What Is Henna And What Is The Best Way To Use It?

Ayurvedic henna leaves on wooden surface

When you hear the word “henna,” you probably think of intricate temporary tattoos and reddish-brown hair dye, but:

What is Henna?

Where does henna come from?

How is it made?

Are all henna products organic?

If you care about the products you put in and on your body and how they affect your wellness and the environment, you’ve probably asked yourself these and many more questions. Henna is a natural and organic product you can use safely to dye your hair or decorate your skin, and it has medicinal uses. As a conscious and caring person, you’ll want to know what henna is, where it comes from, how it works, and how you can use it.

We have all of these answers and more.

Read on and find out everything you need to know about henna, what it is, where it is grown, and how you can use it.


What Is Henna?

Henna has been used as far back as 3,000 years ago by ancient Egyptians who would apply it onto their fingernails and toenails, so they would appear more beautiful during public events or ceremonies like weddings

As you’re familiar with, Henna dye is derived from the henna plant (scientifically called Lawsonia inermis). This plant is a tall, leafy shrub or small tree, depending on its cultivation.

Leaves of the henna plant are dried and crushed into a powder, which can then be made into a paste and used to dye hair or create henna tattoos. Henna leaves will not dye your skin or your hair, just on their own. However, when you mix henna powder with an organic acidic liquid – such as lemon or lime juice – and some water, it becomes a potent dye that can be used for hair color or to create temporary designs on the skin. If you’ve never used it before, you may be surprised at the color of henna powder.

Before mixing it with an acidic developing component, henna powder has a muddy, brownish-green color. Once blended, though, as the ingredients combine and oxidation occurs, the dye paste changes color to a rich brownish-red. The paste is left on the skin for 2-4 hours before being removed with warm water. When applied to hair, it will give you shiny locks that last about 4 weeks. 

This color change lets you know that it’s ready to apply. Most people are well aware that you can use henna to dye your hair a beautiful reddish-brown color, but that’s not the only possible result.

When mixed with other organic ingredients, henna can produce varying red, brown, or golden locks, depending on your natural hair color and the components you add to the dye. We’ll get to how you can achieve different hair colors with organic henna in just a moment.

First, though, let’s discuss where it comes from and what exactly it is used for.

Where Henna Is Grown?

what is henna?

Native to southwest Asia, northern Africa, India, and some parts of Australasia, henna trees thrive the best in semi-arid and tropical zones. The plants that yield the most dye from their leaves are grown in 95 °F-113 °F fields. Therefore much of the henna you encounter is from either northeastern Africa (predominately Egypt) or India.

Some of the very best henna in the world are found in Rajasthan, India.

The temperature and dryness of the climate there are perfect for yielding taller henna trees; this results in more leaves, all of which produce abundant henna when crushed into powder form. A henna plant can also be grown as a houseplant, and It can grow up to a height of 8 feet when provided abundant sunlight.

What Is Henna Used For?

Henna is used for many purposes, from temporary ceremonial tattoos to hair dye, to healing a body from inflammations, and it even has medicinal uses. You might be surprised at how valuable, and diverse henna powder can be.

Henna Tattoos

First of all, you’re already aware of the most traditional use for henna: temporary henna tattoos, called Mehandi.

Henna tattoos are a temporary tattoo that has been used for centuries as an alternative to permanent tattoos. They are made from natural pigments and henna leaves. The main ingredients are ground henna, lemon juice, water, sugar or honey, and essential oils which give the dye its scent. Henna Tattoos can be applied by either painting the design on with a brush or using pre-made stencils.

After about two hours of drying time, the color will stay in place until it fades away in about 2-3 weeks’ time. This blog post will go over some tips on how to keep your henna tattoo looking fresh for longer periods of time so you don’t have to worry about reapplying any sooner than necessary!

These gorgeous, intricate designs are applied to women’s hands, feet, arms, and other parts of their bodies for decoration and to bring luck in marriage, maternity, and more. Whether you are spiritual or not, you can appreciate the beautiful nature of these tattoos.

Dyeing Hair

Henna is a natural plant-based hair dye that has been used for centuries to create temporary and semi-permanent colors. Used by both men and women, henna can be applied as an ointment or paste to the scalp, roots of the hair, or the entire head.

The end result will last anywhere from one week to a couple of months depending on your hair type and how often you wash it. This blog post will cover what henna is, why people use it, how long it lasts for different types of hair, as well as some precautions when using this product.

Next, women searching for an organic, environmentally friendly means to cover gray hair or enjoy a different hair color have the perfect solution with henna.

Pure, organic Henna will only yield a red or reddish-brown color, the intensity, and brightness highly dependent on how light or dark your hair is naturally.

As we mentioned earlier, though, it can be used with a few different ingredients to achieve the color you’re interested in, all without resorting to using any chemical additives that can be harmful to you and/or the environment.

That said, many manufacturers do use these chemical additives in their pre-packaged henna dyes, so be mindful of ingredients lists or just purchase organic henna powder instead.

Henna For Healing

Finally, henna is also used to help heal the body in a number of ways.

That’s right;

Henna can be used for a myriad of reasons, but one thing is for certain: it can help you heal. Henna has been shown to have antibacterial and antioxidant properties, as well as pain-relieving effects. Common conditions that may improve with the use of henna are skin ulcers, wounds, burns, and scars. In this blog post, I will discuss how to use henna on various parts of your body to promote healing!

