We all know of the traditional uses of henna in staining hands and hair, especially on weddings and other occasions. This article will explain some of its other potential uses- its benefits found in prophetic Medicine as well as in recent medical research. It truly is amazing what this familiar plant can do…
What Is Henna?
Henna (Arabic: hina, Urdu: mehndi) is a flowering plant with the botanical name lawsonia inermis. It contains a red-orange pigment; lawsone which is released by crushing the henna leaves, and has the ability to stain skin.
Commercially available henna powder is made by drying the henna leaves and milling them to a powder, which is then sifted.
Henna in Prophetic Medicine
The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the benefits of henna in his Prophetic Medicine, for the treatment of headache and migraine. He also gave the following benefits for henna:
- Useful for burns caused by fire
- Beneficial for mouth ulcers and blisters in the mouth, when chewed
- Heals thrush in the mouth of children
- Beneficial for blisters on the body
- Bandaging with henna is beneficial for hot inflammations
- Mixing henna flowers with warm wax and rose oil is beneficial for pains
- Placing its flowers between the folds of wool cloths scent them and keep moths away
- When applied to fingernails as a paste, it improves their condition
- Makes the hair grow, and strengthens and beautifies it.
Health Benefits of Henna
Various modern studies have researched into the benefits of the henna plant on health. A 2007 study published in the Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism found that henna has natural antimicrobial properties, such as being antibacterial and antiviral:
“Henna has a wide spectrum of antimicrobial activity including antibacterial, antiviral, antimycotic and antiparasitic activities. With the ever increasing resistant strains of microorganisms to the already available and synthesised antibiotics, the naturally available Laswonia inermis (henna) could be a potential alternative.”
A study carried out in the UAE in 1995 found that the henna plant had the medicinal properties of reducing inflammation, and being an effective pain reliever.
A research paper published in 2005 in the African Journal of Biotechnology found that henna leaves inhibit the growth of certain microorganisms, and could therefore be used to treat burn wound infections.
This modern research provides evidence for some of the health benefits that Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned about henna over 600 years ago.
Tips on Using Henna
- Fresh henna powder should be a vibrant and deep green, whilst old henna may appear slightly brown.
- Commercial henna pastes may contain additional ingredients to enhance their staining-power, and some are unsafe so always check the label. Black henna is especially harmful as it may contain para-phenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical that can cause itching, blistering and scarring.
- Adding essential oils with high levels of monoterpenes or terps such as tea tree, eucalyptus, cajeput, or lavender to the henna paste will improve its staining ability.
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