Homes and gardens

Nature's hair conditioner with no side effects

The arappu powder  

A few years ago, a friend handed me a packet of a bright green powder and said, “Just try washing your hair with this and you will not try anything else.”

The leaves from the usilai maram

The leaves from the usilai maram  

Since then on I have been completely sold on the arappu powder made by grinding the dried leaves of the local drought-resistant Albizia amara (Usilai maram in Tamil), which has tiny leaves like the tamarind.

As a teenager I moved to shampoos despite my mother’s efforts to make me use traditional hair washes. After around 20 years, I discovered natural shampoos along with organic food and began to investigate what went into natural shampoos. On a quest for simpler products with no chemicals, I stumbled on hair wash powders.

The arappu powder removes grime and oil and also has a conditioning effect. On the flip side, it takes a few minutes to mix it in water without lumps and some attention to wash it off. If it is finely powdered, there won’t be bits sticking to the hair.

Curious about how the powder is made, I visited my supplier, Sulochana who lives in a village abutting the forest and mountain ranges near Anaikatti. With elephants destroying food crops, “wild collection is the major source of income for us,” explained Sulochana. “We collect various items of forest produce like shikakai, gooseberry or tamarind during different seasons. The arappu leaves are collected especially when the leaves are tender. Generally the older women in the village collect it.”

Since the tree is of medium height, I wondered how the older women managed. Before I could ask her, she turned to an inconspicuous shrub beside us, plucked a handful of tender green leaves and said, “This is the young tree and we collect tender leaves from them. The leaves have to cleaned of twigs or other debris for the powder to foam and wash hair effectively.”

The plucking of the leaves is similar to the way tea leaves are harvest. These are stored in a cloth tied like a makeshift bag at the waist, later dried and stored in bags. When there is an order for the powder they clean the dry leaves and sieve them through a basket to separate the leaves from the twigs and tiny stems. As her mother, a sprightly old lady with jet black hair, demonstrated how the leaves are cleaned, Sulochana remarked, “Look, she doesn’t have a single grey hair. If you use only arapppu, you will not grey till you reach a very old age."

Finally my search for a perfect hair wash solution ended in my own backyard. A simple leaf from a drought-resistant tree that also provides a livelihood for tribal women in their own villages can clean and condition my hair without coating it with chemicals and provide grey water for my garden. It has no carbon miles, no waste and no side effects. What more can I ask for?

The powder is available in Khadi Gramdyog stores and most organic stores in the city

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 9:17:28 PM |

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