The Truth About Henna Part 5: Indigo

Indigo, or Indigofera tinctoria,  is an herb that imparts a blue stain.  Indigo has been used for centuries to dye cloth or clothing and also works on hair.  It is commonly known as black henna but it isn’t really black or henna,  not even a distant relative.  Indigo does impart a dark blue or purple stain.  Like henna it comes in a dry powdered form and should be green or brown in color.

yep it's greenish, not blue

Indigo is not a conditioning treatment however, it is great natural way to cover grey hair.  Indigo does not need to dye release like henna so you do not need to add an acid and you can use it immediately.  Indigo is most often used with henna in a 2-step process to create a more natural looking color.  Indigo is a stain so please wear gloves when applying.

To make an indigo paste you can simply use just plain water. You can add some oil to help with ease of application or conditioner if you want to make a gloss.  Apply the indigo to your hair, wrap with plastic wrap or cover with a plastic cap and allow to sit for about 30-60 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly with plain water then wash/co-wash and follow up with a good deep conditioner.

As with any recipe you can alter this to your liking.  Give it a try and let us know how it worked for you.

For more info on Henna check out these posts: What is henna, traditional henna, henna gloss, cassia.


The Truth About Henna Part 4: Cassia

If you’ve done a little research about henna you probably run across the term cassia.  Cassia, often referred to as “Nuetral Henna”, is not henna at all.  Cassia Obovata is made from a small shrub in the same manner as henna however it contains Chysophanic acid which is a mild yellow stain.  This stain may lightly stain your hands or a white counter top but is not strong enough to stain dark colored hair. **If you purchase Rainbow Research Henna from Whole Foods a lot of their products use Cassia**

Cassia however is a great conditioning treatment and it is often used in place of henna as it provides the same benefits, but not the red color.  You can add other natural dyes to your cassia to create a colored-hue if you choose to.  While cassia will most likely not stain as harsh as henna it is still advised that you wear gloves when applying.

cassia My daughter SK’s hair was dry and frizzy so we opted to do a cassia treatment for her hair.  To create a cassia conditioning treatment you can follow the same methods for henna whether the traditional or the gloss.  Below is the recipe I opted for:

  • 8 ounces of cassia
  • 2 Tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp of oliv oil
  • Green Tea steeped in boiling water

I combined the first three ingredients, then added enough tea until the mixture was brownie batter consistency.  (I used double the normal henna recipe because my daughter has a LOT of hair).  I allowed the recipe to sit for 30 minutes then applied to her hair using the shingle method.  Once the hair was covered I wrapped her hair in plastic wrap and let it sit for 2 hours.  She rinsed her hair several times until all the mixture was removed, then co-washed the hair and rinsed again. After the application SK’s hair was softer, more manageable and the frizz was gone.

As with any recipe you can alter this to your liking.  Give it a try and let us know how it worked for you.

For more info on Henna check out these posts: what is henna, henna application, henna gloss, indigo.

The Truth About Henna Part 3: Henna Gloss

henna-in-natural-hairAnother method of applying henna is called the henna gloss.  The henna gloss is ideal for those who want the benefits of a henna treatment, but with and easier rinsing method and less color.  A henna gloss is normally a creamier paste made with oil, acid, and conditioner or another creamy ingredient.  It can also include teas, herbs, or humectants.

For shoulder length hair of average thickness use 100 grams or 4 ounces of henna.  If your hair is longer of thicker you may want to use more.

Add 1-2 cup of hot water, 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix until it just forms a paste.  You may opt to infuse the water with tea or herbs.

If you want subtle red color add 1-2 Tbsp of an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to help release the dye from the henna.  If you just want conditioning then you can skip this step.

Add 1-2 Tbsp of your favorite oil.  If you are adding any additional humectants like honey or agave add 1-2 Tbsp now.

Stir in 1-2 cups of conditioner until the batter is smooth and the consistency of cake/brownie batter.  You may opt to use Greek yogurt or coconut milk in place of conditioner.

If you are looking for subtle color cover the gloss mix with plastic wrap and allow to sit for several hours or overnight.  If you are just looking to condition use immediately.  Apply the gloss to the hair in the shingle technique (the same method as applying a perm) from root to the tip.  Cover hair with plastic cap or saran wrap and allow to sit for at least one hour.

Rinse your hair thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Then co-wash your hair to remove remaining henna and continue your wash process as normal.  As with any recipe you can cater it to your liking.  You can use this gloss about once a month.

