelina Patti was a highly acclaimed 19th-century opera singer, earning huge fees at the height of her career in the music capitals of Europe and America. She first sang in public as a child in 1851 and gave her last performance before an audience in 1914...

 is sometimes credited with popularizing the use of henna in Europe in the late 1800s. Parisian courtesan Cora Pearl
Cora Pearl
Cora Pearl was a famous courtesan of the 19th century French demimonde, born Emma Elizabeth Crouch.- Early life :Her date and place of birth are disputed, as she was believed to have forged her birth certificate, giving the date as 23 February 1842, and the place as Caroline Place, East...

 was often referred to as La Lune Rousse (the red moon) for dying her hair red. In her memoirs, she relates an incident when she dyed her pet dog's fur to match her own hair. By the 1950s, Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball
Lucille Désirée Ball was an American comedian, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film and television executive, and star of the sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy and Life With Lucy...

 popularized "henna rinse" as her character, Lucy Ricardo, called it on the television show I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy is an American television sitcom starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. The black-and-white series originally ran from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957, on the Columbia Broadcasting System...

. It gained popularity among young people in the 1960s through growing interest in Eastern cultures.

Muslims also use henna as a dye for their hair and for the beards of males--following the tradition of their prophet Muhammad, who used to dye his beard with henna. It's considered a "sunnah
Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

" and akin to something fortunate/good. In one narration by him, he encouraged Muslim women to dye their nails with henna so their hands can be distinguished as feminine & from the hands of a male. Hence you will see this tradition greatly in the Middle East and Africa where women apply henna to their finger and toe nails, as well as their hands.

Commercially packaged henna, intended for use as a cosmetic hair dye, is available in many countries, and is now popular in India, as well as the Middle East, Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States. The colour that results from dying with henna can fall into a broad spectrum, from auburn, to orange, to deep burgundy, chestnut brown or deep blue-black. To achieve a colour that is more brown or black, the user must use indigo hair dye as well as henna. The henna is applied first, to coat the hair. Once dry, the indigo is used. The following factors determine the hair colour that results from using henna:
  • user's original hair colour
  • freshness of the henna
  • region of origin of the henna
  • amount of time the henna is left on the hair to process
  • whether it remains wet on the hair, or is allowed to dry
  • the amount of heat retained on the head during the dying process


In this form, it is generally mixed with herbs and perfumes during manufacturing to give it a pleasant fragrance. It is prepared for use much the same way that it is prepared for body art: it is usually sold in block form, and is used in the quantity required for the desired shade of red, brown or black. This will vary according to the user's natural hair colour. The henna is grated into a non-metal container (metal may chemically interact with the henna and ruin the dye) such as a glass bowl. Then hot water is added to it, and the mixture is stirred with a non-metal tool such as a spatula. Once dissolved, the henna is spread onto clean, dry hair. The hair should then be covered with disposable plastic wrap to hold in the heat and moisture, which help the dye to activate. Since any henna that drips will dye skin or clothing, many users will then put a dark towel or a shower cap over the plastic. The henna typically requires at least four hours of processing time before it is washed out. Once hair is dyed with henna, the colour will gradually fade, but it will do so slowly.

Traditions of henna as body art

The different words for henna in ancient languages imply that it had more than one point of discovery and origin, as well as different pathways of daily and ceremonial use.

Henna has been used to adorn young women's bodies as part of social and holiday celebrations since the late Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 in the eastern Mediterranean. The earliest text mentioning henna in the context of marriage and fertility celebrations comes from the Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

ic legend of Baal
Baal
Baʿal is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu...

 and Anath, which has references to women marking themselves with henna in preparation to meet their husbands, and Anath adorning herself with henna to celebrate a victory over the enemies of Baal.

Wall paintings excavated at Akrotiri (dating prior to the eruption of Thera in 1680 BCE) show women with markings consistent with henna on their nails, palms and soles, in a tableau consistent with the henna bridal description from Ugarit. Many statuettes of young women dating between 1500 and 500 BCE along the Mediterranean coastline have raised hands with markings consistent with henna. This early connection between young, fertile women and henna seems to be the origin of the Night of the Henna, which is now celebrated worldwide.

The Night of the Henna was celebrated by most groups in the areas where henna grew naturally: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Zoroastrians, among others, all celebrated marriages by adorning the bride
Bride
A bride is a woman about to be married or newlywed.The word may come from the Proto-Germanic verb root *brū-, meaning 'to cook, brew, or make a broth' which was the role of the daughter-in-law in primitive families...

, and often the groom, with henna.
Across the henna-growing region, Purim
Purim
Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman, a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther .Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th...

, Eid
Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Fitr, Id-ul-Fitr, or Id al-Fitr , often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting . Eid is an Arabic word meaning "festivity," while Fiṭr means "breaking the fast"...

, Diwali
Diwali
Diwali or DeepavaliThe name of the festival in various regional languages include:, , , , , , , , , , , , , popularly known as the "festival of lights," is a festival celebrated between mid-October and mid-December for different reasons...

