The name henna also refers to the dye prepared from the plant and the art of temporary body art (staining) based on those dyes (see also mehndi). Henna has been used since antiquity to dye skin, hair and fingernails, as well as fabrics including silk, wool and leather. The name is used in other skin and hair dyes, such as black henna and neutral henna, neither of which is derived from the henna plant.
Historically, henna was found to be used in the Arabian Peninsula, South Asia, Carthage and other parts of North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. Bridal henna nights remain an important custom in many of these areas, particularly among traditional families.
The henna plant is native to northern Africa, western and southern Asia, and northern Australasia, in semi-arid zones and tropical areas. It produces the most dye when grown in temperatures between 35 and 45 °C (95 and 113 °F).
During the onset of precipitation intervals, the plant grows rapidly, putting out new shoots. Growth subsequently slows. The leaves gradually yellow and fall during prolonged dry or cool intervals. It does not thrive where minimum temperatures are below 11 °C (52 °F). Temperatures below 5 °C (41 °F) will kill the henna plant.