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Some of 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. The high concentration of natural chemicals and nutrients in the plant gives it anti inflammatory, antifungal, hypotensive, antibacterial, astringent, cauterizing, and antiviral effects, among many others. While henna as an herbal treatment has been widely accepted in the west, it has been used in Eastern cultures for thousands of years, and its popularity is beginning to spread.
The art of henna has been practiced for over 5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. There is some documentation that it is over 9000 years old. Because henna has natural cooling properties, people of the desert, for centuries, have been using henna to cool down their bodies. They make a paste of henna and soak their palms and soles of the feet in it to get an air conditioning affect. They feel its cooling sensation throughout the body for as long as the henna stain remains on their skin. Initially, as the stain faded away, it left patterns on the skin surface which led to ideas to make designs for decorative purposes. In the ancient Egyptian times mummies wore henna designs and it is documented that Cleopatra herself used henna for decorative purposes. Henna was not only a popular adornment for the rich but the poor, who could not afford jewelry, used it to decorate their bodies as well.
The henna plant contains lawsone which is a reddish-orange dye that binds to the keratin (a protein) in our hair, skin, and nails, which safely leaves its stain.
Today people all over the world have adopted the ancient traditions of adorning their bodies with the beautiful natural artwork created from the henna plant. It became a very popular form of temporary body decoration in the 90's in the US and has become a growing trend ever since. Celebrities like Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Yasmine Bleeth, Liv Tyler, Xena, and many others proudly adorn their bodies with henna and show them off in public, movies, videos, etc. People throughout the west have adopted the eastern tradition in their lives by having their hands and feet painted for weddings, bellies painted while in pregnancy, heads adorned with henna while going through chemotherapy, scars camouflaged to make them unnoticeable, etc..
There are also so many benefits for using the henna plant as a hair and scalp treatment:
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. Applying the paste directly to the nail beds can clear up irritation, pain, and infection in the nail beds. For normal healthy nails it improves nail quality because of the henna binding to the keratin in your nails, which strengthens them and prevents breaking. The color that is left on the nails is also a nice benefit since unlike polishes it does not chip or crack, so unless you have it redone regularly it just simply grows out and fades slightly.
Henna should also be kept in the freezer as a first aid remedy. It has the ability to cauterize and coagulate blood for any major injuries. It can also be used to treat sunburns in place of aloe gel because of its lasting cooling effects. It can be used to treat posterior nose bleeds at home by simply snorting some of the powder. It can also be used to treat athlete's foot, acne, jock itch, diabetic foot conditions, gangrene, psoriasis, stubborn warts, herpes, lice, and you can find many more medicinal uses if you look.
Henna can also be applied to leathers, silks, cottons and any other pure fabrics. People have applied it to lamp shades, candles, jewellery boxes, mirrors, leather shoes/boots, invitation cards, silk scarves, cotton shirts and underwear, drums, etc.