The next herb in our ayurvedic series is Shikakai. Shikakai, also known as acacia concinna or “fruit for hair”, comes from a shrub-like tree that grows in central and south India. The fruit pods, bark, and leaves are ground into a powder and then made into a paste to be used as a shampoo. This all-natural shampoo has been traditionally used by women in India and has become more popular in the natural hair community. Not only does this low-foaming shampoo gently cleanse, it is rich in nutrients and contains vitamin A, C, D, and antioxidants. Women who use shikakai have doted on its benefits such as added shine and softness, thicker hair, ease in detangling, anti-fungal properties including fighting off dandruff and lice, and soothing skin ailments such as eczema and psoriasis.
Does science match up to these claims?
In one detailed investigation on shikakai, they observed the presence of saponins (compounds that contain antibacterial properties and make products foam) in the pods of this plant. Another study confirmed the use of shikakai as a naturally occurring surfactant (detergent) because it contains about 10% saponins found in the acacia acid in the shikakai pods. The study recommended the use of shikakai as an inexpensive, eco-friendly alternative for harsh solvents. The study also revealed that the cinnamic acids found in shikakai contain antioxidants, hepatoprotection (prevents damage to the liver), all natural insect repellent, etc. Another report examined the use of shikakai fruit's antibacterial properties, the results were amazing. Shikakai could inhibit E. coli and gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial strains (like lice) and anthelmintic (destroys parasitic worms). Shikakai also helps soothe and heal many forms of atopic dermatitis that are formed from gram-positive or negative bacteria.
How to use Shikakai
2-3 tbsp shikakai powder
2-3 tablespoons water or herbal tea
Mix powders and water into a paste and let sit for a minimum of two hours (24 hour if possible). Apply to hair and massage the paste through the hair and scalp. Let sit for 30 minutes and rinse. Add conditioner or oil to assist in the rinse out process
1 tbsp shikakai powder to
½ cup oil (avocado, almond or coconut)
Combine the ingredients in a container and let set for 2-3 weeks. Set in in the sun and shake at least once a week. Use the oil as a hot oil treatment or oil your scalp 2x a week.
How have you used shikakai in your regimen?