Herbs > Ayurvedic Herbs and their Healing Power > Henna
By Dr. Satish Kulkarni
The colloquial name for henna is mehendi
and its botanical name is lawsonia inermis.
Henna is a medium sized multiple branching shrub with
small pinkish white flowers in bunches. The leaves,
flowers, seeds and bark of the plant are the useful
parts and are used for medicinal as well as cosmetic
purposes. When crushed, the leaves leave a fragrant
and pleasant smell behind. Leaves are used both in
fresh as well as dry form. The name henna arrived
from the Arabian word hina, meaning scent.
Henna is cultivated in many parts of
world, most commonly in India. The leaves contain
coloring matter, which leaves behind a reddish color
and pleasing odor. A paste prepared from fresh
crushed leaves or from powdered dry leaves is freely
available in the market and is used for cosmetic as
well as medicinal purposes. Henna is used for
coloring white or grey hair and as a conditioner. It
is also used by people who are victims of leucoderma
where few other natural coloring agents like amalaki
(emblica officinalis), manjishtha (rubia
cordifolium) etc.are included for better results.
Henna is effective in skin problems like
palmo-planter keratoderma where burning sensation of
the skin is the chief complaint. The paste is applied
locally and allowed to dry. This is supposed to
release heat from the body and thus provide relief.
In diabetic neuritis where burning sensation of the
soles at nighttime is a complaint, henna gives
desired relief. In prickly heat, boils and minor
burns, henna is the medicine of choice. For insect
bites, bruises and inflammatory conditions of the
skin, henna has proven its merits. Some ayurvedic
practitioners use this medicine in conditions like
psoriasis and claim results, though this needs more
research. Beauticians claim results of henna in
treatment of baldness and alopecia areata/ totalis.
This again needs systemic clinical trials before any
conclusion can be derived. In burned out cases of
leprosy, which is mainly a problem in the developing
part of the world, henna can be used to give
smoothness to skin that has lost its texture.
The seeds of the plant are powdered and
mixed with real ghee (clarified butter) and
this is an effective medicine for dysentery. Alone or
taken with buttermilk, they help in recovery from
dysentery especially of the chronic kind. Powdered
seeds or a decoction prepared from powdered bark is a
good medicine for liver disorders. In conditions like
cirrhosis where all other measures have failed, henna
may help in giving some relief from enlargement of
liver and associated problems.
In conditions like sore throat, the
decoction is used for gargling. Ayurvedic
gynecologists recommend intravaginal packs of henna
in treatment of leucorrhoea, cervicitis, ulcers on
female genitalia and vaginismus (burning in vagina).
In post-coital burning, henna is said to give relief
to the female partner. Strict and proper ascetic
measures such as using decoctions of henna instead of
using quack pack for intravaginal douches is the
right and scientific method.
The juice of fresh leaves is used for
early or involuntary ejaculation and spermatorrhoea
i.e. involuntary loss of semen without reaching
orgasm. This treatment should be tried under medical
supervision. The recommended dose is two teaspoonfuls
of fresh juice taken before retiring to bed. This
dose should not be increased for any reason.
In short, henna is mainly used in skin
and allied conditions. It has a place in
gynecological materia medica as well. It is mainly
used for cosmetic purpose and is a boon to people who
suffer from discoloring of skin for any reason.
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