Ayurveda translates as the 'science of life'. The history of ayurveda is fascinating and a little more complex than I had imagined. I therefore have to start with a disclaimer and say the series is not really about Ayurveda as a practice, I am only skimming the surface by talking about the hair products used traditionally in India.
Ayurveda appears to be a holistic approach where the state of your hair could be connected to the condition of your bowel or the state of your mind (modern medicine would probably agree). I do suggest if you are truly interested in Ayurveda, then do your research and learn more on the lifestyle.
The first post today is Shikakai or Acacia Concinna which is a traditional shampoo.
What is in Shikakai?
1. Saponins - The name sounds a little bit like soap (hint!). Saponins tend to have a foaming effect and are detergents hence they are soap like (Int J Toxicol., Suppl 3, pg75-118, 2005).
2. Alkaloids - No hints with this one. Alkaloids can have various functions and unfortunately I cannot find what alkaloids would do in Shikakai (Int J Toxicol., Suppl 3, pg75-118, 2005). Presently the focus appears to be on the saponins.
How is Shikakai prepared?
1. Traditionally - The fruit pods can be dried, ground and used either as a paste or extracted into oil (Global Journal of Pharmacology 3 (1): 06-07, 2009). Boiling the fruit, leaves and bark is also possible combining the boiled juices with henna to form a paste for use on hair (Jounal of Global Pharma Technology. 2010; 2(1): 58-64)
2. In the lab - saponins and alkaloids are organic (that is organic in chemistry meaning carbon based backbone). They can therefore be dissolved out using organic solvents such as ethanol, methanol and/or petroleum ethers. The solvents can then be evaporated off leaving behind the organic matter. (I know some of you are wincing but this is pretty standard, chemists through the ages have been extracting stuff like this)
Is there evidence that Shikakai is medically useful?
Yes, extracts of shikakai (the fruit pod) have been found to have some antifungal properties related to the saponins found within it (Global Journal of Pharmacology 3 (1): 06-07, 2009 and Int J Cosmet Sci. 5(1):1-5, 1993).
I could not find the pH of Shikakai anywhere, if you have some, buy some pH strips and let us know! The safety of Shikakai is not known currently as despite millenia of use, scientists haven't got round to assessing it yet (millenia is my bit of exaggeration!).