A 12th Century Report of an Adverse Effect of Henna in Iranian Traditional Medicine: Topical Use May Cause Hyperbilirubinemia

Document Type : Case reports or series


1 Department of Traditional Medicine, School of Persian Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of physical medicine & rehabilitation, School of Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Henna or Lawsonia inermis L. is a plant used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes worldwide. Lawsone is an important chemical ingredient of henna leaves with an oxidizing effect that can cause acute haemolysis in vulnerable individuals including G6PD deficient patients. One of the symptoms of haemolysis is red discoloration of urine. It is thought that this effect of henna has been discovered by modern medicine but there are earlier reports in history of medicine. In fact, investigating traditional medicine books shows that urine color change due to topical use of henna has been mentioned by Aghili Khorasani who is a famous scholar of Iranian Traditional Medicine in the 12th century.
In parts of world where unexplained cases of hyperbilirubinemia and G6PD deficiency are more frequent, cutaneous application of henna has the potential to initiate oxidative haemolysis, which may present as red discoloration of urine. Since henna is widely used in different joyful events and also as a home remedy for minor problems, this effect should be considered..


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