Shikakai powder is made with plant products from a climbing shrub scientifically known as Acacia concinna. This plant is found in Asia, mostly in Central and Southern India. It is a traditional home remedy and is still widely used in many areas. Owing to its medicinal and Ayurvedic importance, this power is used in toiletries, medicines and cosmetics. The plant extracts contain natural sugars like glucose, arabinose and rhamnose and acids like oxalic acid, citric acid, ascorbic acid and tartaric acid. To create this powder, the leaves, fruit pods and bark are crushed, dried and ground and then made into a thick paste.
The plant has brown smooth stripes with short, broad-based and flattened thorns. It has leaf stalks which are 1-1.5 cm long with 2 pinnae each. Every pinnae consist of 12-18 pairs of leaflets, which are oblong-shaped in appearance and 3-10 mm long. The stalk carrying the cluster is 1-2.5 cm long. Flower heads are about 1 cm in diameter when mature. Flowers are pink and pods are thick, stalked and 8 cm long and 1.5-1.8 cm wide.
It is essentially known as “hair fruit” because of its effects on the hair and scalp. Although it is famous for its qualities of hair improvement, it also imparts positive effects on skin, teeth, blood sugar etc. It is used widely as shampoo in South India, which is one of the reasons for the South Indian population to have beautiful and long hair.
Benefits and uses of Shikakai powder
Shikakai is known for its healing qualities. Some of its benefits are-
- Softens hair: It being a natural element, shikakai prevents causing chemical damage to your hair. Chemicals strip your hair of nutrients and protein making it rough. Shikakai helps restore these nutrients and moisture to soften it.
- Prevents dandruff: Using its antibacterial, antifungal and hydrating properties, Shikakai prevents drying and flaking of your scalp. This prevents the formation and growth of dandruff. This prevents hair from being flaky and dirty as well.
- Prevents hair fall: The natural elements in Shikakai help strengthen hair roots and stimulate hair follicles. This prevents existing hair and promotes hair regrowth. It reduces brittleness, dryness and split ends which are the main cause for hair fall.
- Heals scalp wounds: The healing elements in shikakai activate Vitamin C, which helps in the healing of wounds and clotting of blood. Ground Shikakai paste provides relief in case of minor cuts and bruises.
- Increases hair length: Shikakai powder has elements that stimulate and activate hair follicles to produce new hair cells rapidly. This helps in fastening hair growth to achieve a longer length of hair. This magical ingredient is the secret to achieving long hair quickly.
- Keeps hair colour and dye intact: This powder and paste works wonders with darker toned hair by keeping dye and colour intact. It prevents greying of hair and fading of dyes for a longer time. This gives your hair life and keeps it younger looking.
- Keeps hair free of hair lice: Shikakai is known for its medicinal, antifungal and antibacterial properties. These properties keep lice away. Lice can travel easily from one person to another and can cause major discrepancies in daily activities. Using this powder, lice can be kept at bay.
- Keeps hair tangle-free: Knots and tangles are a menacing issue to many and may also cause hair breakage and fall. When washing your hair with this paste, it softens and smoothens your hair to gently get rid of knots without damaging the hair.
- Soothes headaches and relieves stress: Shikakai has a cooling effect and is used for massages, medicinal balms etc. When applied to the head, it relieves stress and calms a person down. It also provides a relaxing effect and gets rid of headaches by stimulating the cells of the brain and the scalp.
- Treats leprosy: When applied to the affected areas, shikakai fruit pods are effective in treating leprosy.
- Eatables: Shikakai leaves have an acidic taste and are used to make chutneys.
- Gum diseases: The paste is useful in treating gum disorders and keeping your gums healthy and free of sensitivity.
- Skin defects: Shikakai pods can be soaked in water and then used to clean the skin. It helps keep skin free of ageing signs like wrinkles, spots and dark lines. It also makes skin softer and free of dark spots. It makes the skin healthier and clear of marks.
- Treating diseases: Shikakai helps cure fatal diseases like leprosy, malaria, jaundice and black fever. It is a very useful remedy as it is cheap, effective and widely available.
- Washing clothes: A concoction of shikakai and reetha nut water is considered an excellent homemade detergent. It is very useful in washing delicate materials like cashmere and lace. It also helps remove tough stains from clothes. It is used to wash and launder garments made of materials like silk and nylon.
- Mouth freshener: Shikakai makes for an excellent mouth freshener as it repels a bad smell. It also reduces germ build-up and plaque on teeth surfaces. It relieves the mouth of ulcers, boils, pain and infection and prevents tooth degradation.
- Digestive System: Helps in curing stomach ache and improves digestion. It prevents constipation and facilitates easy excretion of urine and excreta.
- Cholesterol and Blood sugar: Shikakai helps reduce harmful cholesterol levels in the body.It also helps keep blood sugar in control without letting it rise or fall beyond average.
- Insect Repellant: It is used to constitute mosquito repellants and larvaicide because of its antibacterial properties.
- Contraceptives: It has the spermicidal effect and thus it can be used as a contraceptive during unwanted pregnancies.
- Metal Cleaner: Shikakai is used to clean metals like gold and silver. It imparts shine, prevents dullness and tarnishing.
- Frizz Tamer: Shikakai works wonders with dry and frizzy hair. It smoothens, moisturizes and tames stray hair strands. This helps reduce frizziness.
