10 Impressive Benefits of Henna for Hair & Skin

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The most important health benefits of henna include its ability to relieve headaches, detoxify the body, improve nails, protect the skin, boost hair health, cool the body, reduce inflammation, and speed healing.

What is Henna?

The word ‘henna’ is understood by people around the world in many different ways. A majority of people probably associate it with the dark-red/brown dye for hair and skin that is traditionally used in many cultures, but the name also applies to the flowering plant from which the dye is derived.

As the sole species in the Lawsonia genus, henna has many different names across the globe, including Hina and Egyptian privet, but they are all describing the same remarkable plant, which has the scientific name Lawsonia inermis. You can identify a henna plant with its small white or pink flowers, as well as the small fruit it bears.

It can be used in a wide variety of ways, including its dye form, as well as in aqueous extracts, tinctures, and salves, composed of the bark, seeds, or leaves. This versatility makes henna a very valuable element in traditional medicines, particularly Ayurvedic practice.

Henna oil, bark, and seeds are the most common forms for medicinal benefits, and the high concentration of chemicals and nutrients in the plant gives it anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, antibacterial, astringent, and antiviral effects. Most of these properties have not been fully explored through clinical trials and are either anecdotal or documented in Ayurveda books.

A bowl of henna powder with fresh henna leaves on a wooden table

Henna is available in the market as a powder made by drying and milling the leaves. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits & Uses

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the many health benefits and uses of henna.

Hair Color

Heena is mainly used as a plant-based natural dye for hair. It will dye hair red or shades of it but many use it with a combination of indigo or cassia to achieve a dark red or a neutral color respectively.

Hair Health

Although most people associate henna’s effect on the hair to dying its color, it plays many roles in that part of our body too. Henna has been proven to increase the strength of the hair and, therefore, represents a safe dye that doesn’t permanently affect the health of our follicles. It helps seal the hair cuticle, preventing breaking, and increasing the shine and appearance of the hair. It also prevents dandruff.

Reduced Hair Loss

For people suffering from hair loss or baldness, henna also inhibits this from happening. The traditional mixture is putting henna juice or oil into curds and then mixing this into your hair, as this increases the efficiency of the treatment.

Improved Nail Quality

People often forget about maintaining healthy nails, but the cuticles and space under the nails are prime locations for infection and bacterial presence; therefore, treating your nails with henna is a wise choice. Drinking the water in which leaves have been steeped helps prevent nails from cracking and reduce inflammation. Applying a poultice directly to the nail beds can clear up irritation, pain, and infection in the nail beds.

Anti-aging Properties

Although the antioxidant capacity of henna has not been widely studied, the oil has been proven to be an astringent, which has led some people to use its juice and oil on the skin to reduce the signs of aging and wrinkles, as well as the unsightly appearance of scars and other blemishes. This is complemented by the antiviral and antibacterial effects that can protect the body’s largest organ, skin!

Wound Healing

One of the most notable uses of henna is for protecting the skin against infections and eliminating inflammation. It has been applied to burns, wounds, and scrapes for generations, not only because it can add a protective layer against foreign pathogens and substances, but also because it has natural cooling abilities that suck the heat from the skin. This makes it very useful for sunburns, in a similar capacity as aloe vera gel.

Reduces Fever

Henna is also able to bring down fevers due to its antipyretic properties, according to Ayurvedic traditions. When people are suffering from very high fevers as a secondary symptom of another condition, that rise in temperature throughout the body can be dangerous for organ function and metabolic processes. Bringing the overall temperature of the body down is essential, and henna can accomplish this by either inducing sweating and effectively breaking the fever, or simply cooling the body and providing some relief.

Anti-inflammatory & Headache Reliever

The juice of the henna plant is not always praised as being particularly beneficial, but in fact, the juice of the plant can be directly applied to the skin for fast relief from headaches. The anti-inflammatory effects of the compounds found in henna help it reduce that tension and promote healthy blood flow in the capillaries, which is a common cause of headaches and migraines. A rat model revealed that the anti-inflammatory effect of the henna extract was similar to the drug phenylbutazone, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Henna oil is used topically for arthritic and rheumatic pains.

May Reduce Sleep Issues

Henna oil may help alleviate certain sleep disorders, so if you are suffering from insomnia or chronic restlessness, adding a bit of this oil to your herbal regimen can get you back into a regular, restful schedule of sleep by soothing the body and mind into a relaxed state before sleep.

Detoxification

By soaking the bark or leaves of the henna plant in water and then consuming the consequent liquid has been connected to improved spleen and liver health. The liver works as a crucial level of protection for the body and helps to eliminate the toxins that accrue in the body. By optimizing its function and ensuring its health, you can prevent a wide range of other health conditions. However, it is advisable to check with your health advisor or a licensed herbalist before ingesting any henna product.

Is Henna Safe?

Most varieties of henna are perfectly safe and non-toxic, but black henna does have some allergenic potential, as evidenced by skin rashes and internal discomfort by some users. Also, hair dyes that claim to be henna-based occasionally contain other chemicals that those with sensitive skin may not appreciate, so read the labels carefully. Also, exercise caution before ingesting henna water or seeds. Pregnant women should avoid its usage as a study reveals that it may have teratogenicity properties that can trigger a miscarriage.

Before adding any new herbal remedy to your routine, it is best to check with your medical practitioner or an herbalist.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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