Botanical name: Lawsonia inermis
Family: Lythraceae, the loosestrife family
Gorintaku (Telugu), Mehndi (Hindi) ; Henna (English); Mehndi, mendhi (Pakistan, Punjab); Medi, mendi (Gujarat)
Marithondi, maruthani (Tamil); Mohuz (Kashmir); Mindi, bind (Mundari)
Lawsonia is named after Isaac Lawson, an 18th century Scottish army doctor who was a friend of Linnaeus; inermis means unarmed without spines).
Mehndi leaves are used as a hair and skin dye and in the preparation of traditional medicines. The leaves are almond-shaped, tapering at the end attached to the tree. Its flowers are used in traditional medicine and its oil is used for perfumery. Its flowers are sweet-scented and creamy-white in color.
The term “Mehndi” is the Indian word for Henna which is used to describe the art of applying henna traditionally during auspicious occasions. . Traditionally it was used for its medicinal qualities. The henna plant is like the tea plant and the leaves are plucked are dried, ground into a fine powder mixed with water, eucalyptus oil, tea, coffee, and lime to make as a paste which are applied in geometric designs on the palm and sole and allow it to dry for 6 to 8 hours and washed off. A red pigmentation is left behind on the applied area. The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra is supposed to have used henna to color her hair. Today many popular Hollywood stars like Madonna and Demy Moore use it. Traditionally in India Mehndi is applied to a woman’s hands and feet on very auspicious occasions like festivals, marriages etc.