Shikakai has been used for hair cleansing in India for centuries. The word ‘shikakai’ means “fruit for hair” and is a traditional variety of shampoo. Shikakai acts as an natural astringent for hair enhancing as it consists binding properties. It clears dandruff and cleans the dirt accumulated on the scalp. Being a natural conditioner for hair, it strengthens hair roots and promotes luxuriant growth. The powder/the extract has certain vital properties that act as coolants for the scalp. This powder has to be mixed with water and used as a paste on the hair instead of shampoo.
Shikakai is a prickly, scandent shrub, growing in tropical jungles shrub throughout India, particularly in Deccan. The scientific name/Latin name of shikakai is Acacia concinna. It belongs to the Leguminosae family.
The leaves of this woody plant are bipinnate. It has yellow flowers with anxillary heads. The pods are brown, wrinkled and notched when dry. There are 6 to 10 seeds in a pod usually. These days it is commercially cultivated in India and Far East Asia.
- Actually the bark of shikakai is high on saponins – chemical compound; these act as foaming agents. Therefore shikakai is such a good cleaning agent and hence has been traditionally used as a detergent. Owing to the presence of this chemical compound shikakai is used in Bengal for poisoning fish and are documented to be potent marine toxins.
- The leaves because of the presence of oxalic, tartaric, citric, succinic and ascorbic acids, as well as two alkaloids, calyctomine and nicotine, taste acidic and are used in chutneys. Apart from this the leaves are also used as an infusion in anti-dandruff preparations.
- Extracts of the ground pods have been used for various skin diseases.
- An extract of the shikakai leaves is used to cure malarial fever.
- A decoction of the pods relieves biliousness and acts as a purgative.