Henna is a flowering plant used since ancient times for dying hair, fingernails, drumheads, leather, wool and skin and to decorate the female body, bringing baraka (good destiny). In several parts of the world it is traditionally used in various festivals and celebrations.
The adornment of hand and feet during holy festivals in Northern Africa continues to be popular today. Often seen as something that attracts the opposite sex, henna is not applied during the month of Ramadan. Brides will typically have the most henna, and the most complex patterns, to support their greatest joy, and wishes for luck. . Infact henna adornment is not only for women but also for horses and donkeys on hooves and tails.
For skin dyeing, a paste of ground henna (either prepared from a dried powder or from fresh ground leaves) is placed in contact with the skin from a few hours to overnight. Henna stains can last a few days to a month depending on the quality of the paste, individual skin type, and how long the paste is allowed to stay on the skin. The plant paste reacts to protein on the skin thus henna is stronger on parts of the body with a higher protein level.
Henna also acts as an anti-fungal and a preservative for leather and cloth. It is know to be used for medicinal purposes. Henna repels some insect pests and mildew. The flower has been used to create perfume since ancient times.
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