Mehndi, or Lawsonia inermis, is an ancient tropical plant that renders a reddish brown ink when the leaves are dried and pressed. Also known as henna, this dye has a cooling effect on the skin and can be easily removed. Used for centuries to condition and dye hair, this chemical-free coloring is traditionally used as a nonpermanent tattoo ink. Mehndi is an important component in Middle Eastern ceremonies.
Historically, the tradition of using the mehndi plant as a cosmetic originated around 5,000 years ago in North Africa and in the Middle East. According to About.com, the Mughals were responsible for bringing mehndi to India in the 15th century AD. Mehndi is used to inscribe beautiful and intricate designs on the hands and feet of the Middle Eastern bride.
Mehndi is often applied in sophisticated, complex patterns and elaborate designs during religious ceremonies, such as Hindu weddings — often by the bride's mother. Traditionally, the bride and bridal party's hands and feet are adorned with the ink. In the Western hemisphere, mehndi is most popular as a temporary tattoo alternative and an organic hair dye. Mehndi is often preferred among those who practice organic lifestyles due to its natural origin and temporary properties.