f.90r Lawsonia inermis ~ Henna

Here is is as originally published in the separate botanicals blog on December 20th., 2011. If anyone had made this identification before I did, I was not aware of it then. None of the visitors to this post mentioned it either.  Things may have changed in the interim, of course.  I’ve transferred the entire post, which explains why the arrangement for the illustrations differs.


Lawsonia Inermis:

updated * bibliography.. Dec 15th., 2011.

“leaves are opposite, entire, glabrous, sub-sessile,

elliptical, and broadly lanceolate

(1.5–5.0 cm x 0.5–2 cm), acuminate”

formerly not cultivated, but cropped.

Lawsonia inermis-courtesy wiki-


Root type: a dye for fabric and hair.
In fact L.inermis has more numerous uses.

L. Inermis: uses

* As a dry powder mixed with suitable flour: for Holi festival – green colour

* Mixed with water will lightly stain the face.

* Mixed with Amla it is a dye for the hair: dark brown.

* To dye hair, wool and leathergoods.

* Medicinal.

‘Egyptians were among the first to use henna as a cosmetic and they wrapped their mummies in henna coloured [-dyed?] clothes..distilled from its flowers is a fragrant essential oil used as a perfume and in religious feasts. A decoction of the bark (now) serves the Arabs medicinally.Called pukr by ancient Egyptians, kupr or kufer by the Copts, kufra in Aramaic and Accadian.. and in post biblical literature.’

         Michael Zohary, Plants of the Bible, p.190.

I cite the wiki article for its footnotes (renumbered):

“there is mention of henna as a hair dye in Indian court records around 400 CE,1 in Rome during the Roman Empire, and in Spain during Convivencia.2 It was listed in the medical texts of the Ebers Papyrus (16th c BCE Egypt).3 and by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (14th c CE (Syria and Egypt) as a medicinal herb.4 In Morocco, wool is dyed and ornamented with henna, as are drumheads and other leather goods.”

1.Auboyer, Jeannine (2002) [1961]. Daily life in ancient India: from 200 BC to 700 AD. London: Phoenix. ISBN 978-1-84212-591-5. OCLC 50577157.

2.Fletcher R. (1992). Moorish Spain. New York City: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0-8050-2395-4. OCLC 25834208.

3. Bryan, Cyril P.; G. Elliot Smith (1974) [1930]. Ancient Egyptian medicine: the Papyrus Ebers. Chicago: Ares Publishers. ISBN 978-0-89005-004-0. OCLC 247258585.

4.Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzīyah, Muhammad ibn Abī Bakr (1998). Medicine of the prophet. trans. Penelope Johnstone. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society. ISBN 978-0-946621-19-4. OCLC 40907417


Additional refs:

(for Nth Africa) seevWestermarck.

Medicinal and other: see Grieves

no apparent mention in Brht Smhita but see entry at Pandanus Database:


See also the (Syriac) Book of Medicines, downloadable in 2 pdfs.

through UPenn (AWOL) here.

Volume 1 Pdf ~  146 MB (Syriac test)

Volume 2 PDF ~ 153 MB (English trans. and comment plus INDEX by Wallis Budge)

If those downloads doesn’t work for you

an alternative site, for download and/or read online has volume 2 at the ancient archives site.

There, a List of medicines is also given (pp.715-726)

See http://www.archive.org/stream/syriananatomypat02budgiala#page/714/mode/2up


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s