The art of Mehndi (Henna) has been practiced for centuries in India, Africa, and the Middle East. Mummies have been found with henna designs and it is well documented that Cleopatra herself used henna for cosmetic purposes. We may think that henna tattoos are new but in actuality, they've been around for over five thousand years.
We use the word Mehndi (pronounced me-hen-dee) to describe the practice of applying henna to the body. Mehndi is the actual word in the Hindi language that describes henna painting, so we apply henna but we are practicing the art of Mehndi.
Henna is the plant, it's the Persian name for the flowering shrub Lawsonia Inermis, which grows to be 10 - 15 feet high. It can be found in the hot climates like Egypt, India, Africa and Morocco. The Henna leaves are dried and crushed into a bright green powder, then made into a paste using oils and tea. This paste is then applied to the skin, staining just the top layer. Henna in its natural state will dye the skin an orange to brown color, even though it looks dark green when applied, this green paste will flake off revealing a light to medium brown stain. Natural henna when applied and stained properly cannot be scrubbed off and no chemicals will take it off. Natural henna stains slightly deeper than henna mixed with colored food dyes and has a longer staying power.
Henna is considered an herb and has long been known to possess healing qualities. In ancient times it's been used for such ailments as headaches, stomach pains, burns, open wounds, a fever reducer, athlete's foot and even the prevention of hair loss!