- Cheaper Alternative to Shampoo: This powder is easily available in markets for a very low price. It is also organic, so it causes less harm than shampoo does. The effect after washing lasts longer too, so less quantity is used up.
- Treats scabies: A body wash made of turmeric and shikakai along with neem oil is effective in treating ailments like scabies. Even a combination of shikakai and eucalyptus oil can be used.
- Dry Skin Moisturizer: With its nourishing and hydrating qualities, shikakai acts as an organic and natural moisturizer and imparts moisture to dry skin.
Home remedies based on Shikakai powder
Shikakai can be used to treat all these defects and ailments in various forms. Some of the forms in which it can be used are-
- Soak Shikakai pods, reetha nut and amla and let it rest overnight.
- In the morning, boil the water and let it cool.
- Mash the pods and filter the water out.
- Use that water to wash your hair.
- Add one table-spoon shikakai powder to half a cup coconut oil, almond oil or olive oil.
- Mix and let rest.
- Use 2-3 times a week.
Shikakai Body Wash
- Mix one tablespoon powder with one cup rice water and 2 drops of essential oils like tea tree oil or lavender oil.
- Use this mixture as a bodywash for healthy and glowing skin.
Shikakai Face Pack
- Mix some powder with one tablespoon lemon juice.
- Add 2 tablespoons of honey and a few drops of tea tree oil.
- Mix well till a paste is formed and use as a face pack.
- Wash after 30-35 minutes.
Shikakai Hair Oil for Hair Growth
- Mix one tablespoon ground shikakai powder with one tablespoon coconut oil and heat.
- In another bowl, mix quarter tablespoon castor oil and quarter tablespoon olive oil.
- Mix these 2 mixtures together and let cool.
- Apply overnight and wash in the morning.
Home Made medicine
- Take 2 teaspoons of shikakai powder and mix half a teaspoon turmeric powder.
- Add a few drops of neem oil and eucalyptus oil.
- Apply this to minor cuts, scabies, boils and rashes.
- Mix one tablespoon of the powder with half a tablespoon lemon juice and half tablespoon honey.
- Add this mixture to 3 tablespoons fresh cream.
- Add a pinch of turmeric and mix well.
- Apply this to the spots, keep for 30 minutes and then wash off.
Are there any known side effects?
- Shikakai can cause asthma and respiratory disorders.
- It can cause gas and bloating. It is also known to cause acidity sometimes.
- It can cause nausea and loose stools.
- In some cases, it can cause drying of the skin.
- Constant application may lead to an oily scalp.
Are there any precautions/health risks to use it?
- Shikakai is a known spermicidal agent and might hamper the development of the fetus during pregnancy.
- If an excess amount is used or consumed (more than 30gm per day), it could cause the above-listed side effects.
- The seeds must always be removed before using it as they can cause poisoning.
Is it safe to use if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
- External use, like shampoos and soaps, is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Consumption of shikakai could be harmful as it has a contraceptive effect.
- There is not much information on this topic, but pregnant and breastfeeding women must be cautious while using it.
Is it safe to use for children?
Yes, Shikakai is safe to use on children. However, it must be used in moderated amounts and diluted form. For infants, the permission of a clinical practitioner is essential.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is shikakai water a better option than commercial shampoos?
Answer- Yes, it is cheaper and organic. Thus it causes less harm to the natural hair cells. Shampoo causes more damage to your hair because of the chemicals present in them.
Which parts of the shikakai plant can be used?
Answer- All the parts of the plant above the ground, except the seeds can be used. The seeds can be poisonous and must be discarded before using the plant produce. The fruit pods, leaves and bark can be used.
Can only shikakai be used to wash and condition hair?
Answer- Yes! Shikakai is good for cleaning, nourishing and hydrating hair. Thus it can be used as a shampoo, conditioner and also as an oil.
Is shikakai hard to find it local markets?
Answer- In India, shikakai is found very easily in its habitat and so, it’s easy to find in Indian markets. If you want to purchase it in the North of India or outside India, it will be available online or in pharmacies and home ingredient stores.
Does Shikakai cause oiliness if used daily?
Answer- No, it does not. However, if you already have an oily scalp or oily skin and you use this too often, it may make your face feel oilier.
Can Shikakai powder be made at home?
Answer- Yes. Shikakai plants can be grown at home with warmer weather and a careful watch. The parts of this plant can be dried and ground to make the powder. If mixed with water or other liquids, the paste can be made too!
Is Shikakai the same as henna?
Answer- No, they are 2 completely different plants. Henna plants are scientifically known as Lawsonia inermis , while Shikakai is scientifically known as Acacia concinna.
Does it work effectively after one use?
Answer- You probably will not see the desired amount of change in just one use. You will definitely see a visible change after one wash, but it may take 3-4 or more washes to achieve the desired change.
Is shikakai effective if the hair wash does not froth?
Answer- Yes, shikakai hair washes and shampoos usually do not froth. This does not mean it’s not working. It works without frothing and fizzing. Froth has no relation to the actual cleaning.
How long does it take for shikakai to completely stop hair fall?
Answer- If you use it about twice a week, hair fall should completely stop after 2-2.5 months.
Can it be infused into body cream?
Answer- Yes, but the cream should be washed off within 24 hours to prevent skin from looking oily.