Home Remedies from flora in south India: Hair Care

In my 12th grade, I did a project on the medicinal plants in my school campus with two of my classmates. As an add-on to that, we were asked to collect home remedies from people in our families. I sat down for hours taking notes as my grandmother told me about various plants, their uses for different applications. After a three hour session I was exhausted from the relentless flow of information. So I asked if we can continue again later. A few long sessions later, she said “I think I’ve told you everything I know and remember now but my mother knew around ten times as much as I do! I wish you could’ve talked to her.”

I was struck by how in each generation, there seems to be a loss of such information. My mother doesn’t know as much as my grandmother (which is why she sent me to her) and if I hadn’t done this project, I would’ve never learnt these things myself and passed even less down to my children. I still can’t claim that I truly know much because all I have are my notes. I have tried only a few of these myself over the years and now that we live in cities, it has become harder to come across these plants on a daily basis, harder to become familiar with them.

This series will cover my grandmother’s knowledge.


  1. Fenugreek (Vendayam) for softness
  2. Shikakai (seeyakai) for health of hair follicles
  3. Green gram (Pasipayaru) for hair shaft strength
  4. Rosebud (roja mottu) for shiny hair
  5. Neem leaves (veppelai) for lice
  6. Hibiscus (Sembarithi) leaves and flowers are used for dandruff and shine
  7. Mehendi leaves-for colouring
  8. Dry Tulsi leaves for lice
  9. Castor oil (vellakkennai) for softness
  10. Amla (nellikai)-for softness and shine
  11. Karisilankanni for healthy long hair growth
  12. Ponnanganni for general health of hair. The juice extracted from this is mixed with cow milk and heated till water vapourises. Then Sesame oil (Nallennai) is added to the mix.
  13. Charcoal is burnt with sambrani (dried cow dung) to dry hair with especially for new mothers and children
  14. Regular intake of Karruveppellai during youth may prevent greying of hair
  15. Sesame oil (Nallennai) is applied to the hair and scalp before washing it twice a week
  16. Coconut oil (Thenga Ennai) is applied everyday
  17. A paste of hot olive oil, one tablespoon of honey, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder is applied 15 minutes before bath to prevent hair loss
  18. Quarter of a teaspoon of Ginger powder (sukku podi), half a teaspoon of dry roast Alum powder (padikarum podi) and three-fourth teaspoon of Kasturimanjal podi (a type of Turmeric powder) is mixed with lemon juice and applied to upper lip and left to dry for ten minutes. Powdered salt is rubbed on it and then washed off. This is repeated every 15 days till there is no hair left.
  19. Nallennai is applied all over hair and skin and let to soak for some time. A hair bath after this leaves the skin and hair softer and shiner.
  20. Rinse the hair and scalp with salt water for a month to prevent hair loss


The pictures used in this series are inserted from other websites. I have used them only to illustrate the ingredients used in the remedies.

See also