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Home HortScience Herbal Plants Studied for Use in Hair Coloring
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MISSISSIPPI STATE, MS—Although fashionable and widely used, synthetic hair colorings have been shown to cause health problems such as hair loss, dry scalp, risk of cancer, and allergic reactions. The trend toward non-toxic, eco-friendly health and beauty products is piquing consumer interest in natural products, including hair dyes made from plant extracts. Natural plant pigments such as carotene (golden), chlorophyll a (blue–green), lutein (yellow), and anthocyanins (red) are also highly valued for use in the textile, printing, and handicrafts industries. In Thailand, home to an abundance of native herbal plants, cultivating and marketing herbals has become a burgeoning industry.

To learn more the about the presence, color, and number of pigments and polyphenols (colorants) in native herbal plants, scientists in Thailand and the United States collaborated on experiments to extract 14 common Thai herbals, included black rice, butterfly pea, marigold, safflower, turmeric, and Ya-nang. Methanol, ethanol, and acetone were used in the extraction process. According to Mississippi State University's Frank B. Matta, lead author of the research study in HortScience, methanol provided a more complete extraction than ethanol and acetone.

The researchers used high-performance liquid chromatography to separate and identify compounds of plant pigments and polyphenols. The experiments revealed plant extracts in a wide range of colors, including violet–blue, yellow–green, red, orange–red, gray–purple, blue–green, gray–orange, gray–yellow, and black. Matta noted that the carotenoids, chlorophylls, and polyphenols such as tannins and anthocyanins found in the research can be used as coloring dyes. "These natural dyes are harmless, non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-pollutant, and create fewer wastewater concerns than synthetic dyes," he said.

The scientists suggested that further research using the compounds identified in their study could have important economic implications. "The study results show that pigments and natural colorants from Thai herbal plants could have great value in the cosmetic industry and for export markets," they concluded.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site:

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at


Original Article:

Detection of Pigments and Natural Colorants from Thai Herbal Plants for Possible Use as Coloring Dyes
Panthip Boonsong, Natta Laohakunjit, Orapin Kerdchoechuen, and Frank B. Matta
HortScience 46:265–272. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

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