Questions and Answers about Ancient Sunrise® Henna
and independent laboratory testing
Why do we send our henna to an independent laboratory for testing?
Why is it important?
Q. Why did you start doing chemical tests on henna?
A. I am Catherine Cartwright-Jones, and I founded this group of
companies based on my academic research work on henna. I did my
master's degree on henna, and I'm now finishing my doctoral degree on
henna. Part of my PhD dissertation research involves testing fifty
different brands of henna, available from shops and online, for lawsone
content, contaminants, adulterants and heavy metals. I'm doing
sequential tests of known hennas from several suppliers to find the
range of variation within a processing season. I'm also doing
comparative tests from other suppliers to determine the variability of
processing, plant types, pesticide levels, adulterants and
contaminants. This will be in conjunction with a discourse analysis of
Another, more important reason for testing is that I've been asked to be
a consultant on a research project at a major US medical school that is
running clinical trials on possible therapeutic and pharmaceutical uses
for henna. I can't publish the name if the school yet because their
research project is still at an early stage and they're not ready to
publish their results. However, the preliminary tests have been positive
and if the trials are successful, this could be a major step toward
gaining approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for topical
use of henna (direct application on human skin) in the US.
Both the medical school project and my dissertation have to meet
requirements set by the respective university's Institutional Review
Boards (IRB). The IRB cooperates with the USFDA to set standards for
human trials in academic and medical research. The IRBs must file
reports from an accredited laboratory on tests performed on the hennas
to be used in the tests before any human testing is done. Those tests
must meet federal health and safety standards.
Q. When did you start testing your henna?
A. We began testing shipments of one metric ton or more in the last
quarter of 2008. Not every batch we have on hand is tested. All the
laboratory-tested batches must be individually identifiable. This means
we have to maintain strict lot controls, so some shipments won't be
tested because for one reason or other, we can't certain that all the
henna is from the same production run or a shipment got scrambled in
transit or in the warehouse.
Q. Where do you get your henna?
A. Our hennas come from India, Pakistan and Yemen. We buy up to twenty
metric tons of henna a year so we are able to order henna in bulk
lots and sell it under the Ancient Sunrise name, labeling according to
each the characteristics of each laboratory-tested batches, and the
For my dissertation research, we test multiple batches from each
distributor to build up profiles of different henna sources. The
multiple tests show the differences and similarities between different
distributors, different crops and even differences within the same
crop. The laboratory tests are also a good indicator of the degree of
pesticide drift from nearby crops. Henna rarely needs any spraying, but
cotton and other crops in the region are often sprayed with high levels
of pesticides forbidden on plants that would be used for human
consumption. Wind drift and runoff from fields treated with pesticides
affect nearby henna crops. So far, every batch we have tested
has been shown to be absolutely unique, with a different chemical
profile than any other batch.
Other people may claim that they have the identical henna that we
do. The only way they could prove that their henna is identical to
be for them to send their henna to a lab and come up with identical
results. If they haven't proven that with independent laboratory
testing, don't assume that their henna is the same.
Q. How is your henna tested?
A. We send samples of henna shipments to Alkemists Pharmaceuticals, an
independent laboratory, recommended by the university medical school
conducting the tests on therapeutic uses of henna. Alkemists tests each
sample for lawsone content, pesticides, lead and other adulterants and
The actual test is a standard lab procedure known as "high-performance
liquid chromatography" (HPLC). HPLC separates a test sample into its
chemical components so the individual components can be separately
measured. The Alkemists laboratory's testing curve is precise to 10
parts per million or better. This is standard precision for a laboratory
that performs tests on foods, food supplements and drugs.
For my dissertation research, the laboratory tests are required by the
Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Kent State University. Colleges and
universities in the US receiving research funds from the Department of
Health and Human Services are required to have an IRB for, among other
reasons, maintaining standards for any testing involving human subjects.
Laboratory testing is also required for materials intended for
pharmaceutical use. We are now supplying henna from our tested batches
to the university medical school for their research in medical uses of
people may claim to have "laboratory certified henna", but if they
cannot report the exact lawsone content, the pesticide levels, the lead
level, and contaminants or adulterants, their test has been only
cursory and is insufficient for pharmaceutical use. A cursory
tests doesn't tell you, the consumer, anything useful about what you
Alkemists Pharmaceuticals holds the rights and maintains control of the
reports on all their laboratory tests, but anyone who would like to see a
copy of the test report can contact Alkemists Pharmaceuticals, who will
arrange to send a copy of the report which includes details on their
Q. Why are you selling the laboratory-tested henna?
A. The simplest and most obvious answer is that I need to recover to
cost of having the hennas tested. Initial setup and testing protocol
design at the lab are expensive and each subsequent batch test costs
several hundred dollars. The tested lots are about three metric tons
each, more than the medical school or I will use for research, but there
is a demand for the tested product among Mehandi.com's customers.
Mehandi.com's core business is henna for hair and many of Mehandi's
customers have chemical sensitivities or allergies, often resulting from
using conventional commercial hair dyes and they can no longer use
those dyes because of health concerns. We also have nursing mothers,
cancer survivors and others among our clients who are concerned about
pesticides and lead. Our staff frequently answers some variation on the
question "What's in this stuff?" The only way to give a certain and
consistent answer to that question is to have the henna assayed so we
have a hard-copy record from a certified lab saying exactly what's in
each tested batch we have in the warehouse.
Q. Is it possible to see the results of the laboratory tests?
A. For general information about Alkemists Pharmaceuticals, you can visit their website at http://www.alkemist.com/
. We keep the lab tests on file at mehandi.com .
To request a copy of a specific laboratory test report from Alkemists
Pharmaceuticals, contact Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Will I get the same results as I see in the photograph?
is what Alkemists Pharmaceuticals tests on Ancient Sunrise® look like:
these tests include a precise high-performance liquid chromatography measurement of lawsone content,
macroscopic and microscopic examination, complete Luke II Multiresidue Screen test panels for
pesticides, contaminants, adulterants and metals.
is what another henna supplier offers customers as its laboratory test
(I have removed the identifying name of the lab and seller).
does not show plant species, lawsone content, pesticides, additives,
adulterants or metals. In fact, it doesn't really tell you
A. Every person's skin and hair is different. We can guarantee
that you will get exactly the same henna I used for the product
photograph, but we can't guarantee your results will look exactly like
Catherine Cartwright-Jones, PhD candidate
Owner, TapDancing Lizard LLC
Stow OH USA