, Karva Chauth, Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

, Nowruz
Nowruz
Nowrūz is the name of the Iranian New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year....

, Mawlid
Mawlid
Mawlid or sometimes ميلاد , mīlād is a term used to refer to the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which occurs in Rabi' al-awwal,...

, and most saints' days were celebrated with some henna. Favorite horses, donkeys, and salukis had their hooves, paws, and tails hennaed. Battle victories, births, circumcision, birthdays, Zār
Zar
- Places :* Zar, Armenia, a town in the Kotayk Province* Zar, Azerbaijan, a village in the Kalbajar Rayon currently controlled by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic* Žár , a village in the Czech Republic* Żar, Łódź Voivodeship, Poland...

, as well as weddings, usually included some henna as part of the celebration. When there was joy, there was henna, as long as henna was available.

Henna was regarded as having "Barakah
Barakah
In Islam, Barakah is the beneficent force from God that flows through the physical and spiritual spheres as prosperity, protection, and happiness. Baraka is the continuity of spiritual presence and revelation that begins with God and flows through that and those closest to God. Baraka can be found...

," blessings, and was applied for luck as well as joy and beauty. Brides typically had the most henna, and the most complex patterns, to support their greatest joy, and wishes for luck. Some bridal traditions were very complex, such as those in Yemen, where the Jewish bridal henna process took four or five days to complete, with multiple applications and resist work.

The fashion of "Bridal Mehndi
Mehndi
Mehndi or menhdi is the application of henna as a temporary form of skin decoration in India, as well as by expatriate communities from the country. The word mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Vedic ritual books...

" in Pakistan, Northern Libya and in North Indian diasporas is currently growing in complexity and elaboration, with new innovations in glitter, gilding, and fine-line work. Recent technological innovations in grinding, sifting, temperature control, and packaging henna, as well as government encouragement for henna cultivation, have improved dye content and artistic potential for henna.

Though traditional henna artists were Nai
Nai (caste)
The word Nai refers to a particular profession, that of cutting hair, running beauty salons, makeup or facelift clinics, beauty parlours, etc. among Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims in India. They are also referred to as Nai and Nai-Thakur, Sains. In Pakistan, the Nai or hairdresser were following it as a...

 caste in India, and barbering castes in other countries (lower social classes), talented contemporary henna artists can command high fees for their work. Women in countries where women are discouraged from working outside the home can find socially acceptable, lucrative work doing henna. Morocco, Mauritania, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, as well as India and many other countries have thriving women's henna businesses. These businesses are often open all night for Eids, Diwali and Karva Chauth, and many women may work as a team for a large wedding where hundreds of guests will be hennaed as well as the bride and groom.

Health effects

Henna is known to be dangerous to people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD deficiency), which is more common in males than females. Infants and children of particular ethnic groups 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
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

 (FDA) does consider these risks to be adulterants and therefore illegal for use on skin. Some pastes have been noted to include: silver nitrate
Silver nitrate
Silver nitrate is an inorganic compound with chemical formula . This compound is a versatile precursor to many other silver compounds, such as those used in photography. It is far less sensitive to light than the halides...

, carmine
Carmine
Carmine , also called Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red #4, C.I. 75470, or E120, is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminum salt of carminic acid, which is produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal beetle and the Polish cochineal, and is used as a general term for...

, pyrogallol
Pyrogallol
Pyrogallol or benzene-1,2,3-triol is a benzenetriol. It is a white crystalline powder and a powerful reducing agent. It was first prepared by Scheele 1786 by heating gallic acid. An alternate preparation is heating para-chlorophenoldisulphonic acid with potassium hydroxide.When in alkaline...

, 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.

Regulation

The FDA has not approved henna for direct application to the skin. It is unconditionally approved as a hair dye, and can only be imported for that purpose. Henna imported into the U.S. which appears to be for use as body art is subject to seizure, though prosecution is rare.
Althought henna has been used for centuries by doctors as a medical herb. In the late 400 century Ibn al Nafiz, one of arabs biggest and most well known doctors used the henna plant to cure many diease. Ibn al Nafiz was famous in the arab world for correcting galen's wrong methods in the body

"Neutral henna" and "black henna"

Natural henna stains only a rich red brown. Products sold as "black henna" or "neutral henna" do not contain henna, but are instead made from other plants, or from other substances altogether.

"Neutral henna"

So-called "neutral henna" does not change the color of hair. This is not henna powder; it is usually the powder of the plant Senna italica also known as Cassia obovata or a closely related Cassia species.

"Black henna"

So-called "black henna" powder may be derived from indigo
Indigo dye
Indigo dye is an organic compound with a distinctive blue color . Historically, indigo was a natural dye extracted from plants, and this process was important economically because blue dyes were once rare. Nearly all indigo dye produced today — several thousand tons each year — is synthetic...

 (from the plant Indigofera tinctoria
Indigofera tinctoria
Indigofera tinctoria bears the common name True indigo. The plant was one of the original sources of indigo dye. It has been naturalized to tropical and temperate Asia, as well as parts of Africa, but its native habitat is unknown since it has been in cultivation worldwide for many centuries. Today...