We’ll get into some of these lesser-known uses for henna a little bit later, but first let’s discuss the different results you can get when dying your hair with henna and how you can achieve them.

Achieving Different Hair Colors Using Henna

Before we get too far into natural and organic techniques for achieving different hair colors with Henna, we should warn you about something.
If you purchase a pre-packaged henna hair dye that claims to give any color other than reddish-brown, it is not pure Henna.
Pure Henna can only dye hair red or reddish-brown (depending on your natural color).

The leaves’ staining effect occurs due to the presence of the tannin lawsone.
If you are ever around a henna tree, you’ll notice that your hands don’t get stained by touching the leaves. Still, when the leaves are dried, crushed, and made into a paste, the lawsone molecules are released and will stain skin, hair, or fabric some shade of red, again depending on the original color.
That’s why we don’t recommend purchasing most pre-packaged henna dyes.

They will claim to be henna-based, and this may be true, but they will often also contain several other chemicals to achieve the color they advertise.
However, you can get a whole range of colors by mixing Henna with other organic ingredients that are easy to find and environmentally friendly.
Here’s how you can achieve different colors using pure Henna and other natural ingredients:

Prepare Henna with lemon juice to get red hair
  • For natural-looking red hair – If your goal is red or auburn hair, using organic ingredients and no harsh chemicals, you can combine the henna powder with lemon juice and water to create your dye paste. Let it sit for about 12 hours or change color from greenish-brown to reddish-brown before applying.
  • For neutral brown to chestnut brown hair – In the same way, that henna leaves contain a natural dye component, so does woad. While woad will dye fabric blue, it has a slightly different effect with hair and is very color-fast to maintain good color consistency for a long time. Woad neutralizes the red in the henna dye and results in beautiful brown hair.
  • Saffron is used to naturally dye fabric a yellow, golden, or orange color for golden hair. When used with Henna, it results in golden-blond hair that looks sun-kissed and gorgeous.
  • For dark, rich, chocolaty brown hair – Karchak is made from the castor bean, and vashma is partially fermented indigo. These two components help darken henna dye and give you a rich, deep brown color without losing the warmth of Henna’s redness.
  • For glistening, dark black hair – The blue-black color of indigo mixed with Henna creates a beautiful pitch black that covers greys and gives your hair the shine you want.

Again, we must emphasize that your results will vary when dyeing your hair with Henna and other natural ingredients.

While lemon juice will act as a developer for the dye and can even lift the natural color of your hair to a certain degree, it will not strip your hair of its natural color the way that harsh chemical dyes that contain bleach will.

The end color result for any of these combinations of organic ingredients will depend significantly on your hair color.
Thus, if you use Henna and saffron on dark hair, you may get lighter highlights and a rich, shiny glow to your hair when you walk outside; you will not achieve golden-blond tresses.

Using Henna and other organic hair dyes and cosmetics is all about working with your natural beauty.
If you want to boost the rich, dark color and texture of your hair, for example, you’ll love the results of using Henna, karchak, and vashma.

Henna For The Body

Henna has many medicinal properties.
Henna has many medicinal properties.

In addition to its dyeing capabilities, Henna is also rich in medicinal substances that have been proven to aid the body in several ways.

For example, Henna can be used to treat painful stomach and intestinal ulcers. Henna leaves contain plumbagin and lawsaritol, which both have well-known anti-inflammatory properties. Instead of taking aspirin or other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), you can help alleviate fever, headaches, and other inflammations by taking oil derived from Henna leaves orally.

Some of the medicinal use of Henna is:

  • A paste made from henna flowers can also be applied to the forehead if you have a headache and used as a cool poultice for instantaneous relief.
  • Mixed with water and bound to the feet or hands, henna leaves can also reduce prickly heat, burning or itching feet, and even rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Henna leaves can also be used to relieve ulcers and blisters in the mouth, and a leaf decoction can be gargled to alleviate the pain of a sore throat too.

And, unlike other medications, you can safely use Henna while pregnant or breastfeeding, and it’s safe for those undergoing chemotherapy and for children over the age of twelve, too.

Where To Buy Henna?

You can find it at grocery stores, ethnic markets, or on Amazon. Henna artists have to grind leaves and flowers into a fine paste which they then mix with hot water before applying it to your skin. The paste will dry quickly and stay on your skin for up to 3 weeks! It’s worth remembering that henna is not meant to be permanent – but you can always reapply if you want them back again!

Your Guilt Free Choice

With so many beautiful uses for Henna, you can see why we love using pure Henna instead of pre-packaged hair dyes and other products.

With pure, organic Henna, you can mix it with other natural dyes and use it to color your hair in a range of shades, or you can use it to create beautiful, temporary designs on your skin.

If you’re interested in henna tattoos, you can use your henna powder to create a paste to paint beautiful designs on your skin.

And, if you want to create these designs in color other than Henna’s natural deep reddish-brown, you can mix in some indigo, karchak, or vashma to change the hue you’ll be painting with.

Pure Henna is 100% organic, friendly to your health, and friendly to the environment, too.

It’s your guilt-free, low-carbon-footprint way to look and feel beautiful and healthy.

The art of applying Henna was traditionally passed down through generations. Still, today there are many instructional videos available on social media sites like YouTube that teach followers how to apply Henna themselves. In addition to using it as an art form, some people also use Henna for its medicinal properties, such as anti-inflammatory effects and strengthening brittle nails.

You can learn more about henna hair dyes, all about mixing and applying them, and everything else you’d like to know about Henna on my blog.