Healthy Henna for Hair and Body

This ancient plant is to dye for!

| March/April 2004

Thinking of tinkering with your hair color? It may sound scary, but it’s nothing new: Egyptian mummies found with remnants of dyed red hair attest to the fact that humans have been coloring their hair for thousands of years. Many plants can be used as dyes, from walnut shells to coffee beans. But Lawsonia inermis, the henna plant, stands above the rest as a dye for human hair, and has done so since antiquity.

Queenly Beauty

Cleopatra is probably the most glamorous henna user in history, but the Old Testament reports that King Solomon used henna, too (along with indigo to stain his beard). Hadith scholars tell us Muhammad sang henna’s praises not only as a hair and beard colorant but also as a revitalizing emollient.

Islamic medicine cites many uses for the herb: to cure heat-induced headaches, to treat blisters and to soothe sore hands and feet. In fact, the ancients reported that henna did more than turn hair a racy red or cure an aching noggin — it was said the scent of henna flowers could resurrect the dead.

These days, henna is used for less dramatic revivals: to give new life to dull hair. Applied as both a dye and conditioner in the East, thousands of women feel it gives hair a smooth, healthy texture in addition to a beautiful red sheen.

Color Indoors and Out

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