benefits of shikakai

Acacia concinna is a shrub native to Asia.  It is widely and traditionally used in India for hair care. It is used in different forms separately and also with other ingredients for hair and skin care. The leaf and fruit provide varied health benefits by appropriate usage. The benefits include cure for jaundice, nose disorders, constipation and fever.

However shikakai is popular for its use for preparation of hair care products. Shikakai is the fruit of the plant. It tastes bitter and when inhaled or smelt, it causes sneezing

The main content in shikakai is alkaloids. In addition to that it contains acids namely ascorbic, citric, and tartaric and oxalic acids.  Besides alkaloids and acids it has vitamins A, C, D, K and some anti-oxidants.

Benefits of Shikakai for hair

For many centuries humans have been using shikakai products for cleaning the hair and skin. Some of the important benefits of shikakai for hair are discussed here.

  1. Prevents and cures dandruff: Anti-oxidants present in these pods with their anti-fungal properties nourish the scalp. It also prevents dryness and itching in the scalp and ultimately prevents formation of dandruff. Besides preventing it has the potential to cure dandruff completely.
  2. Softens the hair: When the powder of shikakai is used as bath shampoo, it not only strengthens the scalp but also nourishes the hair and make the hair soft and shining. Because of the low pH levels, it maintains the pH balance of the hair too.
  3. Eradicates hair lice: Due to its extremely bitter taste shikakai completely eradicates the lice in the hair particularly in school going children who are more prone to hair lice growth. Being a hair cleanser, it prevents formation of lice too.
  4. Cures damage or cut in the scalp: Since it cools and smoothens the scalp, any small wound or cut caused by combing or by usage of other hair binding objects are cured.
  5. Due to its softening property, it detangles the hair by removing the curls and straightening the hair.
  6. It strengthens the scalp and hair roots thereby preventing hair fall and greying of the hair.
  7. Treatment of hair with chemical shampoo makes the hair dry and split at the ends. But use of shikakai shampoo, on the contrary moisturizes the hair, softens, strengthens and prevent hair split totally.

For hair care

Shikakai has been in use for hair conditioning for centuries by Indian men and women alike. The ripe fruit is well dried under sunlight and made into a fine powder. The powder is used as bath powder particularly for oil bath. The powder functions like shampoo and de-oil and clean the hair besides strengthening the scalp and hair root.

Simply boiling its powder with 50 parts water and used to wash the hair removes dandruff and facilitate excellent hair growth. But in modern times it is used as the main ingredient added to some reetha and amla (Indian gooseberry) to prepare shampoo.

Preparation of shikakai shampoo at home

Dried pods of Shikakai with a small quantity of reetha and amla is soaked in pure water and left over-night. Thereafter when the pods softens, it is boiled and the liquid extracted and used as natural shampoo. Some add neem leaves and fenugreek powder also along with amla to prepare the shampoo.  The shampoo thus prepared do not produce as much lather as a sulphite containing shampoo sold in stores but is sure to better results in conditioning the hair and its roots.

If one is unable to prepare shampoo, shikakai powder can be just added to the shampoo bought from the market which will also serve the purpose. However the side effects of the chemicals in the shampoo may not be fully neutralized.

Shikakai based soap and oil can be easily prepared even though they are readily available in the market.

How to prepare shikakai oil at home

Shikakai oil is prepared by mixing the powder with coconut or avocado or basil oil. Keep the mixture for a few weeks, intermittently, shaking to enable the oil and powder to blend. The mixture is then applied before bath and then the hair is cleaned with shampoo.

An oil made with coconut oil and this amazing herb is very helpful in hair growth. This oil is prepared by mixing shikakai powder with coconut oil and allowing the infusion to take place for two weeks before actual use.

Shikakai hair pack

A hair pack is also prepared and used to cleanse the oily hair, to remove dandruff and to prevent hair split. Its powder can be mixed with curd, egg or honey for washing the hair which provide better results.

The important benefit of  powder or other products with shikakai is that there are no side effects when compared to other types of shampoo.

Shikakai paste and shampoos are available in the stores all-round the year. When there is no access to raw shikakai or the powder, these readymade shampoos might be helpful.

Kripa Sivasubramanian, MBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. After a long stint in the Technology sector, she took up courses in natural medicine and yoga. Ms. Kripa is certified in Ayurvedic yoga for Dosha. She is also certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.