Mehndi, or henna, has been used for thousands of years in Indian, African and Arabic countries. It is one of the oldest known forms of body art, and has references in the Bible (as Camphire), the Qur’an, and other ancient texts. Made out of the crushed leaves of the Henna plant (Lawsonia inermis), the leaves contain many healing properties and cultural meaning. Designs vary. Indian designs consist of delicate paisley and floral prints, Arabic designs bolder with more negative space, and African designs are more geometric. Mehndi is used ceremonially in weddings, religious holidays and other important rites of passage. This is a great article about the significance of Mehndi in Indian culture and background about the medium itself.
In addition to having an aesthetic design quality, it can be used as hair dye and prevents hair loss. It is often used as a nail polish. It has cooling properties, reducing fevers and acting as a natural sun block.
Mehndi is said to also have general antiseptic and astringent properties. It is helpful in treating bruises, sprains, boils, burns and headaches. As a tonic, it helps sore throats and stomach pains. It is even said to treat more serious ailments like skin diseases and labor pains.
However you choose to use mehendi, it is ancient and steeped in tradition. Enjoy!