Shikakai: a herb that we all love to hate. A herb that reminds both of having our hair washed by our mother and grandmother, and of eyes stinging during the process. But also paradoxically, we associate Shikakai not just with painful childhood memories, but also having the hair of our childhood: thick, long, dark, and strong. A time when it was impossible to manage our hair because it was so voluminous and so long!
Shikakai is referred to as “the hair fruit” in India, and the Shikakai pod has been used as a biological surfactant to cleanse hair and skin for thousands of years in India. The Shikakai pod along with the Reetha pericarp, (Soapberry fruit) have together been the only cleansers India used to clean the laundry, dishes and our hair.
Because of the relatively low level of surfactants in both these soapy herbs, the skin and hair is always protected from excessive stripping of natural oils, breakage of hair and destruction of the acid mantle. Both these herbs also have a naturally mildly acidic pH which again makes them both ideal cleansers to used on human skin and hair.
Shikakai in Ayurveda:
Ayurvedic texts like the Raj Nighantu classify Acacia concinna as laghu (light), tikta (bitter) and kasaya (astringent). It cures vitiated kapha and pitta dosha, which is why it works so well across Krya’s anti dandruff products like the Krya anti dandruff hair wash and the Krya Anti dandruff hair mask. It also cures leprosy and other skin diseases so it is classified as a “Kushta” herb and also heals oedema due to wounds which is why it is classified as a vrana-sopha herb.
In folk medicine, Shikakai’s analgesic, anti bacterial, insect repellent and wound healing properties are very effectively utilised. For non specific pain in the leg, hips and joints, Shikakai is sprinkled on the affected area after a hot castor oil massage and then wiped away, providing great relief to the aching area.
Shikakai is also very well employed in traditional medicine as an oral rinse to help cure halitosis, dental caries, mouth ulcers and gum bleeding. Its kasaya (astringent) properties helps reduce oral inflammations, stops excessive bleeding and also helps flush out oral pathogens.
Shikakai is also very well used to fight any manner of skin infection. The Shikakai is used as a tincture / infusion to bathe and frequently wash stubborn skin infections which accumulate pus and clear exudates like psoriasis, skin rashes etc. Here the herb’s cleansing and inflammation reducing properties are used.
Shikakai in Krya:
Krya uses Shikakai across our range of hair cleansing products to help effectively clean dirt and grease from hair without altering its structure and damaging it. In fact, the use of Shikakai in our hair cleanser formulations helps us delver hair cleansing that is both effective yet gentle on hair. The consistent use of this herb also helps improve hair volume and texture.
Shikakai is also a key ingredient in Krya’s anti dandruff hair wash and hair mask. Our Anti dandruff products are able to work on even very long term and chronic cases of dandruff within a short period of time and this is due to the powerful herbs we use like Shikakai. Shikakai is used by Krya in the anti dandruff range for its unique ability to cleanse without irritating the scalp – this is extremely important when dealing with chronic dandruff because we always see small lesions and wounds on the scalp which have formed due to the inherent itchiness because of this condition.
Krya also has a range of “Sensitive” skin products. These products are recommended for chronic skin issues like contact dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema, and requests for these products are constantly on the rise. Many of these skin conditions do not have an exact causative factor in allopathy and are usually managed with the use of topical steroids (both ingested and applied locally). Stopping these products even for a day triggers the condition and it is extremely difficult to live with.
Switching from a synthetic soap (even those recommended for these skin conditions) and using one of the Krya sensitive skin products along with the oil recommended, usually gives people an almost immediate relief from these conditions.
Shikakai helps these conditions through the action we explained above: Its kashaya (astringent) nature shrinks the thickened growth and brings down inflammation. Because of its tikta (bitter) nature, it is ideally suited to tackle both vitiated pitta and vitiated kapha, so it stops the redness and itching associated with pitta and the skin thickening and expanding nature of kapha vitiated skin diseases.
To sum up:
So there you have it: So there you have it: that’s a brief glimpse into the properties of Acacia concinna / Shikakai which goes into Krya’s hair care products and certain specialised skin care products. As we have said before, Ayurvedic herbs are potent and strong, and must always be tailor made using the right anupana to suit your constitution. Do not attempt to self medicate. If you feel internal consumption of Shikakai could help you, please meet an Ayurvedic Vaidya who can diagnose your condition and prescribe Shikakai in the right dose and right format for you.
We do herb related posts at Krya to give you a glimpse into just how potent, powerful and good for us the plants used in Ayurveda are. We hope you found this post inspiring and useful. Do leave your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you would like us to write about a specific herb next Thursday, do leave that in your comments as well.