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Henna, also known as hina, is a flowering plant that belongs to the family of loosestrifes. It originates from Asia and Mediterranean region, but it can be found in the semi-arid and tropical regions around the world today. Henna grows on deep, sandy soil and requires temperatures of 35 to 45 degrees of Celsius to ensure optimal production of pigment in the leaves. People use henna to beautify themselves for thousands of years. Besides valuable pigments, henna contains numerous substances that act beneficially on the humans health.
Interesting Henna Facts:
Henna is a woody shrub that can reach 6 to 25 feet in height. It produces numerous branches with sharp spines on the tips.
Henna develops elliptical or lanceolate leaves. They are green colored and oppositely arranged on the branches.
Henna produces small flowers that can be yellow or pink colored. Flowers contain both types of reproductive organs and they are able to perform self-pollination.
Fruit of henna is brown capsule filled with 32 to 49 seed. Ripe fruit splits into four parts to release the seed.
Leaves of henna are harvested twice per year. Dried, ground leaves need to be mixed with water, lemon juice or strong tea for the manufacture of paste that is used for dyeing of skin and hair.
Ground henna leaves contain red pigment (hennotannic acid) which creates chemical bonds with collagen in the skin and keratin in the nails and produces transient, reddish-brown markings on the body. Created paintings last from 3 days to few weeks, depending on the thickness of the skin, application method and quality of the produced paste.
Painting of the skin with henna, also known as mehndi design, is especially important and valued in the Asian cultures. It often represents the first gift that woman receives from her husband at the wedding.
Art of painting on the skin is 5.000 years old tradition. People in many countries believe that henna protects against evil spirits and ensures luck.
Henna was also used in the cave art in the past. One of oldest cave paintings made of henna (dating back to 400 years BC) can be seen in Ajanta, India.
Henna was used for coloring of drum skins, leather, silk and wool in the past.
Flowers of henna were used for the manufacture of perfumes in the ancient times. This practice is still popular in the Middle East.
Henna can be used in treatment of blisters on the skin, rash, fever, athlete's foot and ringworms.
Ancient Egyptians used ointment made of henna to protect their skin from the sun and prevent sunburns.
Women in India use henna during the warmest periods of the year due to cooling effects that henna produces on the skin.
Henna is perennial plant, which means that it can survive more than 2 years in the wild.