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Henna: History, Uses, Benefits, Symbolic Importance

The best medicine is often that which the earth gives us. Henna is the perfect hidden gem passed from generation to generation.

Henna, Lawsonia inermis, or Mehndi is a flowering plant with many uses, as its paste turns into art that has evolved throughout history, it provides benefits for both the mind and the soul, and it carries significant symbolic importance.

It comes from a heavily scented slender tree and grows best in dry soil around a 120 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. You probably know it as the source of the Henna dye, which people from various civilizations have used to color skin, hair, and fingernails for centuries.

Historians argue on the exact origin of the Henna plant, since people in North Africa, the Middle East, and India were using it over 5,000 years ago. Wherever it originated, it remains part of an ancient practice, steeped in tradition.

The crushed leaves of the Henna plant form a creamy paste used to decorate the body in intricate designs with symbolic importance. The designs vary from country to country and culture to culture.


Henna designs from African countries like Morocco and Egypt tend to be more on the geometric side, even going back in history, while Indian designs consist of fine lines creating a floral pattern.

Many people apply it on the palms, the back of hands, and feet, but Henna can also be applied on different body parts, with the intent of bringing good fortune and joy.

Used during spiritual, social, and religious occasions, like weddings, Eids, baby blessings, birthdays, graduations, and circumcisions, it remains an authentic ritual passed from rich and varied cultures.

A Henna artist prepares the dye by blending the plant’s powder in warm water with additional oils, coffee, or lemon juice if desired. After leaving it to sit overnight, the paste should have a vibrant fresh green color. An artist then applies the mixture to the body or hair and leaves it untouched for up to a couple of hours.

Henna contains Lawsone, a natural reddish-orange dye that stains the skin and hair. The color varies from pale orange to deep burgundy depending on how well one’s skin takes it and how good the Henna is. The best Henna comes from hot and dry climates and offers the best benefits with its many uses.

Henna as a hair dye 

Henna, also called Mehandi, is a natural alternative to damaging commercial hair dyes. Henna is perfect for use for those who want to cover gray hair or achieve desired dark brown hair or copper-colored hair. Men can also dye their beards with Henna, without the harmful effects of ammonia.

It can be the perfect substitute for anyone who has a sensitive scalp as chemical dyes tend to extremely damage your hair. That is why hair can take on a straw-like texture after applying hair dye.

Henna doesn’t only give you a wonderful color, it also protects your hair from heat damage, whether it’s sun damage or damage from styling with flat irons and blow-dryers. Henna benefits the hair by nourishing it from root to tip, offering you thick, luscious locks.

Using Henna as hair dye is a very simple process that people have followed throughout history: Mix the powder with warm water until a pudding-like consistency forms, and you can add coffee to achieve a darker brown color, or you can mix it with lemon juice for a brighter result.

Henna for healthy hair

The hair growth process can be a slow and long one. It occurs in a cycle, with hair follicles going through different stages; it grows, rests, and sheds. While chemicals may stimulate hair growth faster, Henna is an easy and natural growth treatment.

The powerful phytochemicals in Henna like tannins and phenolics provide great benefits, helping to nourish your scalp while repairing it. Henna for healthy hair may not have any particular symbolic importance, but it prevents hair from breaking, seals the hair cuticles, balances the oil production and the pH of your scalp, reduces split ends, and promotes hair growth.

Studies have shown that you can use Henna to inhibit hair loss and baldness while increasing the shine and appearance of the hair, something history has proven as well.

Henna’s antimicrobial properties can cool the scalp, increase the efficiency of the hair growth treatment, eliminate dandruff, and maintain a healthy mane.

You can mix the powdered Henna with oil or natural yogurt to achieve a creamy consistency.

Then let it sit in your hair for a couple of hours or overnight before rinsing. Apply it once a month for thick, healthy, and long hair. 

Henna tattoos 

Whether you’re in India, the Middle East, or North Africa, Henna art has symbolic importance in cultural heritage, adored and cherished by people of different backgrounds.

With the thick Henna paste and a brush, artists have created new unique designs and symbols while evolving the Henna art throughout the years.

Some may consider Henna art to be an exotic, aesthetic fading tattoo, but it also conveys a host of messages. There is the belief Henna on the hands benefits the person wearing it with good luck, and that it protects you from the evil eye. Others say it can encourage bountiful harvests, boost rains, help with fertility, make childbirth easier, ward off sickness, and promote amicable relationships.

Henna art is an essential element of the heritage, cultures, and traditions of the places where people have used it throughout history, with various designs, such as dots, swirls, and flowers, and intriguing tribal symbols. Many know Henna to be a staple wedding and Eid tradition, but people love it so much that they apply it for casual events too.

You can use simple tools to apply Henna art at home. Make the Henna paste decorate your hands and nails with beautiful designs. It will not only be a vibrant hand decoration but it will also strengthen the skin of your hands, especially for people with manual work.

Henna is ancient authentic art that is starting to spread around the world, so it is important to stay educated on its origins and traditions. Henna is not used as a costume; it is essential to learn the symbolism of Henna designs as they are sacred, and they convey deep-rooted messages.

Henna art evokes precious memories and cultural heritage in the eyes of both the Henna artist and the person receiving the tattoo. It is a spiritual and religious practice for many, where they can identify with their culture and discover various facets of their identities.


Source: Morocco World News.

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  • Beautiful !

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