Henna - western medicine

Some scientific studies show that henna, when taken as a medicine, can affect the body by slowing down the heart rate, reducing blood pressure, muscle spasms, inflammation, fever and pain, and by acting as a sedative.

Infections and parasites

Extracts with antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties have been taken from the leaves and whole plant of henna. Powdered leaves have been shown to be a treatment for intestinal amoebiasis - a protozoan infection of the intestine, and an extract made from them can cure infections caused by nematode worms.

Antimicrobial preparations containing henna have been patented in the UK.

Active compounds

In laboratory studies, two compounds extracted from henna, called lawsone and isoplumbagin, have shown anticancer activity and have protected sickle cells against membrane damage.

A photograph of a henna pattern stamped onto the palm of the hand. Henna is usually safe to put on the skin.
Image: Henna is usually safe to put on the skin. 'Black henna' is more likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Safety

Henna is not a dangerous plant, but when it's painted onto the skin it can cause allergic reactions in some people. Injury to the eyes is also a possibility during the dyeing of eyebrows or lashes with henna. Commercial 'black henna', henna combined with a chemical dye called p-phenylenediamine (sometimes shortened to PPD), is used for temporary tattoos and is more likely to cause allergic reactions, change skin pigmentation and, in very rare cases, oedema and kidney failure. Some studies in animals showed that oral administration of henna extracts may affect fertility.

This information is provided for general interest only. It is not intended as guidance for medicinal use. Further information on using herbal medicines is available.