So rich and diverse is the plant cornucopia of our planet, that there is truly at least one thoroughly accomplished herb for every conceivable ailment or requirement. Despite the vast knowledge we have hitherto gathered, most plant uses are either completely unknown or known only “locally” within certain cultural/societal/tribal enclaves. The most exciting and humbling thing about the art and science of both internal and external nutrition is that most of it, most of the significant components and properties of it, have yet to be discovered.
This thought came again to the forefront of my ponderings when I was shaving, sometime last year. Yes, we all know that shaving can take its toll on the skin (regardless of what part of your anatomy you might be shaving), but what came to me at that moment was a sense of lamentation about just how inherently wasteful the process is. All that freshly synthesised (hair) protein chopped off and discarded, every few days. The body responding, not by reducing the growth as one would often like, but rather, by actually increasing hair production and (slowly, but surely) the girth of the hair follicles themselves. What an incredible waste of good nutrition and precious resources. “There must be another way”, I thought to myself, “there must be a herb that can help!”.
A few weeks later “the herb” did indeed come to me. It came by way of one of Burma’s most iconic herbs – Thanaka bark. In Burmese Thanaka simply means “elephant” and refers to the giant, slow-growing aromatic tree of the Hesperethusa crenulata. The hand-ground, finely powdered Thanaka bark is embraced by a broad cross-section of the Burmese nation for its revered cosmetic effects. Quintessentially used for its sunscreen/sun-protective properties, it is very common to see the faces (and other exposed parts) of children, women and young men adorned with the pale yellow Thanaka powder as a means to protect their skin under the hot tropical sun. Thanaka powder is also valued as a face mask for its beautifying effects. It is anti-bacterial and antifungal and therefore a useful anti-acne aid. It rejuvenates, smoothes out complexion imbalances, softens the skin…oh, and it helps to reduce and eventually remove unwanted facial and body hair. Let me say that again: it helps to reduce and eventually remove unwanted facial and body hair.
How is it used to remove hair?
In Burmese tradition and the broader Ayurvedic tradition, the naturally fragrant Thanaka bark powder is mixed with organic safflower oil (preferably cold-pressed) to make a creamy paste that is applied to freshly de-haired skin. Thanaka contains a constellation of very unique proteins that target the hair bulb and stop the hair follicle growing, over time. It is said that within 100 days of application (yes, this should be seen as a natural program, not a silver bullet) hair growth can be completely halted.
The Thanaka cream is simply massaged into the desired area for 5 minutes and then left for at least 3 hours, many people preferring to leave it on overnight. Afterwards, it is simply washed off in the shower. Repeat 3-4 times and watch as your hair growth diminishes: grows back more slowly and gradually thins out until it disappears. Though 3-4 months is the target period for this program, thicker hair naturally takes longer to combat. Nonetheless, the sure, steady process will be appreciated after a just a few weeks as growth or bushiness is clearly decelerated. On top of this, the applicant will be benefiting from the additional softening and beautifying phytochemistry of Thanaka’s toolbox.
To source a high-quality, 100% wild-crafted genuine Burmese Thanaka powder check out this one. Unfortunately, many low-quality pre-packaged Thanaka products coming out of Burma (and SE Asia in general) contain additional low-cost chemical fillers and strong synthetic aromas, so beware of fraudulent products.