Natural Review By L Coconut Milk Henna Gloss

Curli Nikki’s Henna Gloss

Read about my henna gloss treatment here.

For more info on henna check my main henna post.

The Truth About Henna Part 2: Traditional Application

henna application on natural hairThe traditional method of henna application involves making the dry henna into a paste with the use of an acid to release the color, oil to aid in application, additional herbs/tea for conditioning/color, and water to mix.  If you are using a henna bar you only need to grate or chop the bar and mix with hot water.

For shoulder length average thickness hair you will need 100 grams or 4 ounces of henna.  If your hair is longer or thicker you may want to double the quantity.

You want to add 1-2 Tbsp of an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to help release the dye from the henna.

Add 1-2 Tablespoons of your favorite oil (Olive, safflower, coconut, almond) to help smooth the batter and make it easier to apply.

Boil some water and add herbs like cinnamon, paprika, amla or teas like Chamomile, Red Zinger, Green or Ceylon.  Add the water to the henna mixture and stir until smooth and about the consistency of brownie/cake batter.  If it is too thick add more water.

Cover the henna mix allow to sit for several hours or overnight.  The longer you allow the henna to sit the more prominent the dye.  Then apply henna to dry hair in shingle technique avoiding the scalp.  Cover your hair with plastic cap or saran wrap and allow to sit for at least one hour.

Rinse your hair thoroughly.  The henna will be dry and caked like mud so it will take at least 10 minutes of rinsing.  You can also run water in the tub and simply let your hair soak while you gently massage it.  Once the water runs clear through your hair, follow up with a conditioner and rinse again.  Lastly shampoo and conditioner as normal.

As with any recipe you can cater it to your liking.  The henna color will gradually fade in 4-6 weeks.  You can repeat this process every 4 weeks.  You can either discard or freeze leftover henna for future use.  Go here for henna gloss recipe.

Henna Tutorials from YouTube:

The Truth About Henna Part 1: What is Henna?

I’m often asked a variety of questions about henna, henna treatments, where to find it, etc.

I have decided to break down this down into 5 parts:

  1. What is henna?
  2. Henna traditional method
  3. Henna gloss
  4. What is Cassia?
  5. What is Indigo?

Jamila HennaHenna, Lawsonia Inermis, is a small bush or shrub grown in Africa, Asia and Australia.  Henna leaves contains a natural dye that stains red/orange called lawson, this dye is stonger in younger leaves and decreases as the leaves age. The leaves of this plant are cultivated and crushed to form a fine green powder.

Henna has been used for ages as a natural dye for hair, skin, clothing, and textiles.  As a dye the lawson molecules bond with the proteins in your hair staining the outerlayer but not permanently.  More than just a hair dye henna also conditions and strengthens the hair.  It is safe to use on natural, relaxed and or color/treated hair because it does not contain traditional chemicals used to bleach or color hair.

Henna only comes truly in one color.  It is green to brown and stains orange to red.  Anything other than that means it is not true henna and it has additives.  These addition of additives is not necessarily a bad thing, often time teas and other herbs are added for conditioning or coloring benefit.  However you do need to beware of heavy metals that are sometimes added to help dye the hair.  Check the ingredients before use.

As henna is sold for many different things you want to but one specific for hair use or body art quality.  Popular henna brands include: Jamila, Earth, LUSH, Surya, and Rainbow.  You can find henna at a natural food store like Whole Foods or Rainbow Blossom, an Indian or Asian grocery or online at, or

While henna is safe and relatively easy to use make no mistake that it is a DYE!  It can an will impart a orange or red tint to everything it touches.  If considering using henna you will want to use non-reactive bowl and utensils for mixing, protect your floors and counter space with newspaper, wear and old t-shirt or something you don’t mind staining and WEAR GLOVES!

So why use henna?  Well apart from giving your hair a cool red tint it is said that it can strengthen, thicken, loosen curl pattern, define curls, soften and add shine to the hair.  Obviously it cannot be everything but those who use it has experienced one of the results.  It all depends on your hair and the method used.

For more information on henna check out the following:

Ayurveda, Patel Brothers & Mixology

Henna.  Amla. Brahmi. Neem.  These are just a few ingredients you may here tossed around natural hair boards by those who practice Ayurveda.  Ayurveda is not a cult or religion, but rather the a belief of using traditional/alternative medicine to achieve health.  Like Veganism it is simply a lifestyle choice.  But just like you can decide to have a meat-less dairy-free lunch you can dabble in Ayurveda and incorporate whatever practices you find beneficial.  In regards to hair care Ayurveda includes the use of natural herbs, oils and roots to promote hair health, wellness and cure common ailments such as dandruff, hair loss, thinning, etc.

