Henna Witchs' Brews!
Everyone has a different henna mix!  All of the effective additives fit into basic henna chemistry: add something sour to get dye release, add some sort of sugar to smooth out the texture, keep henna from cracking and make it stick to the skin better, add something that has tannins, add something that has monoterpene alcohols.  Most people who use things to make a henna mix just know they work, they don't worry much about the chemistry.  However, if you DO understand henna's chemistry, you can invent new mixes more easily!
Here are a FEW of the things that go into people's brews!

Coffee, Tea, Cardamom, Cloves, Citric Acid, Herb Tea, Tamarind, Dried Lemons, Dried Limes, Hard Candy, Honey, Angostura Butters, Okra, Egg Whites, Spit, Black Pepper, Garlic, Wine, Vinegar, Sugar, Molasses, Jaggery, Citric Acid, Walnut Husks, Walnut Leaves, Walnut Root, Rose Petals, Lemon Peel,  Orange Flower Water, Fenugreek ... and a handful of whatever looks interesting.

All of these things fall into just five chemical categories:

Sources of acid
Sources of sugars or useful slime
Sources of tannins or related plant dyes
Sources of monoterpene alcohol
Sources of nice smells

If you add something that fits into one of those groups .... it might help and it won't hurt!

Brew it up and stir some into your henna until the paste is about as thick as stirred up yogurt.  Cover your paste with plastic wrap and wait for Dye Release

Remember: every henna is different!  Some hennas do well with one mix, others do well with another.  Try things out, and write the results down in a notebook!

Want to know more about henna mixes, what people use and how they use them?  Ask the henna artists on the Henna Page Forum! 

Here are some of the Henna Page Henna Artists' Magic Henna Brews!

Mark Foster: "Brew - Mine is definitely of the sour kind relying on Tamarind to change the PH value. I use: whole cloves, whole black pepper, loose strong tea, coffee, and tamarind.
I never actually measure the ingredients as I use the "by eye method" of cooking. There are more cloves  than anything else, followed by tea then tamarind, coffee, and black pepper.
I cook my mix in an old pressure cooker - I throw in all the ingredients and fill it with water. I secure the lid and then wait until it starts getting hot and whistling with steam. Then I turn off the heat and let it cool, still closed - so the brew slowly cooks without losing much water content. I strain the next day - bottle it and leave out of direct sunlight.
When i mix my henna,. I shake the bottle and then microwave the brew to make it hot. I add the essential oils to the henna and then mix in the hot liquid, so the henna being ready to rock within the time it takes me to go to the studio - About 20 minutes."

Zimra: "I make a brew that I call “henna soup” (no, it’s not soup. Don't eat it. It also doesn't contain henna! I use it as the liquid in my henna paste).
 In a small saucepan, I place a generous handful of dried lime slices, 1/3 cup of black tea leaves, about ¼ cup of whole cloves, several chunks of tamarind (usually about one whole pod), a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds, and several cardamom pods. I bring this to a boil, then reduce the temperature and cook at a low boil for 15-30 minutes (adding more water if needed.) Strain the warm liquid into henna, and refrigerate or freeze any leftovers."

Willowhawk: The hot liquid mix that I add to the henna powder has some base ingredients, but does change a little every time I cook a batch up.
The basics:  2 c. water, 6 black tea bags, dried lime slices (2 limes worth), and some sugar/jaggery.
Those are the "must haves" for me. 
After that, it's 'whatever is in the cupboard'. 
I will add. .. fenugreek to help the elasticity of the henna paste; cloves to perk up the color; cardamom pods for smell; ground frankincense for smell; instant coffee to perk up the color; dried pomegranates to help perk up the color; anything else that I get a whim for.
I bring it all to a boil and then cover the pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes before straining all the liquid.  I also squeeze all the liquid out of the boiled mush ... be careful you can burn yourself.
I pour this into an ice cube tray and freeze it, then store the cubes in a zip lock baggie.  That way I can put 2 cubes in the microwave for 2 minutes before I add that to the henna paste I am making.

All text and images on this page
copyright 2003
all rights reserved
Catherine Cartwright-Jones
The Henna Page

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