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Herbal Shikakai is a chemical-free cleanser for the hair
Herbal Shikakai is a chemical-free cleanser for the hair

The secret to beautiful hair may lie in the organic shikakai

It's a strange paradox, but for years we have hung on to various branded shampoos, turning up our noses at the shikakai and ritha ( Sapindus trifoliatus) that was used by our grandmothers to wash their hair.

Herbal soaps which were made from natural fruit and nuts of various trees were considered old fashioned and tedious and the fancily packaged ones, no matter the price, have been purchased resolutely by everyone of this age.

Advertising has played a powerful role in this buying behaviour. Beautiful celebrities promising thick and lustrous tresses, just with the use of a bubbly shampoo seemed to have worked well.

One wakes up to the grim reality only when one notices hair fall, no matter whatever bottled shampoo one uses, including the most expensive imported brands.

That is when desire to go back to natural remedies arises. “Many of my hostel mates and I have been facing consistent hair loss, no matter what shampoo we use. We have decided to go back to the traditional ritha and shikakai which is used in the village back home, the smell of which we hated,” says Surabhi Menon a young undergrad student from Kerala.

Natural remedies

Ritha or soap nut powder makes a foamy lather when used with water on the hair. And, it makes for a a chemical-free cleanser for the hair. “My grandmother always used ritha to keep our hair free from dandruff, prevent infestation of lice and keep the hair tangle-free, so that there was no need for a conditioner,” says Surabhi. The dried and powdered skin of ritha can be used to scrub utensils and dishes too. So, even if your help in the house leaves a residual film on your plates after washing them, ingesting the nut is far less harmful than ingesting the chemical detergents we use.

“A couple of decades ago ‘Shikakai', which means ‘fruit for hair', was popular in South India and used with ritha as a herbal rejuvenation pack for the hair. Beauticians recommended it saying it prevented premature greying of hair. Shikakai also contains a high concentration of Vitamin C, besides antioxidants such as vitamins A, D, E and K that promote healthy hair growth,” says Janet Castelino who runs a chain of beauty salons in the city.

What makes the use of soap nut and shikakai instead of chemical detergents and shampoos doubly useful is, the grey waste water can be used directly to water your plants and lawn.

There are no harmful chemicals released in the water and so the organic waste water can be used to water plants and outdoor areas, once filtered.

With no added perfumes these totally organic soaps do not contaminate the water and so waste water processing is not required.

It's a reversal to organic shampoos and detergents traditionally used in our homes over centuries that is working wonders.

With organic being the buzz word today, these natural soaps will keep us healthy and prevent the harmful side effects of chemical based products.

MARIANNE DE NAZARETH

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