Ayurveda originated in South Asia (India, China, & Nepal) so to find common products you need only take a trip to your local Indian or Asian Grocer.  Patel Brothers is a national chain of Indian grocery stores and can be found in just about everywhere across the US.  While the stores are sort of small they are are stacked with all sorts of health and beauty ‘vedic treatments.

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  • Henna used to strengthen the hair but is also a natural hair stain (red)
  • Amla used to contol shedding and hair loss
  • Brahmi used to treat dandruff or itchy scalp
  • Neem used to control dryness or itchy scalp (also a natural bug repellent)
  • Indigo used to strengthen or thicken  the hair but is also a natural stain (black)
  • Tulsi used to soothe and cure scalp disorders
  • Kewra Water used to soothe and cleanse irritated scalp (similar to rose water)

You can buy the herbs in powder form mixing them with just plain water, oils, or even coconut milk to make a hair paste.  You can also add them to conditioners, make a tea rinse or a hair spritz.  There is a great post on Lola’s Green Hair and Natural Review concerning the use of ‘vedic treatments.

However, buyer beware because all things that glitter are not gold!  There are also products carried in Patel Brothers that are sub-standard.  So make sure you are careful to read the ingredients.  If you see hair oil with mineral oil as the first ingredient I would avoid it.  There are also imitation henna, indigo, and other powders so make sure you research how to tell the real from the fake.

I am simply a ‘vedic dabbler.  I done a henna gloss to color and strengthen my hair, cassia paste to bring life back to my daughter’s hair.  On this trip to Patel Brothers I picked up some Vatika oil which is a coconut based oil with a lot of neem in it.  It is said to nourish the hair and scalp and also help with itching especially for those with locs.  While I have yet to use it on my hair I did use it on my beagle to help repel bugs as he often has allergic reactions in the summer to bites and stings.  It made his coat shiny and so far has not suffered any rashes so I say its working.  I have rubbed a little on my arms and legs before going on an evening run and it has helped repel the insects.

So don’t be vexed by ‘vedic treatments, start simple and experiment.  When you find something that works for you be sure to share it here with us. 

Henna Gloss Treatment

I won a box of henna from my BBF Natural Review several months prior and just got around to doing a henna treatment.  Henna application can be quite a whole day process so I wanted to make sure it was a day where the kids were away and I had no obligations.  I opted to do a henna gloss over the traditional henna treatment.  The gloss method is easier to apply and rinse out.

So on with the show…


1 box Jamila henna 100 grams

1 tea bag Chamomile

8 oz  hot water

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup Tresemme Naturals Nourishing Moisture Conditioner w/ aloe & avocado

I poured the henna into a cheap plastic, non reactive bowl, that I use for all my hair treatments.  Next I heated one cup of  hot water in the microwave for one minute.  I placed the tea bag in the cup of hot water and let it steep for about five minutes.  After I removed the tea bag I poured the tea into the bowl containing henna while stirring until it was fully blended.

henna + tea

Then I added the lime juice and vinegar.  You can add any acid of your choice.  I planned to only use lime juice, but I did not have enough.  I stirred it in completely before adding in the oil.

henna + tea + acid + oil

Next I covered the mixture and allowed it to sit for 6 hours to release the dye from the henna.  I added the condish to the mix then applied it to my hair using color applicator bottle which helps keep the mess of application to a minimum.

henna mix + condish

I covered my hair with 2 plastic caps and let it sit for 3 hours.  To remove the henna from my hair I ran a shallow bath and dunked my hair into it.  I used my fingers to gently massage and separate my hair coaxing the henna out.  After 5 minutes I sat up let the water out and repeated again for a second time.  After the second time I turned on the shower and ran water over my head until I was sure then henna had been removed.

before, what am i gonna do with this bird's nest?

1/2way there

all covered, did i mention that i forgot to wear gloves? lol @ orange palms

aah, the showercap life

after henna

After the henna was completely rinsed out, I treated my hair to a DIY deep conditioning treatment Hair Guacamole.  You should always follow a henna treatment with a good deep conditioner because henna while strengthening is also very drying even when doing a henna gloss.

yum, hair guac

After all this time an effort I can say that my hair feels AWESOME!  My curls feel alive, vibrant, and stronger!  This is def going into my regular regi, maybe once every 2-3 months.  So if you are thinking about giving henna a try, or maybe revisiting it after a bad experience, I hope you give this method a try.

twisted up. el fin.