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Lawsonia inermis - L.

Common Name Henna, Mignonette Tree
Family Lythraceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Dry, coastal secondary scrub wasteland[307 ]. Naturalized plants are often found in temporarily flooded river beds and riverine thickets, but also on hillsides and in rock crevices, at elevations up to 1,350 metres[299 ].
Range E. Asia - India.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Lawsonia inermis Henna, Mignonette Tree

Lawsonia inermis Henna, Mignonette Tree
thiagarajan wikimedia.org


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Lawsonia inermis, commonly known as Henna, hina, henna tree, mignonette tree and Egyptian privet, is a tall flowering shrub or small tree of about 7 m tall native to northern Africa, Asia, and northern Austalasia. It is much-branched and heavily-scented. The leaves are opposite and flowers are white or red in color. The fruits are small, brownish capsules. Henna is one of the oldest cosmetics and the leaves are a source of dye used to color fingernails and hair, and to paint body parts. It has been part of many traditional ceremonies especially marriage. Medicinally, it is used as remedy against a wide range of conditions including amoebic dysentery, diarrhea, sore throat, skin problems, and liver problems. It is antibacterial and can control bleeding. However, it is known to be harmful to people with G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) deficiency. The flowers yield essential oil that is used in perfumery. The plant is planted as hedge due to its dense growth habit.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Lawsonia inermis is an evergreen Shrub growing to 7 m (23ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Alcanna spinosa Gaertn. Casearia multiflora Spreng. Lawsonia alba Lam. Lawsonia speciosa L. Lawsonia spinosa Lam. Rotantha combretoides Baker

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Alterative  Antibacterial  Antidiarrhoeal  Antifungal  Astringent  Dysentery  Emmenagogue  Hepatic  
Leprosy  Mouthwash  Odontalgic  Skin  Tonic

Henna has at times been used in traditional medicine as a remedy against almost any disease, much of this probably being based on the high regard the plant is held in rather than any actual benefits[299 ]. However, ithe plant does contain a range of medically active substances including coumarins, naphthaquinones (including lawsone), flavonoids, sterols and tannins, and is known to be of benefit in a range of conditions[254 , 299 ]. It is an astringent herb with a tea-like aroma, that controls bleeding and is antibacterial[238 ]. It is regarded as an alterative and nerve tonic in Ayurvedic medicine[238 ]. The leaves are taken internally in the treatment of amoebic dysentery[238 ]. They are also used in the treatment of diarrhoea and to promote menstrual flow[254 ]. They are used as a gargle to treat sore throats[254 ]. Extracts of the leaves have an astringent effect on the skin, making it somewhat hydrophobic. This effect, combined with a slight bactericidal and fungicidal action, makes it a useful medicine for external use against many skin and nail complaints[299 ].The leaves are, therefore, used externally in the treatment of various skin diseases (including leprosy), wounds, ulcers and herpes[238 , 348 ]. An infusion of the leaves is mixed with tobacco and salt and used as a mouthwash[348 ]. Dyeing the hair with henna effectively kills lice[299 ]. The young leafy shoots, 20 - 25cm long, are picked during the growing season and dried for use in powders[238 ]. A decoction of the bark is used as an emmenagogue, and also to treat liver problems and nervous symptoms[46 , 254 , 348 ]. The stembark is chewed and then kept between the teeth for about 25 minutes in order to treat toothache[272 ]. The bark is often used in herbal medicines[302 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Cosmetic  Dye  Essential  Fuel  Hair  Hedge  Insecticide  Shelterbelt  Teeth  Wood

Small flowering tree, Hedging. Screening. Specimen, Planter. Courtyard, Civic Centre. Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: Because of its dense habit of growth, and amenability to pruning, the plant is particularly useful as a hedge[307 ]. It is traditionally planted as a windbreak in vineyards[238 ]. Other Uses The crushed leaves are used to prepare a very fast reddish or yellowish dye[302 ]. It is used for dyeing cloth and hair, and as a cosmetic for staining finger and toe nails, palms of the hands and the soles of the feet[287 ]. It has long been used traditionally in Islamic culture for staining the hair, beards, nails and skin[307 ]. The colour can be modified by adding other dyes such as Indigo, Gambier or the powder of areca nut[299 ]. In India, henna is traditionally used to paint intricate patterns on the skin, especially on the hands and feet of a bride and her female wedding guests[307 ]. Henna is commonly used as a hair conditioner and colouring, often mixed with chamomile flowers (Chamaemelum nobile)[307 ]. When mixed with indigo (Indigo spp) it is used to impart a fine blue-black colour to beards and hair[46 ]. For dyeing the hair, a paste of the powdered leaves is applied to it and it is bound up with leaves, wax cloth, or oilskin. After a half hour or more the preparation is washed off and the hair is found to be of a bright red colour. If desired, a second application can then be made of the powder of the indigo plant (Indigofera spp.) made into a paste with water and allowed to remain three hours. This turns the hair a jet black. Ointments can be used to make it glossy. The process must be repeated frequently, as with other dyes, on account of the growth of the hair[459 ]. The dyeing agent in henna is lawsone, which is present in dry leaves at a concentration of 0.5 - 2%. It attaches itself strongly to proteins, and as a result the dye is very fast[299 ]. An essential oil obtained from the flowers is used in perfumery[307 ]. It is lilac-scented[238 ]. On steam distillation, the flowers yield 0.01 - 0.02% essential oil (henna oil), mainly consisting of a- and ß-ionones, which can be used as a basis for perfumes[299 ]. The fragrant flowers are macerated, then infused in oil to impart their fine scent for use as a perfume[46 ]. The oil of Moringa peregrina (ben) is traditionally used because it does not easily become rancid - it produces a perfume with a greenish colour[299 ]. The fibres of the branches and the stem bark are used to make baskets[299 ]. The small twigs are used as toothbrushes[299 ]. The seeds contain about 10% of a non-drying, viscous oil, composed mainly of oleic, linoleic and stearic acids. This oil is not of commercial importance, but is sometimes used locally for purposes such as anointing the body[299 ]. The wood is fine-grained and hard. It is used for making small objects such as tent pegs and tool handles[299 , 418 ]. The wood is used for fuel[299 , 303 ].

