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Plant Magic For Your Hair, Right In Your Own Back Yard!

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Hawaiians have known of this magic for centuries. The hair care industry has attempted to capitalized on it for as long as I can remember. In my opinion, once processed into shampoo or conditioner, the results aren't the same as utilizing the original and natural form of the serum.

This magic is known by many names. In my circle we just call it hair plant.
It is often called a canoe plant. Early settlers of Ancient Hawaii transported it with many other plants to the islands from Polynesia. This particular plant originated in India. It's more official Hawaiian name is Awapuhi Kuahiwi. Many folks also know it as Pinecone Ginger and in the science community; Zingiber zerumbet.[2]

Some folks consider it a lovely tropical plant for landscaping. Many folks call it a nuisance as it is hard to get rid of once it roots well and it multiplies even better.

"What a glorious exotic family are the tropical `awapuhi! All the members of the `awapuhi `ohana are known for their pungent pleasant aroma and/or their beauty."[1]

This beautiful plant does have a fresh and in my opinion, light and calming fragrance. That's not the magic though. The magic is that it washes and in most cases, conditions your hair without traditional shampoo or conditioner, removes hair care product build-up, and soothes dry scalp.

There are two ways that I recommend to use the hair plant; you can add the plant's elixir to your existing shampoo and conditioner or you can gain freedom from chemical based hair cleansing agents for good. And if not for good, then at least many months out of each year.

One of the reasons I decided to sit down and write this article is because sadly, I'm out of my magic. I have hit up my friends left and right to see if they had any to spare but to no avail. It's time to plant it and in the spring I will be back in business. I would hate to see someone who has fallen in love with this plant like I have, run out unnecessarily, like I did.

So here are my tips and tricks on using the plant and how to keep the plant stored longer so you can enjoy the freedom from commercial hair care products even more!

First off, I recommend trying it several times before you invest in your own hair plant garden.

Hit up your local nurseries for some that has matured like this one:

Pinecone Ginger

Prepare it to use in just a few easy steps:

Shake the cone slightly while on its stalk. You should hear a muffled sloshing sound. The cone may also feel a little sticky and be dripping a bit.
Cut the plant off its stalk just a little past the base of the cone.
Rinse the cone with cool water and gently blot it dry.
Place the cone in a plastic storage bag

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and leave it at least overnight on your kitchen or bathroom counter.
You will notice a clear and slimy looking juice start to drain from the plant.
Some people like to press on (milk) or cut at the plant to get it to fully drain but I have found that sometimes you don't have to do that. A few small pin holes is usually the most I have to do. When you have gained at least a handful or two of extract in the bag, you can cut a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag to drain it into your dispenser bottle.

Place the used cone in a new storage bag and stick it in the fridge to keep it fresh.
You will notice after a day or two that it has drained much more.

An allergy test is always a good idea before you use any new product; natural or not. If you already have a known allergy to ginger then using this plant is not for you. To do an allergy test, place a small amount of plant juice on the inside of your forearm. Rub the substance in and wait 24 hours before using the plant again. If you experience any difficult symptoms with or without redness and irritation, seek emergency medical help and do not use this plant any further until you have consulted your physician!

Using the extract is your next challenge. It takes some getting used to. It doesn't feel like anything we are accustomed to. We consumers are conditioned to equate clean with lather and soap bubbles. Some of these products have stripped so much of the natural oils out of our hair, leaving it dull and lifeless. Then we use styling products to put back some of what the harsh cleansers have taken away and the vicious cycle continues! We have also been taught to equate overpowering scents with cleanliness. All those heavy perfumes we encounter in most hair care products are doing is giving us the illusion of clean. If your sinuses are sensitive like mine are, those fragrances are giving you a headache to boot.

When you hop in the shower, ready to use your plant extract; wet your hair very thoroughly with warm water. Step out from under the shower stream and use your dispenser bottle to apply the elixir to your hair just as you would normal shampoo. Concentrate on coating and cleansing your scalp lightly first. Work the plant juice through all the roots of your hair. Then close your eyes and step back under the shower stream just long enough to give you extra moisture to work the extract through the rest of your hair.
Once you've done that you can either shower cap your head or clip it up as long as you make sure you aren't letting it drip in your eyes. Here's the truth for me, I have gotten the extract in my eyes and it didn't burn them. But everyone is different so I would say avoid getting it in your eyes. I try to avoid it despite my own experiences, just to be safe.

Any of the serum that has landed on other parts of your skin can be rubbed right on in. This extract is very good for your skin and it smells great too!

I leave the serum in my hair for at least 15 minutes while I shave and finish my shower. When I have an abundance of extract, I do use it on my body and for shaving too.
Depending on how big the cone is and how much you use at one time, you may get up to three showers or three hair washes per cone.
Learning that less is more with this extract is another challenge. You really don't have to use a lot of the plant's elixir to get the job done. But water quality can vary that. I have a water softener so I can get away with very little juice. Very hard water may need more extract.
After 15 minutes, I rinse my hair and then towel dry. Then I style as usual.
With the water quality in mind, I do recommend using a small amount of your favorite conditioner while rinsing or a detangler after you towel dry if the elixir hasn't made your hair easy enough to comb through.
It takes about three uses of the plant juice to notice the improvements in your hair and scalp. Always store the left over serum in your dispenser bottle in the refrigerator in between uses.
This method isn't for everyone but it's my favorite way to use awapuhi.
You can always add the elixir to your favorite shampoo and conditioner. But keep in mind, that elixir hasn't been processed like the ingredients in your shampoo so I do recommend keeping your infused products in the refrigerator to avoid mold.


And speaking of mold, now I will tell you how I lost my stockpile of hair plant.

I was keeping a large amount (15-20) cones in the fridge. They were self draining great and I noticed a slight discoloration of the juice. That is totally normal as the plant leaks. The extract was reddish. If you have light blonde or silver hair, I would caution you on using it without doing a strand test first but any other color should be fine. After a few weeks in storage, I saw something that broke my heart. I should have realized that just like veggies, my cones would go bad too. The mold spores were everywhere and I could see the white swirls of mold in the juice. It wasn't good for anything but the trash or compost pile. If you are blessed with a large amount of cones to harvest at one time, be sure to keep them in the freezer. Wash and dry the cones as I previously directed but freeze your excess cones for safe keeping. Freezing is the only way to combat loss from mold but the elixir will be more watery once defrosted and I haven't figured out how to stop that yet. The serum still works great that way; I've noticed I have to use a little more of it at a time but the end results are still the same. 

As far as planting your crop is concerned, I will offer no advice. I will say; no green thumb, no problem! I do not have a green thumb and have still managed to grow it. Luckily, this stuff seems pretty hard to kill.

Enjoy the bounty of Awapuhi Kuahiwi and please let me know how it works for you!

Pinecone ginger art


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  1. "`AWAPUHI KUAHIWI." The "Canoe Plants" of Ancient Hawai`i. 2/11/2014 <Web >
  2. "Zingiber zerumbet – Shampoo Ginger." Hawaiian Plants and Tropical Flowers. 2/11/2014 <Web >

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