(Lawsonia Inermis)

Article by Kaniz Shah

Botanical Name:   lawsonia inermis   

English Name:      Henna           

Hindi Name:         mehndi, mehandi, mehendi

Popular Name(s):   henna, mehndi        

Kingdom:               plantae                      

Order:                    myrtales                    

Family:                   ythraceae                

Genus:                   lawsonia                   

Species:                 L. inermis      

Parts Used:             leaves

Habitat:                  Africa, Asia, north Australia

Height:                   up to 12 feet high                 

Odor:                     earthy

Effect / Energy:      cooling


Artwork is best known to promote blessings for a new beginning

Psychological Properties:

A form of blessing for those who use it. Promotes a sense of happiness

Subtle Properties:

Promotes social connection to others


Hair colorant, cooling, conditioning, anti-fungal, antibacterial, insect repellant, wound healing 

Plant Description:

Henna, scientifically named lawsonia inermis, is a tree/shrub that grows up to 12 feet high.  It has opposite leaves varying in size from 1-3cm and has tiny pale yellow flowers. It can be found in the hot climates like Egypt, Pakistan, India, Africa, Morocco, and Australia.  The plant grows best in heat up to 115°F (45°C) in dry soil and contains more dye at these temperatures. It wilts in temperatures below 52°F and can’t survive below 41°F. 

The henna plant contains lawsone which is a reddish-orange dye that binds to keratin in our skin and hair. Keratin is a tough and insoluble protein found in the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) and is what makes our skin almost waterproof. It is also what our hair is made of. Henna’s ability to bind to this protein is what makes it last up to a month, or even longer, on some areas of the body and is pretty permanent in the hair.

Health Benefits and Other Uses:

Henna has long been known to possess healing qualities.   It is used topically and not ingested or inhaled. Since the ancient times, the henna plant has been used by healers and naturopathic professionals to make ointments and remedies to reduce headaches, stomach pains, bruises, sprains, boils, burns (including sunburns), open wounds, ringworms, athlete's foot, prevent or kill lice and even prevent hair loss.   Henna is great for soothing burning feet or sweaty hands when applied on soles of feet or palms of hands. Similar to the idea of the well-known Chinese reflexology, henna triggers the nerves to give cooling effects to the rest of the body, thus becoming a source for reducing fever or aiding in preventing heat stroke.

This powerful herb makes a good sunblock and has been used to protect animal skin from sunburn.

Henna is also used to dye fabrics and leather goods like goat skin bags, after they have been salt-cured. It "insect-proofs" or "moth-proofs" the bags by making the skin poisoned or inedible.  

Henna as a Body Art

Henna has been used as a hair colorant and as a form of body decoration for over 5000 years. The red to burgundy stains make this herb a popular form ofa temporary tattoo for all ages throughout the world. Today henna is adorned in detailed traditional lacey patterns to tattoo images like animals.

Henna for the Hair

Henna is a permanent natural hair dye. For centuries people in the east used it to color their hair and beard. It covers the grays very well, making it popular for the elderly in the East.

Benefits of Henna for the Hair

  • It colors the hair an orange to rich red color and mixed with other herbs it can give you many other color variations from light red blonde to black.
  • It strengthens the hair and helps prevent breakage and split ends
  • It helps prevent hair fall and thinning of the hair
  • It makes the hair shiny and lustrous
  • It conditions the hair
  • It's anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties keep the lice out and help prevent fungal diseases in the scalp
  • It rejuvenates dry, dull and damaged hair by closing and smoothing the cuticle
  • It is often used by people with sensitive skin and cancer patients because of its gentle properties. 
  • It often softens the hair.  The hair might feel straw-like if used over bleached hair because the extra coating of the henna can make the hair stiffer after bleaching.  The grow-out, however, will feel very soft.