Description : Shikakai is a climbing, most well-known for the natural shampoo derived from its fruit. Thorny branches have brown smooth stripes – thorns are short, broad-based, flattened. Leaves with caducous stipules not thorn-like. Leaf stalks are 1-1.5 cm long with a prominent gland about the middle. Leaves are double-pinnate, with 5-7 pairs of pinnae, the primary rachis being thorny, velvety. Each pinnae has 12-18 pairs of leaflets, which are oblong-lanceshaped, 3-10 mm long, pointed, obliquely rounded at base. Inflorescences is a cluster of 2 or 3 stalked rounded flower-heads in axils of upper reduced leaves, appearing paniculate. Stalk carrying the cluster is 1-2.5 cm long, velvety. Flower-heads about 1 cm in diameter when mature. Flowers are pink, without or with reduced subtending bracts. Pods are thick, somewhat flattened, stalked, 8 cm long, 1.5-1.8 cm wide.
Benefits of Shikakai :
- Shikakai is a commonly used herb that has many remedial qualities. It is popularly referred as “fruit for the hair” as it has a naturally mild pH, that gently cleans the hair without stripping it of natural oils. Shikakai is used to control dandruff, promoting hair growth and strengthening hair roots. Its leaves are used in malarial fever, decoction of the pods are used to relieve biliousness and acts as a purgative. An ointment, prepared from the ground pods, is good for skin diseases.The powder or the extract from the bark, leaves or pods is used as a hair cleansing agent. It is very effective in removing oil and dirt from hair. The normal practice is to apply oil to hair and scalp and allow it soak for sometime. This will keep the body cool, reducing body heat and also prevent the scalp from getting dry. The powdered Shikakai is used as a shampoo to wash off the oil.
- Since Shikakai is naturally low in pH, therefore it is extremely mild, and does not strip hair of its natural oils. Usually no rinse or conditioner is used since Shikakai also helps in the disentangling of the hair
- Actually the bark of Shikakai is high on saponins – chemical compound; these act as foaming agents. Therefore Shikakai is such a good cleaning agent and hence has been traditionally used as a detergent. Owing to the presence of this chemical compound Shikakai is used in Bengal for poisoning fish and are documented to be potent marine toxins.
- The leaves because of the presence of oxalic, tartaric, citric, succinic and ascorbic acids, as well as two alkaloids, calyctomine and nicotine, taste acidic and are used in chutneys. Apart from this the leaves are also used as an infusion in anti-dandruff preparations.
- Extracts of the ground pods have been used for various skin diseases.
- An extract of the Shikakai leaves is used to cure malarial fever.
- A decoction of the pods relieves biliousness and acts as a purgative.