). It may also contain unlisted dyes and chemicals. "Black henna" may contain p-phenylenediamine
P-Phenylenediamine
p-Phenylenediamine is an organic compound with the formula C6H42. This derivative of aniline is a colorless solid, but typically samples can contain yellowish impurities arising from oxidation. It is mainly used as a component of engineering polymers and composites. It is also an ingredient in...

 (PPD), which can stain skin black quickly, but can cause severe allergic reactions and permanent scarring. The FDA specifically forbids PPD to be used for that purpose, and may prosecute those who produce "black henna'. Artists who injure clients with "Black Henna" in the U.S. may be sued for damages.

"Black Henna" is a misnomer arising from imports of plant-based hair dyes into the West in the late 19th century. Partly fermented, dried indigo
Indigofera tinctoria
Indigofera tinctoria bears the common name True indigo. The plant was one of the original sources of indigo dye. It has been naturalized to tropical and temperate Asia, as well as parts of Africa, but its native habitat is unknown since it has been in cultivation worldwide for many centuries. Today...

 was called "black henna" because it could be used in combination with henna to dye hair black. This gave rise to the belief that there was such a thing as "black henna" which could dye skin black. Indigo will not dye skin black. Pictures of indigenous people with black body art (either alkalized henna or from some other source) also fed the belief that there was such a thing as "black henna."

In the 1990s, henna artists in Africa, India, Bali, the Arabian Peninsula and the West began to experiment with para-phenylenediamine
P-Phenylenediamine
p-Phenylenediamine is an organic compound with the formula C6H42. This derivative of aniline is a colorless solid, but typically samples can contain yellowish impurities arising from oxidation. It is mainly used as a component of engineering polymers and composites. It is also an ingredient in...

 (PPD) based black hair dye, applying it as a thick paste as they would apply henna, in an effort to find something that would quickly make jet black temporary body art. PPD can cause severe allergic reactions, with blistering, intense itching, permanent scarring, and permanent chemical sensitivities. Estimates of allergic reactions range between 3% and 15%. Henna does not cause these injuries. "Black henna" made with PPD can cause lifelong sensitization to coal tar derivatives. "Black henna" made with gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, paint thinner, and benzene has been linked to adult leukemia.

The most frequent serious health consequence of having a "black henna temporary tattoo" is sensitization to hair dye and related chemicals. If a person has had a "black henna tattoo", and later dyes their hair with chemical hair dye, the allergic reaction may be life threatening and require hospitalization. Because of the epidemic of para-phenylenediamine allergic reactions, chemical hair dye products now post warnings on the labels: "Temporary 'black henna' tattoos may increase your risk of allergy. Do not colour your hair if: ... - you have experienced a reaction to a temporary 'black henna' tattoo in the past."

Para-phenylenediamine is illegal for use on skin in western countries, though enforcement is difficult. Physicians have urged governments to legislate against "black henna" because of the frequency and severity of injuries, especially to children. To assist prosecution of vendors, government agencies encourage citizens to report injuries and illegal use of "PPD black henna". When used in hair dye, the PPD amount must be below 6%, and application instructions warn that the dye not touch the scalp and the dye must be quickly rinsed away. "Black henna" pastes have PPD percentages from 10% to 80%, and are left on the skin for half an hour.

Para-phenylenediamine "black henna" use is widespread, particularly in tourist areas. Because the blistering reaction appears 3 to 12 days after the application, most tourists have left and do not return to show how much damage the artist has done. This permits the artists to continue injuring others, unaware they are causing severe injuries. The high profit margins of "black henna" and the demand for body art that emulates "tribal tattoos" further encourage artists to deny the dangers.

It is not difficult to recognize and avoid para-phenylenediamine "black henna":
  • if a paste stains torso skin black in less than ½ hour, it has PPD in it.
  • if the paste is mixed with peroxide, or if peroxide is wiped over the design to bring out the color, it has PPD in it.


Anyone who has an itching and blistering reaction to a black body stain should go to a doctor, and report that they have had an application of para-phenylenediamine to their skin.

PPD sensitivity is lifelong. A person who has become sensitized through "black henna tattoos" may have future allergic reactions to perfumes, printer ink, chemical hair dyes, textile dye, photographic developer, sunscreen and some medications. A person who has had a "black henna tattoo" should consult their physician about health consequences of para-phenylenediamine sensitization.

See also

  • Achiote (urucum, annatto), another plant that stains skin orange-red
  • Genipapo
    Genipa americana
    Genipa americana is a species of Genipa, native to northern South America , the Caribbean and southern Mexico, growing in rainforests. It is commonly called Genipapo or Huito; the alternate name Jagua may refer to other species of Genipa as well. To the Inca, it was known as hawa or wituq...

    , a plant that stains the skin blue-black
  • Mehndi
    Mehndi
    Mehndi or menhdi is the application of henna as a temporary form of skin decoration in India, as well as by expatriate communities from the country. The word mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Vedic ritual books...


External links

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