The history and origin of Mehndi (known as Henna) is hard to track, with centuries of migration and cultural interaction it's difficult to determine where particular traditions began. There is some historical evidence that henna originated in ancient India as a ceremonial art form. Others believe that Mehndi was introduced to India in the 12th century. It's been used for at least 5000 years as a cosmetic and for it's natural healing properties. There's also documentation that Mehndi was used in ancient Egypt to stain the fingers and toes of the Pharaohs prior to mummification. Mehndi is popular in India since an era of Mewar Rajput Kings and Mughal Regime.
The existence and use of Mehndi for the last 5000 years can be found in overwhelming archeological evidence: in the books of Charaka and Sushruta, the scientists and physicians of ancient India, in the paintings, sculptures and texts, and in the remains of ancient Egypt. Mehndi body art is an ancient form of body adornment, with origins in Egypt, India, and the Middle East. For centuries Mehndi has been used for ritual adornment in Hindu and Islamic cultures. Happily, Mehndi body art has found its way to the West.
For more than 5000 years, cultures from India to Africa to the Middle East have embraced the art of henna body decoration-for fashion and beauty, for personal expression, for social and religious occasions, for healing purposes and more. In recent years global travel and migration, along with increased communication and cultural sharing has brought henna to many parts of the West, mingling traditional practices with new interpretations and uses.
Henna body art (often referred to as "mehndi") is all natural, temporary, painless, and safe for all skin types - a unique way to decorate your personality, spirit, and body. Henna derives from a plant known as Lawsonia Inermis, whose leaves are dried and crushed to make a powder with natural dying properties. Henna designers create beautiful designs that temporarily stain the skin a reddish brown that develops into a rich brown color and lasts one to three weeks, depending on the care the dyed skin receives. The application of henna has four distinct benefits ("the four C's"), as it cools, conditions, cleanses, and colors the skin. Henna is also commonly applied to hair -- on which it is has a similar effect -- by millions in Asia and Africa, where it is inexpensive and readily available, and helps cool the scalp in the hot summer months.
The henna plant grows in hot climates and can be found in countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and India. It is known by many names, including Henne, Al-Khanna, Jamaica Mignonette, Egyptian Privet, and Smooth Lawsonia. The art of applying henna is referred to as 'henna' and 'mehndi', depending on which culture or country one comes from.
From the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt to modern-day wedding parties, from Morocco to India, henna has enjoyed a variety of applications and meanings throughout the centuries.(http://www.hennagarden.com/history.html)
Henna has medicinal value too. It is considered an anti-irritant, a deodorant and an antiseptic. It is used by Ayurvedic physicians for the treatment of heat rashes and skin allergies and to cool the body against the intense heat of summers. Because of it's cooling property henna leaves and flowers are made into lotions and ointments to be used externally for boils, burns and skin inflammations, including sores from leprosy. Henna has been used as medical treatments for a wide range of ailments to cure almost anything from headaches to leprosy and other skin disorders. It is used to create an instant 'scab' on large areas and is believed to have antiseptic properties. Henna is also used for rheumatic and arthritic pains. (http://www.bindi4u.co.uk/history.htm)
The clusters of small rosy white flowers that cover a henna bush are very fragrant and used to make perfumes. Sleeping on a pillow stuffed with henna flowers is considered to have a soporific effect on patients suffering from sleeplessness.