ART OF MEHNDI
Here is my favorite recipe. My recipe is not the only one and it mayor may not
be the best, but through much research and experimentation I have found a mixture
that works wonderfully The most important ingredient no
matter what your recipe, is good quality henna. It should be fresh and green; the brighter the green the fresher the henna. And, to avoid clogs, your henna should be finely sifted; the powder should be the consistency of talcum powder. My recipe is essentially a Moroccan one, taught to me by a neqasha in the old section of Rabat, Morocco, and it is as follows:
Moroccan Henna Paste
fresh, green, finely sifted henna
1/2 cup lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons of whole cloves
In a saucepan, heat the lemon juice and cloves over a low heat. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the lemon juice through a coffee filter. In a ceramic bowl, put a few tablespoons of henna powder and add to it a teaspoon or two of the warm lemon juice mixture and a teaspoon of sugar. (the proportions should be roughly one part henna powder, 2 parts liquid and 1/2 part sugar) Mix this well until it forms a paste. Continue adding a little liquid at a time and mix it in completely, until you get the consistency you want. Some say the consistency of toothpaste is best but it is better to err on the side of too thick - you can always add more liquid later. At this point I suggest straining the paste to get rid of any lumps that form from the mixing of dry and wet ingredients. I prefer to strain it through a knee-hi stocking. I first put a plastic sandwich bag over the opening in a drinking glass, just to hold it upright. Then I put the stocking over the glass in the same way so that the toe of the stocking hangs down into the sandwich bag. I then scrape the henna out of the bowl and into the stocking which is being held open by the glass. Once it is all in, I pull the sandwich bag off the glass along with the stocking and using the bag to keep the henna off my hands, I pull and squeeze the henna down through the stocking and into the bag while pulling the stocking out of the bag (like milking a cow very strongly). I repeat this to make sure I get everything out. Then I squeeze the bag to get all the paste down to one corner of the bag and tie the open part of the bag off with a twist-tie,snip off the corner and squeeze the paste into my bottles.
Make sure to use lemon juice (or lime, and I have even had good results with vinegar) because the acidity of it changes the pH of the paste, causing a chemical reaction with the natural dye in the henna (hennatannins) and makes it darker. I don't suggest you use water (unless you are in a very hot climate without air conditioning) because it doesn't have the same darkening effect as an acidic liquid. Sugar is added to change the texture of the henna; it makes the paste smoother and makes it flow a little better. It also makes the henna paste dry more slowly which will keep it from cracking and flaking off. In Morocco, rose water or orange blossom water is added to the paste, but only for bridal henna. This give the paste a wonderful aroma. I also suggest adding a little bit of oil (olive oil or something similar) to the paste; this makes the paste more slippery allowing it to flow much more smoothly. There are many who use other ingredients to darken the stain of their henna. The base of these liquids is usually tea to which a variety of herbs and spices is added, including fenugreek, black mustard seeds, black walnut extract, saffron, pomegranate juice etc. I have not found any difference when using these ingredients but you can do your own experiments to see what works best for you. Some suggest using coffee in your henna paste. I have tried this and I must warn you the caffeine WILL get into your body through your skin, so if you are sensitive or allergic leave out the coffee and tea, or just do your designs early in the day. If you really want to you can use decaf tea and coffee. I have never noticed a difference in the color of the stain when using tea or coffee; just think of that last time you spilled coffee or tea on your skin and it left a stain.
There are some essential oils which may make a difference in the color, among them eucalyptus, pine, camphor and tea tree oil...add a few drops to your paste, but be careful because some people with sensitive skin may have a negative reaction to this oil. Again, do some side-by-side experiments with these ingredients to see what works best for you.
If you do want a darker stain, there are a few methods you can try. One method is to use camphor in your paste. This is usually camphor spirits(beware of the fumes, they can be pretty smelly) or camphor essential oil. Just a few drops in your paste will do the trick. The stain will come out darker but the drawback is that it usually doesn't last as long. Ammonia (common household variety) can be used after the paste is removed, but ONLY on the hands and feet - it is far too harsh for other areas of the body. As soon as you scrape the paste off, dip your hands or feet into ammonia for about 5 minutes. This speeds up the oxidation process of the henna dye causing it to darker quickly and deeply. Another important aspect of henna paste-making is the time needed to achieve dye release; when the dye releases it is at its maximum staining power. This varies for different kinds of henna, but it can also vary from season to season. Moroccan henna usually releases its dye very quickly so you can use it right away; other hennas take longer (12-24 hours) so they must be mixed up the night before. There are several ways to test for dye release. One way is to mix your henna up in a bowl and leave the bowl in a warm place. When the surface of the paste starts to turn brownish, the dye is releasing and can be used. Another method is to put your paste in a plastic bag and lay it down on a piece of paper towel. When the dye releases it will pass through the plastic and begin to stain the paper towel. The last method I know of is to mix your paste up and test it on the palm of your hand; make a little dot, leave it on for 30 seconds and then wash it off. If there is any kind of stain it means the dye has released and you can use the paste. The only problem with this method is that you have to keep testing the paste which can become tiresome if the dye releasetakes many hours to achieve. Find a method that works for you and stick with it.