Henna has been an art form for over 5,000 years in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, and India. It was originally used in the deserts as a cooling agent; the people of the desert would make a henna paste and put the henna on their palms and the soles of their feet. This caused their entire bodies to feel much cooler. The henna left a stain on the body, and the cooling sensation stayed the entire time the stain was there.
The patterns and designs the henna left on the skin sparked ideas to get more creative with it, and thus, it was turned into an art form.
Henna was most popular among the poor, who used it as a substitute for jewelery.
Nowadays, henna is mainly used as a body decoration for holidays, birthdays, and weddings. It has easily moved its way into western culture, as well, where it is also used as body decoration, most often at festivals.
Aside from decorative purporses, henna, the herb, has many medicinal qualities. Used topically, henna can help with ailments such as burns, wounds, athlete´s foot, hair loss, head aches, stomach pains, and to reduce fever, among other things.