Henna under a microscope at 60x.
Catherine Cartwright-Jones c 2002

Here's what you should know before you look at the pictures:
I mixed items sold as henna powders with lemon juice and left them 20 minutes, then put them between microscope slides and photographed them at 60x.  These slides show henna powders' comparitive particle size, and whether they have debris, other plant material,  and dye.  Rubbing the two microscope slides together made a gritting sound if there was sand or mineral debris in the henna.

Particle size doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with stain results.
These pictures will only tell you whether henna has dye, grit, or chunks in it.

Particle size:
This is a #3 pencil lead at 60x, the same magnification as the slides.   If you use a #3 metal tip, all particles MUST be smaller than this lead is wide, or the henna will clog your tip, and you'll either have to sift the henna or pick out the clog.  On my screen, this lead is about the size of my finger.  If any chunk in a picture is as large as my finger is wide, it's not going through a #3 tip. 

Many henna powders have particles larger than this lead. If you look at the microscopic pictures of the powder, you'll see if you're getting henna you'll have to sift, like this one:

Sifting:
If you like the results of a henna that's "chunky", you can sift it through a Fred-O-Matic, and the clogging problem is solved.  See: Mr. Chunky makes friends with Fred 
 http://www.mehandi.com/closeup/frednchunky.html 
 

DYE:
Many suppliers, especially in India, add green dye to their henna to make it appear "better". 
A bright green henna color may indicate dye has been added to the powder, and has nothing to do with the stain result.

The vivid green chunks  here, spreading green are artificial green dye, coal tar dye, added to make the product more "eye-appealing".  The presence of green dye is irrelevant to the stain. The presence of this dye and is confirmed and identified in: 

"Study of Quality Characteristics of Henna", Chourasia, Sardar, Patil, Mathew,Kanpur, India: Essential Oil Association of India, 1989

"Major contaminants /adulterants in henna leaves are stems, dirt, plant waste and other leaves. However in case of henna powder admixture of dyed sand is observed. It shas been reported that for adulteration, finely ground local sand is used. It is first dyed with auramine yellow (C.I. No. 41000) and then green with diamond green (C.I. No. 20440). This is then mixed with pure henna powder. The extent of adulteraion is viariable in accordance with the price of the powder reflected therein.

"Added azo dyes were not found in henna leaf samples, but yellow and green coal tar dyes were observed in powdered samples. As mentioned earlier, this may be due to the presence of (the afore mentioned dyed sand). Unlike Lawsone, the natural color of henna, these added synthetic azo-dyes used for dyeing the sand or for polishing the leaves may have an adverse effect on the skin. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that these artificial dyes are not there in the product marketed.

Virtually all henna powders from India that I have surveyed have this dye!

Other Dye Plants Added to Henna:

The deep red pieces in this picture are Myrobalan, a dye plant: 

Myrobalan \My*rob"a*lan\ (?), Myrobolan \My*rob"o*lan\ (?), ] n. [L. myrobalanum the fruit of a palm tree from which a balsam was made.  A dried astringent fruit much resembling a prune. It contains tannin, and was formerly used in medicine, but is now chiefly used in tanning and dyeing. Myrobolans are produced by various species of Terminalia of the East Indies, and of Spondias of South America.
  -- web1913
Some of these added dye plants give a redder henna color, and are harmless, but they are NOT henna, and the exporters frequently do NOT admit they have adulterated their henna with another dye plant.
 

The round clear spheres are air bubbles trapped between microscope slides.Ignore them.

Grit:
Many henna powders have mineral grit, sand, and dirt in them.  I rub the henna paste between two microscope slides, and if I hear a gritting sound, there's dirt, sand or grit in the henna.  If I don't hear anything, the henna is clean.  Grit doesn't change the henna stain, but if there's a lot of it, you're paying for dirt rather than henna.
 

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Catherine Cartwright-Jones c 2002

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