By Kristle Jones
Native Hawaiians have known the secret to soft, beautiful hair for ages, and it comes straight from the ground. While this type of plant has existed in other tropical locations around the world, its Hawaiian nickname is what most people know it as—awapuhi. There are many varieties of this local ginger plant, some of which are best for cooking and others that will help smooth your strands and keep them looking healthy. The type of awapuhi that is a hair staple is specifically called awapuhi kuahiwi, and goes by the scientific name Zingiber zerumbet. It is also known as shampoo ginger or pinecone ginger, but this bright bud is not a one trick pony.
What Is Awapuhi?
Awapuhi is a perennial plant that begins growing underground as a rhizome— meaning it grows horizontally then the stems and leaves sprout vertically—and it begins blooming during the spring. These plants are ready to work their healing magic on your tresses when the mature pinecone-like flower fills with liquid and becomes a vivid red hue. Conveniently, this is around the time of year when warm weather and lots of sun can start to take a toll on the moisture levels in your hair.
What Are The Benefits?
The main benefit of using awapuhi or awapuhi-based hair care products is that this liquid makes your hair soft and supple. You can harness the power of awapuhi using the raw liquid from the plant or ensure that it’s an ingredient in your hair care products to get softer, smoother, healthier hair. Since you’re using a natural ingredient, it’s also better for both you and the environment.
Use this plant like the pros and take a page from Hawaiian women who simply squeeze the nectar straight from the flower onto their hair for a simple moisturizing treatment, though there is a technique to getting the most benefits out of this plant.
How to Use Awapuhi
To make hair care products from the awapuhi plant, the pros extract a clear, sudsy juice from the pinecone-shaped flowers. According to Steph De La Garza, a travel writer and author, the flower has many little cup-like petals that contain liquid. If you’re using your own awapuhi plant, she recommends that you cut the flower, then to maintain the moisture in the petals, simply keep it upright until you’re ready to use it.
You can use the fragrant awapuhi directly on your hair and even on your body as a moisturizing wash. “Turn the flower upside down into a bowl and squeeze the liquid or nectar out,” she instructs, adding, “The liquid is somewhat slimy with a smell reminiscent of ginger and goes onto the skin and hair nicely without any stickiness.”
If you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical region, you can use the liquid straight from the plant in all its organic glory. If not, many leading hair care brands have products containing awapuhi. A good option is One ‘n Only Island Essentials, a complete hair care line that is formulated with awapuhi extract and is silicone-free. Keep an eye out for it the next time you’re browsing the aisles. Your hair will thank you.