Acacia concinna (Hindi name – Shikakai) is a climbing shrub native to Asia, common in the warm plains of central and south India. The plants are medium fast growing and which is bushy cum creeper.
Shikakai is a climbing ceeper, 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. 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 to soak for some time. 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.
The bark of Shikakai is high on saponins – these act as foaming agents. Therefore Shikakai is such a good cleaning agent and hence has been traditionally used as a detergent.
The leaves have oxalic, tartaric, citric, succinic and ascorbic acids, as well as two alkaloids, calyctomine and nicotine. They taste acidic and are used in chutneys.
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.