I like seeing some of the African or African American ladies who experiment with coloring their hair.
I’ve seen blondes, brunettes, auburns, honeykissed hues, strawberry curls and I’ve often marveled at how well the colors compliment the personalities and natural tones of the person wearing them.
I can’t lie, the color does tend to add some spunk to our kinks, curls and coils!
With the knowledge that natural coloring treatments using henna dye will not damage the hair and can prove to be quite beneficial to a healthy hair regimen, more women are opting to go the henna route rather than commercial coloring agents.
But what if you are like me, a spectator on the fence who admires the color but only want the special benefits of henna like thick shiny hair?
As a conservative kind of natural who is content to forego changing my natural hair color, I set out to find out how I might get the strengthening properties of henna minus the dye and I’ve found it! (Never mind that the product itself continues to elude me even after two attempts at purchasing. A hazard of living in a third world territory means things tend to move at snail’s pace; but that’s a whole other story.
What is Cassia Obovata?
Actually, there are over four hundred species of Cassia, many of which are used in folk remedies or as antibacterial treatments for eczema and also as laxatives.
Cassia is grown in West Africa and India. It was once cultivated for export along the Port Royal Palisadoes strip in Jamaica as well.
Research shows that there are several sub species of the plant which can be distinguished by the size of the flowering buds, in fact the Cassia Obovata that is used to produce the dye we call “neutral henna*” is grown in India, Egypt or Nubia.
The dye itself is extracted from the green powdered leaves of the plant and much resembles henna itself, except, it does not stain the hair or hands.
How Can Cassia Obovata Be of Benefit in Your Hair-Care Regimen?
Cassia Obovata mimics henna to a certain extent in that it acts as an ayurvedic hair conditioning herb. It softens the hair and temporarily loosens the curl pattern to allow increased manageability and silky smooth shinier strands.
While henna adsorbs into the cortex, Cassia* just coats the hair so it is argued that it is neither truly conditioning nor strengthening. However, with proper research, you can add herbs to the mix that can balance the conditioning and strengthening effects.
The anthraquinones in the Cassia Obovata powder are the active ingredients that address scalp issues such as eczema while the cassia leaves a resinous coating on the hair to smooth the cuticles, acting therefore as a moisturizer.
To strengthen your hair the resinous coat from the Cassia mix coats the strands and adsorbs (yes adsorbs) to bulk up the hair, bolstering the strength of the individual strands.
This is great news for those with fine hair and also for us type 4 stranded ladies since our wiry tresses could use the added muscle.
The conditioning and strengthening properties can be further maximized if Amla powder is mixed in with the Cassia Obovata powder, to restore strength and sheen to damaged hair. A Cassia treatment lasts for up to two weeks.
It doesn’t just stop there though. While Cassia does not alter the color of dark hair, when left to sit for about four hours, it releases a slight honey* gold dye that slightly colors blond or grey hair.
So if you are a mature woman who just doesn’t think the bold red tones of a henna dye will suit you, a Cassia treatment might just do the trick.
Choosing Your Cassia
You may decide that you do not have time to mix up the cassia yourself. You can acquire the pre-mixed Cassia but there’s a risk with the pre-mixed stuff because you may not get Cassia Obovata at all, remember there are four hundred different types of Cassia!
It may contain other things such as rhubarb root which contains Chysophanic acid, which boosts the yellowing effect on your hair. It may be more beneficial to make your mix yourself from the pure powdered leaves since it allows you to customize the mix to suit your hair care needs.
Most packets of Cassia Obovata powder come with directions. The USDA grade type specifically has a little label that explains how you can do your mix. You may use a 100g or 200g packet to begin with.
The actual amount of the powder you need will vary depending on the length and thickness of your hair since you will want to ensure that the mix is enough to coat every single strand.
You also want to ensure that you do not use hard water to mix the powder since metals and salts from it can react with the Cassia to turn your hair green, greenish black or dark brown as the salts and metals accumulate on your hair. If in doubt, mix with distilled water.
To test for hard water, test the product on strands taken from your comb or brush. If the hair starts looking green after the rinse, you may want to wash your hair with Rainwash first, to remove the minerals and metals before applying the mix.
1. Pour the contents of the packet into a huge plastic container.
2. Add your warm water and mix with a wooden or plastic spoon or ladle to create a pancake batter or yogurt consistency. (Do not use metal bowls or spoons since cassia may react with elements from metals)
3. You may add honey*, Amla or Chammomile to amplify the moisturizing and conditioning effects of the Cassia*. You may even add essential oils* to mask the natural smell of freshly cut lawn that the Cassia mix gives off.
4. Let the mixture sit for an hour so that the lumps that will form can slowly dissolve.
5. If you wish to prepare it to release the subtle color for your faded or graying hair then substitute the water for lemon or orange juice and let it sit for twelve hours.
1. Apply heaping handfuls of the mix into your hair and smooth it on from root to ends.
2. Once your hair is covered in Cassia wrap it up with saran wrap or cover with a plastic cap for one hour.
3. Rinse with a conditioner or a sulfate free shampoo*. You hair should feel heavy and silky smooth.
4. If you want the subtle golden color for your grays, leave in for up to three hours before rinsing with a conditioner or washing with the sulfate-free shampoo.
So, now you can add an all natural conditioning treatment to your regimen and forgo the color process. Go ahead, try it. Unsure about where to get some? Amazon and Mehandi are online suppliers but some Asian grocery stores in your local area may also carry Cassia.
I am so close to trying this myself (since my order should be arriving any day now). As soon as I do, I will share my results with you but in the meantime, I would be delighted to hear about yours.