Special Uses

Coppice  Hedge  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Dye  Management: Coppice  Regional Crop

A plant of the dry to moist tropics and subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 2,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 19° - 27°c, but can tolerate 13° - 33°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 500 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 250 - 4,200mm[418 ]. Prefers a fertile, well-drained or dry soil in a sunny position[302 , 307 ]. A very greedy plant, removing large quantities of nutrients from the soil[418 ]. The plant is tolerant of poor, stony and sandy soils, but is also well adapted to heavy, fertile clay soils[299 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 7, tolerating 4.3 - 8[418 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[418 ]. Henna can grow to the size of a large shrub or even small tree, but in cultivation is normally treated as a short-lived perennial crop and then grows up to 70cm tall[299 ]. Plants produce their best yields during the first 4 - 8 years after planting, but are often left in the field for 12 - 15 years, sometimes for as long as 40 years[418 ]. Under irrigation, yields of dry leaves may be 2 - 4 tonnes per hectare, while under rain fed conditions in northern India yields of 700 - 1,500 kilos per hectare are obtained[418 ]. Under intensive cultivation the plants are usually harvested twice a year from the second year onwards[418 ]. A very variable plant[287 ]. There are two main forms, one with creamy white blooms, the other with light red[307 ]. Both forms are heavily fragrant, although the cream form is more intensely so[307 ]. Its odour at short range is rank and overpowering, but from a distance it is like that of mignonette[459 ]. Plants flower all year round, though the seed capsules need to be removed since they inhibit flowering[307 ]. Flowering Time: Late Spring/Early Summer. Bloom Color: Pale Pink Pink White/Near White. Spacing: 6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m) 8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m) 10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m). Carbon Farming - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: coppice. Industrial Crop: dye.

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Dye  Botanical dyes replacing synthetic dyes (known as heavy polluters).
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - germinates best at temperatures around 25°c[299 ]. Because of their hard seedcoats, the seeds have to be pre-germinated before sowing. They are first steeped in water for 3 - 7 days, during which time the water is changed daily. They are then placed in small heaps and kept moist and warm for a few days. Care is taken to drain excess water. When the seedcoat has softened and the seed has started to swell, it is ready to be sown in a nursery. During the first days after sowing, the soil should be kept moist and daily irrigations are often required. When the plants are about 40cm tall they are lifted, cut back to about 15cm and transplanted[299 ]. Softwood cuttings root easily. Branches with 6 - 8 buds are used[299 ]. Hardwood cuttings root easily. Branches with 6 - 8 buds are used[299 ]. Layers.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Egyptian privet

Native Extant (resident): India (Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Dadra-Nagar-Haveli, Daman, Diu); Mexico; Pakistan.Extant & Introduced (resident): Algeria; Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Bangladesh; Benin; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Cayman Islands; Central African Republic; Chad; Comoros; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Costa Rica; Cuba; C?te d'Ivoire; Djibouti; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Ghana; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; India (Andhra Pradesh, Andaman Is., Bihar, Chandigarh, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Darjiling, Delhi, Karaikal, Jharkand, Mah?, Madhya Pradesh, Laccadive Is., Kerala, Nicobar Is., Orissa, Pondicherry, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal, Yanam); Indonesia (Lesser Sunda Is.); Iraq; Jamaica; Kenya; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Liberia; Libya; Madagascar; Maldives; Mali; Martinique; Mauritania; Mexico (Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoac?n, Nayarit, Oaxaca); Montserrat; Morocco; Mozambique; Myanmar; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Palestine, State of; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Saint Barth?lemy; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Somalia; South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal); Sri Lanka; Sudan; Suriname; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia; Turks and Caicos Islands; Uganda; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of (Venezuela (mainland), Venez

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

It is listed as invasive in Cuba and Singapore [1-8].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Least Concern.

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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