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    HISTORY |•| GEOGRAPHY |•| BOTANY

    Earth Henna™ is a unique, all-natural henna mix that was created to simplify the centuries-old application process into easy-to-use henna kits. Once mixed, Earth Henna paste lasts four weeks, if refrigerated; and proper staining of the skin is achieved in just 6 hours! If you’re not artistically inclined, our Earth Henna Tattoo Kits feature beautiful stencil sheets to help you create perfect henna designs in just minutes. On this page you can learn all about henna and its unique properties.

    Henna Plant
    Henna Plant


    History

    For centuries, mehndi—the art of henna painting on the body—has been practiced in India, Africa, and the Middle East, where the henna plant is believed to bring love, good fortune and prosperity, and to protect against evil. Mehndi is traditionally practiced for wedding ceremonies, during important rites of passage, and in times of joyous celebration. A paste made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant is applied to the skin and, when removed several hours later, leaves beautiful markings on the skin that fade naturally over 1 week to 10 days.

    Moorish Arches
    Moorish Arches in Morocco

    Henna has been used throughout Africa, India, and the Middle East for thousands of years. As far back as 1200 B.C. the ancient Egyptians were using henna on their nails and hair. Henna was also used to dye animal skins, textiles, and men’s beards. Once the henna plant’s cooling properties were discovered, painting the skin became a way for the desert people of India to cool down their body temperatures.

    Henna Use in the Past

    Besides being the key ingredient in mehndi, henna has also been used to dye the manes and hooves of horses, and to color wool, silk, and animal skins, as well as men’s beards. Studies of mummies dating back to 1200 BC show that henna was used on the hair and nails of the pharaohs.

    Henna Today

    Until the art of mehndi became hot news in 1996, henna was mostly used in the United States as a hair dye. Widely recognized now as a wonderful way to dye the skin and to achieve the look of a tattoo, traditional henna uses and application processes have gone contemporary. Although some will always prepare their own henna paste, our excellent-quality mehndi kits, with foolproof instructions and convenient stencils, can be purchased in many retail and online outlets (including this website).


    Geography

    Practiced for 5,000 years throughout India, Africa, and the Middle East, the act of painting the body with preparations made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant—whether it be in preparation for a special occasion or in celebration of a particular event—has always been done with the assumption or fervent wish that the act would engender good fortune, happy results, and amicable feelings.

    World map showing where henna is grown
    Green portions of this map show areas of the world where henna has been used traditionally for thousands of years for ceremonies, personal adornment, and other purposes. For example, in Morocco, when a soldier goes off to war, he has his wife apply henna to the palm of his right hand for protection and to remind him of her love.

    Mehndi in India

    In the north and western parts of India, in the desert areas where the henna plant grows, mehndi (or henna painting) is a very important part of the wedding ritual and ceremony. As the story goes, the deeper the color obtained on the skin, the longer the love between the couple will last; hence the belief that a proper mehndi application is tantamount to a prayer to the gods for everlasting love and a successful marriage.

    Mehndi in Morocco

    Pregnant Moroccan women in their seventh month seek out well-respected henna practitioners, called hannayas, in order to have certain symbols painted on their ankle, which will then be encircled with a corresponding amulet. The henna and the amulet are meant to protect both the mother and child through birth. Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord severed, a plaster of henna, water, and flour is placed on the newborn’s belly button in order to ensure beauty and wealth.


    Botany

    The botanical name of the henna plant is Lawsonia inermis. A member of the Loosestrife family, henna originally comes from Egypt, a country that is still one of the main suppliers of the plant (along with India, Morocco, and the Sudan).

    Appearance of Henna

    Those who have already come into contact with powdered henna are familiar with its undeniably special smell, a powerful and heady combination of earth, clay, chalk, and damp green leaves. In contrast, fresh henna leaves have no odor whatsoever, even when crushed between the fingers.

    The henna flower is delicate, petite, and four-petaled, with a profusion of slender and elongated antennas bursting from the center. The red, rose, and white variations of the blossom, which also blooms yellow, cream, and pink, emit a sweet and seductive scent reminiscent of jasmine, rose, and mignonette; hence the name Jamaica mignonette, as henna is referred to in the West Indies.

    Although the plant’s primary uses lie elsewhere, the flower’s oil has been used as a perfume for many centuries (although its fragrant secret has yet to be popularized in the West).

    Henna Flower
    Henna Flower

    We have been buying our all-natural, high-quality henna powder from the same family of farmers in Morocco since 1998.

    Properties of Henna

    In addition to its cooling properties (mentioned under “History” above), several other medicinal properties are attributed to henna. It is used as a coagulant for open wounds; and a poultice made with henna leaves works to soothe burns and certain types of eczema.

    Its inherent soothing qualities are also part of the reason why mehndi is traditionally performed on the palms of the hands. Since the palm contains numerous nerve endings, when henna is applied to the area it helps to relax the system.

    Finally, henna mixed with vinegar and applied to the head is reputed to heal headaches. Aspirin, move over!

    If there are 50 different ways of baking a cake, there are as many ways of preparing a proper henna mixture for mehndi purposes. Every Indian or Moroccan family has a time-honored recipe, using ingredients that they are often loath to share.

    To learn more about henna, see our FAQs page.


    Text for this page adapted from
    Mehndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting
    by Carine Fabius

    Mehndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting