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mendhi - Lawsonia alba Lam, Lawsonia inermis Linn.

mendhi :

mendhi  : Lawsonia alba Lam, Lawsonia inermis Linn.
Lawsonia is a monotypic genus represented by Lawsonia alba (syn. Lawsonia inermis Linn.)
Henna or Mehandi is very well known medicinal herb for its use as natural hair dye. The powder prepared from its dried leaves is known as henna or mehandi powder. This powder is mixed with water for colouring hairs and beautification of palms, feet.


The use of henna as medicinal plant and also for body painting is described in the Ebers Papyrus (Papyrus, 1912). Four hundred plants are mentioned in the Papyrus, used at that time to create 876 remedies. A lot of information can be found including the differences between the raw materials.

Concerning henna, at least seven different types are reported, describing where they were grown, its used parts and preparations using additional ingredients. It is also described that a fertile soil and moist conditions produce plants with low dyeing power which means a low active constituent content, whereas dry and hot conditions, and an iron rich soil give the opposite results. These indications have been confirmed by modern studies (Kumar et al., 2005). Therefore, we learnt from ancient Egyptians the fundamental information in pharmacognosy: the first piece of information relates to the origin of the plant, its growing conditions, crucial to define the quality of any raw material (Evans, 2009); second, the used part and third the preparation. In the case of henna, the latter means the procedure to obtain the dying substance by conversion of the plants components. Finally various uses for henna were reported, including several medicinal uses as for hair dyeing. In fact, the study of the Royal Mummies revealed that henna was used for mummification in form of oilmen and to rejuvenate the mummy by colouring the hair, like in the case of Ramses III, who was blonde when he was young (Smith, 1912).

The uses of henna lasted throughout the centuries, as most of the medicinal plants, across different civilisations. Therefore, we should split this story between European and Oriental countries. In Europe, henna was usually linked to aesthetic movements and the arts in general (Kortsch, 2009), in particular during English Orientalism in the XIX century, starting with the fashion of tinting the hair, against the English cultural tradition that considered red hair unattractive so as to denigrate Irish people. Thus, Pre-Raphaelites were irrationally devoted to the red hair (Loss, 1973). On the other side of the English Channel, the Impressionists made popular the connection between henna-red hair and bohemian life. Since that period a plethora of artists and singers used to dis hair with henna, until recent pop and rock stars (Sherrow, 2006).

In Orient the use of henna never declined and was always strictly linked to the culture and religion of the different countries, mainly for its ceremonial uses. Several examples have been documented. In the Middle East, muslim men have particular customs for dyeing their beards, whereas women are encouraged by religion to colour their nails and fingers red to display femininity. That leads us to the body art, the main utilization of henna. In many countries where henna naturally grows, the tradition is to use henna for honouring during special occasions, like victory in battle, births, circumcision, birthdays, even including the celebration of favourite animals. The most fascinating tradition is its use in weddings (Westermarck, 1972). Among Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Zoroastrians, on the Night of Henna the bride adorns her body, especially the hands, with sophisticated and artistic paintings (Brauer, 1993Saksena, 1979). In all these cultures the message is the same: henna means joy.

Taxonomical Classification

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Streptophyta
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Lythraceae
Genus: Lawsonia
Species: Lawsonia inermis


Sanskrit: Madayantika, mendika, Madayanti, Ranjaka
English: henna (Persian red) Egyptian priven
Hindi: Mehandi
Urdu: Mehendi, Hina
Telugu: Gorinta
Bengali: Mehadi
Marathi: Mendi
Konkani: Meti
Oriya: benjati
Gujarathi: Mendi
Tamil: Marudum, muruthani
Malayalam: Mailanelu, mailanchi മൈലാഞ്ചി
Kannada: Goranta, Korate, Madarangi, mayilanchi
Punjabi: Mehndi
Munda: Bind, Bindi, Mindi
Santal: Mihndi
Arabic: Alhenna, Henna, Henneh, Hinna, Yoranna
Spanish: Henne
Japanese: ヘンナ
Chinese: Tche Kia Hoa
French: Alcana D’orient, Alkanna d’Avicenne, Alkanna d’Orient, Henné, Racine á farder, Thomarhendi d’Avicenne, Troene d’Egypte
German: Henna
Nepal: मेंहदी
Persian: Panna, Hina
Sinhalese: Maritondo
Tulu: Madirengi
Greek: Kypros


-The plant is sometimes spinous, and then it is L. spinosa, Linn.; in other cases it is L. inermis, Linn. Often cultivated under the name of Henna, and used as a dye. The leaves are ground in their raw state, and then mixed with lime-juice, to be put on the tips of the fingers, either to stain them red or to prevent whitlow. In other countries the stamens are usually 8


-मदयन्ति  लघु  रुक्षा कषाया तिक्तशी तला कफपित्त प्रशमनी  


Synonyms in Ayurveda: mendika, raktagarba, kuravaka, madayantika, madanaka

Rasa: Kashaya Tikta
Guna: Laghu Ruksha
Veerya: Sheetha
Vipaka: Katu
Karma: Kaphapittasamaka

Its leaves has kapha and Pitta alleviating properties. It is also useful in fever, burning sensation, skin and the liver diseases. Its external application is useful in wounds, swellings and fungal infections.

Henna leaves have astringent and antibacterial properties and useful in washing wounds, boils and skin infections. Its decoction is useful in gargling to cure oral infections and mouth boils.


Grows well in all types of garden soils. Does not like very cold weather. It is very suitable for growing as a tall hedge. In case it is grown as a screen or single specimen plants should be pruned after flowering. The fruit is not useful and can be discarded. It can however be used in flower arrangements.


Seed - germinates best at temperatures around 25°c. Because of their hard seedcoats, the seeds have to be pre-germinated before sowing. They are first steeped in water for 3 - 7 days, during which time the water is changed daily. They are then placed in small heaps and kept moist and warm for a few days. Care is taken to drain excess water. When the seedcoat has softened and the seed has started to swell, it is ready to be sown in a nursery. During the first days after sowing, the soil should be kept moist and daily irrigations are often required. When the plants are about 40cm tall they are lifted, cut back to about 15cm and transplanted
Softwood cuttings root easily. Branches with 6 - 8 buds are used.
Hardwood cuttings root easily. Branches with 6 - 8 buds are used


Under intensive cultivation the plants are usually harvested twice a year from the second year onwards


Study showed main plant constituents to be carbohydrates, glycosides, tannins, phenolic compounds, gums and mucilage.
- Distillation yields a perfume.
- Leaves yield a dye, henna; its coloring properties derive from lawsone, primarily found in the leaves.
- Leaves contain 2% resin.
- Flowers contain an essential oil.
- Volatile oil of the flowers smells oftrimethyl-amine, similar to the tea rose or
- Seeds contain 10.5% fixed oil.
- Various parts of the plants have yielded a number of secondary metabolites – lawsone, xanthones, isoplumbagin and triterpenoids; from the flower oil, (Z)-2-hexenol, linalool, B-ionone. 
- Study of essential oil from leaf and fruits yielded major components of 1,8-cineole and α-pinene and p-cymene.


important formulations

1. Maha PanchaGavya Ghrita

Parts used for medicinal purpose

Flower, Leaves, Seed, ,


fresh juice - 5-10 ml
seed powder- 1-3 gm


Lawsonia inermis (henna) extract: A possible natural substitute to eosin stain


Adulteration of henna is done with various chemicals such as p- phenylenediamine (PPD), p-methylaminophenol, p-aminobenzene and p-toluenodiamine to produce a variety of colours. PPD is mixed with the natural henna and sold as “black henna.” PPD has resulted in serious health problems, including allergic reactions, itching reactions etc.

 its adulterant Mirabilis jalapa can be distinguished from Lawsonia inermis by the presence of irregular shaped epidermal cells which are 80µm in length and 29.8µm in width, stomata anomocytic and tetracellular trichomes


Henna is an important but a controversial drug in market in Indo-Pak subcontinent. Due to the adulteration and use of other species as source of henna powder in trade, the drug has become adulterated. In view of the extent of adulteration attached to this drug, it was deemed necessary to study the market samples to ascertain their botanical identity.

Commercial value:

 oil is not of commercial importance, but is sometimes used locally for purposes such as anointing the body
Henna (Lawsonia sp.) is a rainfed plantation crop commercially cultivated in Rajasthan on 32,084 ha (2001-02) for its leaves, which are important
source of a natural dye. 

 In henna crop, leaves are harvested as a produce of commercial value from the second year onwards. Though, henna cultivation was introduced long back in the semi-arid Rajasthan, specifically in the Sojat area of Pali district, no detailed economic analysis has been carried out so far


Lawsonia inermisis a glabrous branched shrub or small tree (2 to 6 m in height). Leaves are small, opposite, entire margin elliptical to broadly lanceolate, sub-sessile, about 1.5 to 5 cm long, 0.5 to 2 cm wide, greenish brown to dull green, petiole short and glabrous acute or obtuse apex with tapering base. New branches are green in colour and quadrangular, turn red with age. Young barks are greyish brown, older plants have spine-tipped branchlets . Inflorescence has large pyramid shaped cyme. Flowers are small, numerous, aromatic, white or red coloured with four crumbled petals. Calyx has 0.2 cm tube and 0.3 cm spread lobes. The fruits are small, brown globose capsule, opening irregularly and split into four sections with a permanent style. Seeds have typical, pyramidal, hard and thick seed coat with brownish coloration


-An epidermis, with striated cuticle, made up of one layer of isodiametric cellulose thin-walled cells - A Phelloderm made up of a layer of cellulose thin-walled cells - A Cortical parenchyma made up of rounded thin-walled cells separated by meatuses and containing crystals of calcium oxalate. Its internal zone is invaded with laticiferous surrounded of acicular crystals of calcium oxalate. A pericycle zone made up of lignified thick-walled fibres clusters with narrow lumen - A continuous conducting ring made up of secondary phloem composed of cellulose tabular thin-walled-cells and wood composed of vessels, often aligned radially, and strongly lignified woody parenchyma. A PITH made up of polyhedral slightly sclerified thick-walled cells separated by meatuses, invaded by clusters of crystals of calcium oxalate

Geographical distribution:

The henna plant is native to North Africa, southern Asia, and northern Australasia in semi-arid zones. Hennas indigenous zone is the tropical savannah and tropical arid zone, in latitudes between 15° and 25° N and S from Africa to the western Pacific rim, and produces highest dye content in temperatures between 35 °C and 45 °C. Henna is commercially cultivated in UAE, Morocco,Algeria, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, western India, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan.


-L. inermis is widely distributed throughout the Sahel and into Central Africa; it also occurs in the Middle East. It grows
mainly along watercourses and in semi-arid regions and is adapted to a wide range of conditions. It can withstand low air
humidity and drought. Henna requires high temperatures for germination, growth and development.

Plant conservation:

-Erosion control: Trees are employed in soil conservation. 
Shade/shelter: L. inermis can be grown as a live fence. 
Ornamental: An attractive small tree that can be successfully grown in gardens.

General Use:

Therapeutic Uses:

Ayurveda mentions henna is useful in treating fever, leprosy, raktapitta (bleeding disorders), jaundice, mutrakrucchra, dysuria, bhram and skin diseases. The leaf is also recommended in giddiness and vertigo.

Henna leaves are used externally for hair colouring, conditioning and also for the skin infections treatment. Its leaves are useful in treating fungal infection of hands and feet. The dosage of fresh leaves juice of henna is 5 to 10 ml.

Systemic Use:

Root Leprosy, skin diseases, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea and premature greying of hair
Leaves Diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, liver tonic, haematinic, wound, ulcers, cough, bronchitis, burning sensation, diarrhoea, dysentery, leprosy, leucoderma, scabies, boils, anemia, hemorrhages, amenorrhoea, falling of hair, greyness of hair, jaundice
Flowers Burning sensation, cardiopathy, amentia, insomnia, fever
Seeds Intellect promoting, constipating, intermittent fevers, insanity, amentia, diarrhoea, dysentery and gastropathy


leaf powder and decoction


Root considered astringent, abortifacient, anthelmintic, emmenagogue.
- Leaves are astringent.
- Fruit and flowers reputed to be emmenagogue.
- Studies have shown antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, wound healing, tuberculostatic, antiulcer, anthelmintic, antimalarial, spermicidal, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, diuretic, antitumor, protein glycation inhibitory properties.

Clinical trials:

  1. Cowan MM. Plant Products as antimicrobial agents. Clinical Microbiology Review 2009:12(4):564-582.
  2. Ahmed S, Rahman A, Alam A, Saleem M, Athar M, Sultana S. Evaluation of the efficacy of Lawsonia alba in the alleviation of carbon tetrachloride induced oxidative stress. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2000:69(2):157-164.
  3. Lawsonia inermis - From traditional use to scientific assessment - 
  • Inder Kumar Makhija


  1. Wong KC, Teng YE, Volatile Components of Lawsonia inermis L. Flowers. Journal of Essential Oil Research 1995:7(4):425-428.
  2. Kirkland D, Marzin D. An assessment of the genotoxicity of 2-hydroxy-1, 4-naphthoquinone, the natural dye ingredient of Henna. Mutation Research 2003:537(2):183-199.
  3. Arun P, Purushotham KG, Jayarani J, Kumari V. In vitro Antibacterial activity and Flavonoid contents of Lawsonia inermis (Henna). International Journal of PharmTech Research, 2010:2(2):1178-1181.
  4. Syamsudin I, Winarno H. The effects of Inai (Lawsonia inermis) leave extract on blood sugar level: An Experimental Study. Researcj Journal of. Pharmacology 2008:2(2):20-23.
  5. Nayak BS, Isitor G, Davis EM, Pillai GK.  The evidence based wound healing activity of Lawsonia inermis Linn. Phytotherapy Research 2007:21(9):827-831.


Children: Henna is considered UNSAFE for use in children, especially in infants. There have been cases of serious side effects when henna was applied to the skin of infants.

Infants with a condition called glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency are at especially high risk. Putting henna on the skin of these infants can cause their red blood cells to burst.

Pregnancy or breast-feeding: It’s UNSAFE to take henna by mouth if you are pregnant. There is some evidence that it might cause a miscarriage. It’s also UNSAFE to take henna if you are breast-feeding.

Toxicity studies:

Henna seems to be safe for most adults when used on the skin or hair. It can cause some side effects such as inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) including redness, itching, burning, swelling, scaling, broken skin, blisters, and scarring of the skin. Rarely, allergic reactions can occur such as hives, runny nose, wheezing, and asthma.

Henna is considered to be UNSAFE when taken by mouth. Accidentally swallowing henna requires prompt medical attention. It can cause stomach upset and other side effects.

Henna allergy: If you are allergic to henna, avoid contact.

Use in other system of medicine:

- Pulped roots used for sore eyes, or applied to head of children for boils.
- In Cambodia, decoction of roots used as diuretic.
- Decoction of root, mixed with prepared indigo, used by the Hausas as a powerful abortifacient.
- Roots and leaves used as emmenagogue and anthelmintic.
- Roots used in the treatment of hysteria and nervous disorders.
- Decoction of bark used for burns and scalds.
- Internally, bark used for jaundice, enlargement of the spleen, stones, and as alterative in leprosy and obstinate skin afflictions.
- Malays use decoction of leaves for hoarseness.
- Decoction of leaves used for stomachache, after childbirth, for venereal diseases, and as tonic.
- In Java, used for leucorrhea.
- Henna, mixed with Plumbago, used as abortifacient. 
- In Morocco, used a vulnerary.
- Cataplasm used for leprosy and skin affections.
- Paste of leaves used for diseases of the fingernails and whitlow.
- In Java, used for herpes.
- Crushed leaves, made into a paste with oil or resin, applied to the temples for headache.
- Decoction of leaves used as astringent gargle.
- An ointment made from the leaves used for wounds and ulcers.
- Fresh juice of leaves, with sugar and water, used for spermatorrhea.
- Infusion of flowers applied to bruises; taken internally for headaches.
- In Antilles, infusion of flowers used as emmenagogue.
- In Nigeria, used as antimalarial; also for cosmetic purposes. Leaf decoction used for wound cleansing and healing. Paste of powdered roasted seed mixed with gingerly oil used for treatment of ring worm. Also used as blood tonic. 
- In Malaysia, fresh bruised leaves applied as poultice on burning sensation of the feet; also used for treating boils, circumcision wounds and flatulence. In Indonesia, paste of leaves use for herpes infection; also applied for diseases of the fingernails. Small twigs used as toothbrush. (

- Dye: Extensively used in shampoos, rinses, brillantines, gives the color a rich, auburn tint. Dye used for coloring tails and manes of horses; for dyeing Morocco leather and wool. Used in various cosmetic products.
- Tattoo / Art: Used for temporary tattooing, body art.
- Preservative: Used as preservative for cloth and leather.
- Fuel: Wood suitable as firewood. 
- Fiber: In Kenya, stems used for making fishing baskets. 
- Fodder: Leaves browsed by livestock.


Lawsonia inermis Linn. is commonly known as henna, which is recognized intraditional system of medicine. It. is a much branched glabrous shrub or small tree (2-6 m inheight), cultivated for its leaves although stem bark, roots, flowers and seeds have also been usedin  traditional  medicine. It  has  been  traditionally  reported  in  use  of  headache,  hemicranias,lumbago,  bronchitis,  boils, ophthalmia, syphilitis, sores, amenorrhea, scabies,  diseases of thespleen,  dysuria,  bleeding  disorder,  skin  diseases,  diuretic,  antibacterial,  antifungal,  anti-amoebiasis, astringent,  anti-hemorrhagic, hypotensive and sedative  effect. Several studies arebeing  carried towards it  activates like cytotoxic  , hypoglycaemic , nootropics,  antimicrobial,antibacterial , trypsin inhibitory , wound Healing , antioxidant , anti-corrosin , anti-inflammatory,analgesic  and  antipyretic,  anti-parasitic,  tuberculostatic ,  protein  glycation  inhibitory,hepatoprotective , anti-tumoral activity. With all these potential benefits, this plant is not widelyutilized.

Ayurvedic Formulations:

Common Ayurvedic Formulations of mendhi with their Indications
Sri Sri Tattva Shikakai Henna Shampoo - It is mainly used in the treatment of hair fall , makes hair soft and lustrous.
Lala Dawasaz Herbal Hair Oil
G3 Triple Action Ayurvedic Hair Wash - G3 Hair Wash keeps hair soft, silky and manageable. It is completely safe & free from harmful chemicals.
Herbal Shikakai Henna Shampoo
Hairvit Oil

KEY WORDS: mendhi Lawsonia alba Lam, Lawsonia inermis Linn.

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