Today’s shampoo is an artificially flavoured, thick viscous liquid with tonnes of difficult-to-pronounce-chemicals, meant to cleanse and nurture your hair. This form of shampoo is something everyone, even in third-world countries are accustomed to. It varies from large bottles with said flavours and benefits, on the high shelves of malls to the long strings of small sachets hanging along with the lay’s chips packets. These form an important part of the current generation’s hygiene routine and again varies based on hair types, hair problems and choices of the individual. It has its pros and cons, alright. Shampoo along with giving a cheap keratin treatment, gives free cancer, kidney and liver problems, hair and scalp problems, skin problems, asthma and what not. But people continue to use it because of the instantaneous shine and smooth hair that the numerous chemicals provide along with the long term, probably negligible health problems.
But something not everyone knows is that shampoo was in fact originated in India, and is derived from the word, ‘ champo’ in Hindi, meaning to massage. Traditionally, a shampoo is made by boiling saponin-rich soapberries or soapnuts with various herbs and fruits to get a lathery liquid that is used to rinse the hair along with various health benefits. This has been exploited by the industries and alternated with harmful chemicals to counter the high cost of using natural ingredients. Therefore, rinsing your already brittle hair with a fragrant mixture of Diethanolamine (DEA), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate(SLS), DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea and whatnot, can be less appealing indeed. Not to forget the number of dolphins and whales they are killing in the name of lustrous hair.
Now, the cosmetic industry cannot be closed overnight. But something we can do is to substitute the chemical-based Shampoo with the traditional plant-based ones, with actual health benefits and of course, happy dolphins. So, here are a set of homemade shampoos my grandmother had been using during her prime days.
Wild Mussaenda shampoo
The wild mussaenda or Bellante-gida ( Mussaenda frondosa ) is a beautiful shrub that can be easily identified with its white bracts and golden orange flowers. Its peculiar appearance also relates it to a riddle which states: ‘ A black mother, with a white daughter, whose daughter is a golden parrot.’ This shrub grows in shady moist places It is a medicinal plant with cooling and anti bacterial properties.
To prepare shampoo from the wild Mussaenda, the leaves or the green leaves are used. ( The white bracts are not used). The leaves are plucked and squeezed in some water to release all its slimy juices. If used with shikakai, the leaves are boiled with the shikakai pods with a cup of water and boiled till its reduced to half. The mixture is cooled down and squished to get a slimy mixture. This is applied on the scalp and along the hair strands and rinsed out. The use of Mussaenda nourishes and gives a smooth, shiny and clean hair.
Other medicinal uses of Mussaenda:
- To treat insomnia : The green leaves of Mussaenda is wilted on direct flame and squished in water to get a slimy liquid. Prior to this, pure cow’s ghee is applied on the scalp for an hour. The slimy liquid is used to rinse out the ghee thoroughly as a shampoo. This helps in getting a heavy and easy sleep.
- To treat jaundice: The white bracts of Mussaenda ( 25 g ) along with 2 pinches of cumin seeds and half a cup of fresh foamy cow’s milk ( the fresh raw milk that is milked is foamy, this is strained and used) is grinded to paste and consumed on an empty stomach, every morning for a week. This medicine is accompanied by poridge or ganji with homemade buttermilk. This is also effective against yellow eyes and nails, fever, stomach ache and tastelessness.
Hibiscus is a large variety of flowering plant in the Malvaceae family which has a cultural and medicinal significance of its own. There are number of varieties, but the the ones used for medicine are the indegenous varities like the red hibiscus and the cream coloured hibiscus. Both having a significant difference in usage. The red hibiscus flower is used in preparation of hair oil. While, the cream coloured hibiscus leaves are used as shampoo. The leaves of the cream hibiscus is squished in some water to obtain a slimey mixture which is applied on the well oiled scalp and along the strands of hair and then rinsed out. By doing this twice a week, it improves the health and the volume of hair and also is good for the eyes, ears and throat because of its cooling properties.
Other medicinal uses of cream coloured hibiscus:
- To treat heavy white discharge in women: The leaves of the cream coloured hibiscus is squished to release the slimey liquid which is mixed with kallu sakkare or mishti and cumin seeds and had every morning in an empty stomach.
- To treat blood urination in calves: The flowers or the leaves are directly fed to the calves to reduce blood urination.
Sadly, the hybrids because of their ornamental values are replacing the original indegenious variety of hibiscus. Remeber that only the indegenious ones are used in folk medicine. We need to conserve the indegenious varities.
Sessilis Joyweed shampoo
The sessilis joyweed or Alternanthera sessilis is an aquatic plant that grows in shady moist areas. Locally known as Honagane soppu or kaadige soppu, it is a medicinal plant that has many health benefits. It is also a key ingredient in homemade plant-based kajal for healthy eyes and thicker eyelashes. As a shampoo, the joyweed leaves with half its amount of cream coloured hibiscus leaves is made into a paste and applied on the scalp and along the lengths of the hair. It is left for an hour and then rinsed off. Use it 2-3 times a week and see the results in a couple of months. It decreases hairfall, dandruff, splitends, white hairs and increases volume.
Other medicinal uses of sessilis joyweed:
- For skin problems ( like dark spots and cracking of feet and hands): Make a paste out of coconut milk and the joyweed leaves. Apply this on the affected area. It improves the glow of the skin and moisturises it.
- Traditionally it is really good for the eyesight, thus sabzi is also prepared from the very same.
Shampoo from the barks of Actinodaphne malabarica and Grewia serrulata:
Shampoo is also made from either the barks of Actinodaphne malabarica or Grewia serrulata. The bark of which is boiled with shikakai and soapnut (Optional). The obtained liquid is strained and applied on the scalp and along the lengths of the hair. The trees are medicinal and help to blacken the hair and lengthen them. The use of shikakai can be a little irritating to the eyes but does not have any harsh reactions. If you’ve oiled your hair too much, then you can simply boil soapnut and mix it with the herbs mentioned.
And always remember to wash your hair in cold water. Something my Keralite roomates would have a heartattack over is when you’ll be pouring buckets of hot water on your head. The hot water will not only relax your muscles but also relax your hair roots. And thus, the inevitable, hairfall. Woman in Kerala make it a habit of bathing in cold water right from a young age. Thus, the beauties are known for thick and black healthy hair.