Explore the History of Henna, its Cultural Significance & Uses

By the team at Mihenna

The safest and the best medicine is often given by the nature. Henna is one such gift handed over by Earth and is passed on from generation to generation. Henna is a flowering plant whose paste can be used to create art that has evolved through history and offers amazing benefits to the mind, body, and hair. To make you realize the true potential of henna, we have specified the history and cultural significance of henna along with its uses in this article.

What is Henna?

Botanically known as Lawsonia inermis, Henna is a plant-based dye with hair or skin staining properties. It is globally used as a natural alternative to synthetic dyes due to its amazing therapeutic and health benefits to the hair and skin.

The leaves of a plant named Lawsonia Inermis are sifted, dried, and crushed into powder, popularly known as henna. When you mix this henna powder with water, sugar, and essential oils, and stir it till all the lumps are gone, a thick paste with curd-like consistency is obtained which is known as henna. Today henna is used globally for decorative purposes regardless of religion, location, and culture.

Today, henna holds greater significance in the celebration of special occasions like weddings, birthdays, and any celebration of gathering of people. Most henna tattoo applicants aren’t aware of the origin and cultural significance of henna. Without understanding the origin and history of henna, adopting henna from the outside culture without permission and normalizing it steals away credit where it is due and leads to cultural appropriation.

Anyone who wants to apply henna should utilize this opportunity to educate themselves on henna and the related customs followed in the ancient days by the people using henna.     

Explore the History of Henna, its Cultural Significance & Uses
Lawsonia inermis
Credit: Dinesh Valke from Thane, India

The History of Henna 

Henna has been culturally practiced in India, Pakistan, Africa, and the Middle East for more than 5000 years. Because of the cooling properties of henna, people living in the desert or hotter regions have used henna to cool down and regulate their body temperatures. 

Initially, people would dip their palms and feet in henna to cool down their body temperatures. The cooling sensation was felt as long as the henna paste was on their bodies. Once the paste dried up and cracked from the skin, people observed that henna leave stains on the skin. Since then, they have started using henna for decorative purposes by creating beautiful designs and patterns on the skin.   

In the 1990s, henna grabbed people’s attention as temporary tattoo art in the United States. The Western world has adopted the Eastern tradition of decorating their bodies with natural artwork. It is safe, natural, and doesn’t last forever, all these reasons sum up to the growing demand for henna since then.

There are citings that henna powder has been used by people as a belly tattoo during pregnancy, painting on the shoved head for those who have undergone chemotherapy and want to hide their scars, etc. With henna, you can create an accurate version of the permanent tattoo naturally and more safely.

The best part is, it gradually fades away in a few weeks so, you can get a completely different tattoo every few weeks.  If you cannot afford flashy jewelry, henna doesn’t let you down. It lets you create versatile jewel designs wherever you want to help you shine like never before.    

A girl with Henna tattoo on chest

Why Is Henna So Popular?

With the immense popularity of henna worldwide, several henna brands and stores have popped up all over the United States. Here are some of the possible reasons for henna’s popularity:

  1. Henna tattoo is painless. Many people do not even dare to get a permanent tattoo in their lifetime as the needlework is painful and scary.
  2. Henna paints the outer layer of the skin. Unlike permanent tattoos, it doesn’t pierce the skin through needles. Thus, the risk of infection is almost zero. One should note that there are several varieties of henna available. While natural henna is the safest to put on, some commercial henna powders like black henna or color henna contain factory-made chemicals that can have adverse effects on your skin. So watch out for the tan organic option before you buy the henna. 
  3. Henna leaves a temporary tattoo. For those who don’t wish to have a permanent tattoo, henna is the right option for them. 

For these reasons, henna has surpassed every other tattoo option. One can observe that henna got recognition for its benefits without including any religious or cultural appreciation. 

Henna tattoos on hands

Cultural Significance

Culturally, henna has greater significance in many religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, and Islam. It is widely used in the wedding traditions of Hindu and Muslim cultures.

