The nagar motha: properties and how to reflect the brown hair


The nagar motha is a perennial plant, belonging to the genus Cyperaceae, which grows wild in the tropical, subtropical and temperate climates. Native to India, we grow spontaneously and reproduce very quickly especially in wetlands, so as to be considered by farmers a real weed. But nagar motha is above all a medicinal plant, from the rhizome of which is obtained a powder rich in tannins, antioxidant and antifungal substances able to bring great benefits both to the skin of the face and to the hair.

Properties of Nagar Motha

Much used in Chinese, Arabic and Ayurvedic folk medicine, nagar motha has many names: in Sanskrit it is called “Musta” or “Mustak”, in Chinese “Shacao”, in Arabic it is called “Soad” or “Soadekufi”, in English “Nut grass”.

In the Inca, however, we always find it only under the botanical name of Cyperus Rotundus. It has a characteristic brownish color and a very intense and spicy scent, similar to incense. If applied to the face, in the form of a mask for about 15 minutes, it purifies it from imperfections, making the skin smoother and more compact, reducing the spots and illuminating the complexion. If applied to the hair, it can reflect or color them delicately brown, as well as exerting considerable benefits on the hair.

Schematically, on the hair the nagar motha has properties:

  • adaptogenic
  • volumizing
  • polishes
  • reinforcing
  • conditioning
  • softeners
  • cleaning
  • purifying

What does adaptogenic properties mean? It means that the nagar motha has the extraordinary peculiarity of perfectly adapting to the characteristics of our scalp, restoring its physiological condition, through the inhibition of the activity of the sebaceous glands in case there is an excessive production of fat, or, on the contrary, stimulating its action if this proves to be insufficient. The peculiarity of being an adaptogenic plant is really what distinguishes the nagar motha compared to other herbs, dyeing or not. In fact, in fact, Ayurvedic powders have a sebum-regulating function, in the sense that they are able to reduce the excess in the production of sebum by the related scalp glands, but they can not intervene if the opposite occurs, or if the aforementioned glands do not work, determining the dryness of the skin and consequently of the hair itself.

As said, the nagar motha manages to reflect the brown hair or, in the case of light hair, to color them of this shade. Its coloring power, however, is rather bland, since, similarly to the walnut husk, the nagar motha contains a reflecting pigment and not fully dying.

How to use it on your hair

Through repeated applications over time, nagar motha manages to darken especially light hair, to color them with a pleasant brown / hazel color. It is sufficient to dissolve the dyeing powder in hot water, until it forms a creamy, homogeneous and uniform batter, of the same consistency as yoghurt. The compress should be applied to the hair, indifferently dry or wet, provided they are clean, to allow the optimal action of the coloring pigment. It is also advisable to avoid using metal objects and tools, to avoid altering the properties of dust.

After about 15 minutes, you can proceed with the application. The batter should be spread over the entire length of the hair, from roots to ends. At the end, the hair should be covered with a cap or with transparent film, in order to maintain the moisture of the pack and preserve its dyeing power. This operation is very important, because if you dry out, the batter would stop coloring.

The color should be kept in place for 20 to 90 minutes, depending on the desired color intensity. At the end it is recommended to rinse acid, which aims to close the scales of the hair, polishing it and fixing the color best. Add an acidic substance such as vinegar or lemon juice to the last rinse water, lightly massage the hair and then proceed to normal drying.

Nagar motha and Cassia

If we have light hair and do not want to overshadow them excessively, we can dilute the dyeing capacity of nagar motha in a mixture with cassia, non-dyeing grass with extraordinary restructuring and regenerating power. In this way we will be able to use the coloring power of nagar motha, also benefiting from all its properties, first of all its adaptogenic action, combined with the exceptional benefits brought by cassia.

Nagar motha and white hair (Henna)

On a medium brown basis, nagar motha is able to release hazelnut / coffee reflexes, reviving our natural nuances, while on very dark hair this herb has little effect. In any case, the color given by this powder tends to discharge quickly. In addition, the nagar motha can not cover white hair, as it releases a color that will turn to dull gray tones that will tend to fade in a few washes. For these reasons, as in the case of other dyeing herbs, it is advisable to use it in synergy with other powders in order to guarantee its dyeing efficiency and prolong it over time. Especially where there is a need for white hair coverage, nagar motha should be used in combination with henna.

Henna is in fact the only dyeing plant able to cover white hair permanently, since its molecule, the lawsone, is the only molecule able to bind permanently to the keratin of the hair, stratifying on the stem.

If added to the lawsonia, moreover, the nagar motha is able to dampen the red and coppery reflections. Finally, the mixture of henna and nagar motha will ensure a more effective and longer lasting dying effect, as the lawsone will act as a mordant for the action of nagar motha on the hair. But in this case the reflexes obtained and the final coloration, including white hair, will turn to a shade of red, perhaps cold, but still red. As mentioned, the nagar motha contains only a reflecting pigment, which is not able to darken the red henna until it turns into brown.

Cover of the whites and brown color Katam and Indigo

If there is a need to cover the white hair and at the same time it is desired to obtain a brown color, it is necessary to add to the dyeing compound a darkening herb, such as the katam or the indigo.

In this way we will be able to turn the lawsonia towards brown / hazel shades. Alone, as mentioned, the nagar motha can only reflect the hair, but is not able to release a brown dye pigment. In the presence of lawonia molecules, grass with a strong dyeing power, the nagar can only counteract its action, turning off its orange and copper nuances, but it is not able to turn the color towards brown / brown tones. To obtain this effect, add a darkening dyeing herb to the compound, that is to say katam or indigo.

In this case, the lawsonia will guarantee the complete and lasting coverage of the white hair, also acting as a carrier for the other herbs, the brown color will be released by katam or indigo, while the nagar motha will accentuate the hazel reflections,

giving at the same time more body and depth to the final color.

By way of example, on a medium brown basis, a good mix could consist of a 40% darkening herb, 30% henna and 30% nagar motha. Obviously, these are purely indicative percentages, which can and must change according to the different cases. The result will vary depending on a number of factors, including the basic color, the porosity of the hair and the percentage of whites. In this specific case, for example, you can increase the amount of henna in the presence of a significant percentage of white hair, or, if you want a lighter effect, you can decrease the percentage of darkening herb, or maybe you can dilute the total dyeing power of the mixture by adding a small percentage of cassia.

The important thing is that the quantity of darkening powder is anyway higher than the percentage of nagar motha, since they are respectively the katam or the indigo to give the brown coloration. The nagar motha only succeeds in dampening the henna reflexes and accentuating the hazel shades of the final shade, as well as performing a very important adaptogenic function. In any case, in order to avoid unpleasant coloring, before applying any dye or mixture, it is advisable to follow the golden rule of dyeing herbs, which consists in performing a preliminary test on a hidden lock of hair, for example behind the nape.

In the natural shades, it is of fundamental importance to know the individual characteristics of the different herbs and not to immediately establish an exact result. We must have patience and desire to experiment. The universe of dyeing herbs is governed by logics that are absolutely not comparable to those that regulate chemical shades. An adequate knowledge of the characteristics of the individual herbs, supported by a good experience in the field will allow us to better master this world and move within it with extreme familiarity. If we know how to wait, without discouraging us after the first application, if we manage to make the most of results that do not exactly conform to our expectations, our hair will benefit from it. We will have hair naturally soft, voluminous, shiny and silky, with a never flat color, but multi-faceted and rich in different shades, wonderfully original and simply unique.


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