What is Henna?

From left to right: the henna plant (lawsonia inermis); henna powder; henna paste; application.

From left to right: the henna plant (lawsonia inermis); henna powder; henna paste; application.

Henna is a several-thousand year old art with diversified traditions throughout Southwest Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Originally from Persia, the natural dye within the leaves of the henna plant (lawsonia inermis) was used by various cultures for traditions including birth, coming of age, marriage and death.

The henna plant itself is a hardy little shrub that thrives in hot, arid climates. The leaves are harvested once or twice a year, after the heavy rains, and left to dry completely. The leaves are then ground into a fine powder to preserve the dye within.

Henna powder is mixed with a few ingredients, including lemon juice, to encourage the dye to release. Henna paste is then applied to the skin (staining it from 3 days to 5 weeks), hair, fingernails, natural fabrics (eg. cotton, silk) and leather.

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