Green Dye and Additives in Henna Powder
Catherine Cartwright-Jones c 2004
Kent State University
This is picture of
henna powder, with bottled lemon juice added, stirred, placed on a
microscope slide, allowed 5 minutes to set, then photographed at 60
x through the microscope. The vivid
green chunk at the center of this page is spreading green are
dye, a coal tar-derived dye, added to make the product more
This is known as "polishing" the henna in the Indian henna industry.
The presence of green dye is irrelevant to the stain. Henna with
this green dye is often sold as being "fresher" and "higher quality",
though the presence of green dye in henna indicates neither freshness
The presence of this dye and is confirmed and identified in:
"Study of Quality Characteristics of Henna", Chourasia, Sardar, Patil, Mathew,Kanpur, India: Essential Oil Association of India, 1989
"Major contaminants /adulterants in henna leaves are stems, dirt, plant waste and other leaves. However in case of henna powder admixture of dyed sand is observed. It has been reported that for adulteration, finely ground local sand is used. It is first dyed with auramine yellow (C.I. No. 41000) and then green with diamond green (C.I. No. 20440). This is then mixed with pure henna powder. The extent of adulteration is variable in accordance with the price of the powder reflected therein.
"Added azo dyes were not found in henna leaf samples, but yellow and green coal tar dyes were observed in powdered samples. As mentioned earlier, this may be due to the presence of (the afore mentioned dyed sand). Unlike Lawsone, the natural color of henna, these added synthetic azo-dyes used for dyeing the sand or for polishing the leaves may have an adverse effect on the skin. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that these artificial dyes are not there in the product marketed.
The dark red/purple spots in the picture above may be myrobalan or madder root. They are not henna. Myrobalan, madder root, and alkanet root are added to henna to boost stain in an otherwise mediocre henna, or to make the stain tend to red tones rather than brown.
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*"Henna, the Joyous Body Art"
the Encyclopedia of Henna
Catherine Cartwright-Jones c 2000
registered with the US Library of Congress