celtic knot :~.
(smooshed a bit on my scanner, but not bad...)
Some years ago now, on the
Henna Tribe forum,
a conversation about using henna for foot & nail
fungus came up, which left me somewhat shocked at
the confidence that some of the henna artists had in
using henna to treat this decidedly stubborn
condition...most herbalists will agree that nail
fungus is a pain in the... toe to work with.
Since that time, I've used topical henna paste
applications on numerous occasions for foot fungus
(works quite well), nail fungus (also quite
effective here, but even better used in addition to
daily tea tree or thuja applications), for ringworm
(so far 100%, but of course there are undoubtedly
exceptions), warts (I've seen it work very well on
some, but not so well on long established,
deep-rooted warts) and tinea versicolor (jury's
still out on this due to poor compliance or in some
cases poor telling me how/whether it worked).
Henna applications for the hair can be remarkably
effective in their ability to address dandruff.
If you want red highlights, anyway.
shares a great
current use of the plant
in indonesia (with pics!): "I've seen it used in
Indonesia by bear keepers who have to wear rubber
boots and work in mucky conditions .. they would
henna their finger nails and toe nails to stop from
getting athletes foot. They made the henna with the
leaves from their own henna tree!"
The thing that makes henna so
useful in such cases is that the same constituent
that is responsible for the dark red dye (lawsone)
also possesses antifungal & antimicrobial
properties. Henna can leave the skin stained
for 1-3 weeks (depending on the quality of the henna
and the thickness/degree of keritinization of the
skin); this means that during the time that the
stain is visible, there is a 24/7 action of the
lawsone on the skin infection. This helps
immensely to address the largest drawback to
treating fungal skin infections, especially of the
feet: the need for several daily applications for a
long period of time. I generally encourage
people to use other treatments on the skin after
applying the henna, for an even more comprehensive
treatment. So, for example, if you've got nail
fungus and have tried filing the nail down and
applying tea tree oil a couple times a day, file the
nail down, paint it with henna paste, and then
continue to use the tea tree oil (or whatever)
I learned from my good friend Jen
Green, ND that henna has also proven helpful in the
address of Hand-foot syndrome, also called Palmar-Plantar
Erythrodysesthesia (PPE), a side effect of some
types of chemotherapy, though
the study investigating this
usage didn't specify a clear mode of
Beyond its use for common skin
issues, henna is considered to bring blessings as
well as protection. These aren't
superstitions, as anyone who uses plants in this
manner knows. The increasing popularity of
henna on pregnant bellies isn't just decorative, but
is a ceremonial blessing of the mother and child,
whether outwardly presented as that or not.
Likewise, people struggling through transitions or
personal trials can use henna in a way that
solidifies their intentions or some other personal
commitment. Henna artist
Darcy Vasudev shows
work on her site of chemotherapy patients who've
chosen not to wear a wig but henna their head
instead. Ahh, spirit.
Of course, henna is also just cool.
Both figuratively and literally - henna paste
applied topically has a decidedly refrigerant
effect, offering a clear cooling sensation
(something to remember if you're doing a large henna
work on someone in a cool, drafty apartment in
winter...). This is one of the plant's
traditional uses, arising as it did in a hot and dry
So, here's a sketchy recipe I've used (a fusion of
recipes offered by henna artists Maxx and
` 3-4 heaping tablespoons of henna
` 1 level tablespoon of cajeput, ravensara or tea
tree oil (I usually use cajeput)
` 2 1/2 tablespoons molasses
` hot tea to get to the right consistency - this is
the trickiest part; it can vary widely. It's more of
an issue if you're doing fine lines (if it's too wet
your lines will spread out). You want it like icing.
I add a bit at a time stir, dip a spoon in an let a
line drip across the bowl I'm mixing in to see how
it trails. If using the henna paste for fungal
skin infections, use antimicrobial herbs in your
tea; perhaps calendula or (oooh!) wild bergamot.
There are numerous other recipes,
many more traditional with lemon juice and sugar (I
like molasses way better; eliminates the need
for dabbing on lemon sugar to keep the paste from
cracking as it dries), less essential oils,
different essential oils;
Henna Tribe is a
great place to look for recipes.
Once mixed, you need to let it sit for a few hours (moroccan)
to several hours or overnight before putting it in a
JAQ bottle (available real cheap
here) or rolling
into cones (which I've used and love but haven't
made). It benefits from heat, so having it under a
lamp or by a heating register or woodstove will help
it release its dye.
You can freeze it for later use. A small batch goes
a long way. I've frozen ziplock bags as well
as loaded JAQ bottles for easy use; just thaw in
some warm water.
I like moroccan henna best (from
awesome henna), and also have gotten really nice
rajasthani henna in
the past. I've personally found jamila
difficult (can't figure out its dye release), though
it is a popular "brand" and the folks at
certainly do well with it and have a very clear step
by step prep guide. The important thing is
that in order to get very good quality henna, you
should buy it from a henna artist. It's
really that much better.
contraindications & considerations...
The most important warning: don't
ever use "black
henna"... henna isn't ever black, and
stuff sold as black henna may have a chemical in it
called PPD, which not only can cause permanent
scarring, but also permanent nerve damage, pain and
Bad bad stuff.
A noteworthy consideration is: do
you mind your skin being stained for awhile?
I've heard that henna is best not
used on broken skin, but then also heard that its
been used to treat skin injuries (the plant is
astringent). One issue is that the henna could
stain deeper levels of the skin, which then wouldn't
exfoliate away. To my current knowledge, this
is theoretical. Another issue wouldn't have to
do with the henna, but essential oils in the paste:
its common practice among henna artists to use
milder oils like lavender during pregnancy.
Henna is not safe for use by those
dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. It
should not be used by/on these people.