A special occasion is dedicated to henna prior to the wedding when the bride and her family gather together to get henna from a professional henna artist. The bride’s arms and legs are covered with beautiful henna tattoo designs to beautify her appearance and relieve her from wedding anxiety.

Also, there is some superstition attached to henna that the darker the henna stain is on the bride’s skin, the deeper love she will get from her married life. The bridal henna making may take several hours thus it is handled by more than one henna artist for quickly creating the design. Whereas the wedding guests receive simple designs during the occasion.   

Henna tattoos on hands

Uses of Henna

  1. Henna has anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties that keep the lice away and prevent fungal diseases on the scalp.  
  2. Our palms and soles of the feet have nerve endings connected throughout the body. When henna is applied on such critical areas, it takes away excess heat from the nerves, reduces inflammation, and thus relieves arthritis pain.  
  3. Due to external and internal health conditions, excess oil is secreted by the glands resulting in redness, scaly scalp, dryness, etc. Henna soothes the oil-secreting glands and restores your scalp’s natural pH resulting in voluminous hair. 
  4. Multiple hair treatments like hair straightening, drying and curling, etc, can dry out and damage your hair resulting in split ends. Natural henna is rich in Vitamin E, proteins, and antioxidants. It conditions and nourishes your hair from within helping you wave goodbye to split ends.  
  5. Natural henna coats the hair cuticle which is the outer layer of the hair shaft. It doesn’t penetrate into the hair cortex where the proteins and moisture are stored. Thus, henna acts as a protective layer and strengthens the hair shaft. 

Henna for Hair 

The harsh environments, pollution, and toxic food intake can take a serious toll on hair health resulting in premature hair graying, brittle hair, scalp psoriasis, dandruff, etc. Henna hair dye is the perfect choice for those who want to cover their gray hair and look young again.

Men can safely dye their beards without getting in contact with ammonia. If you have a sensitive scalp, chemical dyes can worsen your condition and damage your hair. Using henna hair dye for hair is a simple process. Gray hair has reduced melanin resulting in brittle hair and fails to accept color easily.

Thus, gray hair may take a little longer time to accept henna color than normal hair. If you have gray hair sections, you are advised to use henna hair dye for gray hair to color your gray hair first and then coat your entire hair with henna for uniform hair color.  

Henna tattoos on hands of a girl

Henna As Tattoo

Ditch all the factory-made henna powders with harmful chemicals that can damage your skin and make your own henna paste at home. Fill the paste in a henna cone and create beautiful designs for your next party. Are you a beginner? Don’t worry, the henna stencils help you create any type of design within minutes.     

How Long Does Henna Last?

In its natural state, the henna powder appears in greenish to dark green color which will crack off on drying thus leaving an orange stain.

You should observe that henna takes about 48-72 hours to reach its full-color intensity and turns into reddish-brown color. The skin is thickest on the palms and soles of the feet and also contains the most keratin. Thus the skin will stain the darkest in these areas. The farther you move away from the palms and soles of your feet, the lighter the henna color becomes.

The henna color works on all skin types. It’s just that some people’s skin absorbs dye better than others. Thus, henna color is more prominent on one when compared to the other. When it comes to dying your hair with henna, it remains on your hair for a longer time. The color is permanent and gradually fades away as your hair grows.

Does Henna Expire?

An organic henna powder is directly extracted from plants and is free from chemicals. As it is nature-made, the effectiveness of the henna powder reduces and physically disintegrates over time at room temperature. It is advisable to store the henna paste in a freezer for up to 3 months and defrost it before using.

Get The Mihenna’s Way of Henna Tattoo

Henna sketches

Order our best-seller henna kit and get a henna cone, coconut oil, and several henna stencils delivered to your door for an amazing henna experience. The range of henna designs created is left to your imagination. Use the henna to create body art, cute henna freckles, or even dye your hair, use your creative skills, and stand unique amongst the crowd.


Henna is a natural alternative to toxic chemical dyes made by industries. Unlike the synthetic dyes that harm your skin, henna strengthens hair, makes it shinier, and rejuvenates dry and damaged hair. Hope you have an unforgettable henna experience ahead. Thanks for reading!