How do I make Henna?

Henna drawing of a bride.

When you do henna, you usually have several places to start. You can simply make a henna paste with the purchased powder. Some people may prefer to start from scratch, growing henna plants from seed. Growing your own plants means you can make henna with leaves that you’ve picked and dried yourself. The second method is usually a safe way to get fresh, chemical-free henna powder, but the first method may be less bothersome.

A mehndi artist applying mehndi. Mehndi is another term for henna. Henna art is commonly referred to as “mehndi” in South Asian countries such as India.

Those who wish to make henna from scratch, i.e. starting with planting henna seeds, should note that henna plants should generally be houseplants if the artist is not living in India; very hot and humid climates are essential for the survival of henna plants. Once planted in the right conditions, plants often thrive without much help. All it takes is three or four henna seeds placed in a very rich, moist soil.

Henna must be mixed in a ceramic or wooden bowl.

Spraying the soil daily and placing it in a warm room under a plastic greenhouse cone should provide good growing conditions. Greenhouse cones – clear plastic cones with a small hole in the tip – can be used to keep heat and humidity. When the henna plant has germinated about three dozen large leaves, the henna artist can harvest about a third of them. Thick, large, dark green leaves usually work best when you make henna powder.

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Henna for temporary body art can be made from scratch or from purchased powder.

To dry henna leaves, simply place them between paper towels and place them in a warm, dry place for about three weeks. The leaves should be light green and very brittle when completely dry. The artist can then grind the leaves in a food processor, nut grinder, or with a mortar and pestle. If none are available, the artist can crumble them by hand and then crush the flakes into a fine powder with the tip of a wooden spoon. The powder should look like a mixture of flour and sand.

Henna leaves must be dried to make henna.

Lemon juice is the first ingredient used in both homemade and commercial henna powders to make henna paste. It is closely followed by lavender and bergamot essential oils. The artist must mix the paste with a wooden or plastic spoon in a wooden or ceramic bowl, using enough lemon juice for the henna powder to form a thick, malleable paste. About 10 drops each of lavender and bergamot oil not only helps the henna smell good, but it also helps the lemon juice to get the ink out of the henna, making the tattoos darker.

Once mixed, the henna paste should be covered with plastic wrap and left to rest for 12 to 24 hours. This resting time allows the henna powder to oxidize and create the dark reddish-orange dye traditional for henna tattoos. After oxidation, the artist can apply henna to your skin, hair or even clothes to create natural henna art.

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