‘Chenghee’ for soft and silky crowing glory
Chenghee, the natural haircare, brewed at home by local women in Manipur, is enriched by the addition of over 27 indigenous herbs found in the state.

ByOsmee Nongmeikapam

Updated on 25 Oct 2020, 11:45 am

Hibiscus flower is one of the ingredients used in Chenghee (Representational Image: Unsplash)

Hibiscus flower is one of the ingredients used in Chenghee (Representational Image: Unsplash)


Manipuri women are known for their beautiful straight, long and healthy hair growth draped to the waistline and the secret lies in the ancient practice of using homemade tradiitonal 'Chenghee ' or rice water to wash and care for their hair. Although the younger generation today uses cemmercially available haircare products from the market, some still use Chenghee to treat the hair.

Chenghee, the natural haircare, brewed at home by local women, is enriched by the addition of over 27 indigenous herbs found in the state. Chenghee is made from the water used to rinse and strain the rice and can be used with or without boiling.

The quality of Chenghee is said to be better when the rice water is fermented for a day or two and the fermented product is known as 'Pitera' as it is rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The main substance found in the rice water is 'inositol' which penetrates the damaged hair and repair it from the roots. It also protects the hair from future damage and is said to delay the greying of the hair. One of the best parts of this haircare remedy is the easy availability with no additional cost.

In addition, prolonged regular use of rice water is considered to be good for the skin as well.

Chenghee has been exploited as a quality hair product by the addition of indigenous plants and herbs to good effect. This is achieved by boiling the herbs and the plants in the rice water and allowed to cool to lukewarm temperature before use. A wide variety of herbs used in Chenghee is available in the state. A total of 27 herbs that are used in making Chenghee are listed below (Common/Scientific and Manipuri name):

1. Patchouli /Pogostemon cablin (Sangbrei)

2. Perilla/Perilla frustescens (Khamela)

3. Crowfoot grass /Dactyloctenium aegypticum (Pungphai)

4. Goat weed /Ageratum conyzoides (Khongjai Napi)

5. Worm Seed /Artemisia nilagirica (Laibak ngou)

6. Wood sorrel or Indian sorrel /Oxalis corniculata (Yensil)

7. Citronella grass /Cymbopogon nardus (Charot mana)

8. Common purslane /Portulaca oleracea (Laibak Kundo)

9. Buttonweed /Spilanthes acmella (Lalukok)

10. Asian Crocus /Kaempferia rotunda (Leibaklei)

11, East Himalayan Mussaenda /Mussaenda roxburghii (Hanurei)

12, Muyna /Meyna laxiflora (Heibi)

13. Dandal /Xylosma longifolia (Nong leisang)

14. Camphor basil /Ocimum kilimandscharicum (Karpur tulsi)

15. Water hyssop /Bacopa monnieri (Leibak kundo macha)

16. Linseed /Linum usitatissimum (Thoiding angouba)

17. Elephant Apple /Dillenia indica (Heigri)

18. China rose /Hibiscus rosasinensis (Juba kushum)

19. Sand ginger /Kaempferia galanga (Yai thamna manbi)

20. Lemon scented eucalyptus /Eucalyptus citriodora (Nasik)

21. Lemon /Citrus limon (Champra)

22. Indian Aloe /Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera or Ghrita kumar)

23. Wild varnish tree /Rhus semialata (Heimang)

24. Magnolia tree /Magnolia hodgisonii (U thambal Angangba)

25. Orange berry or Gin berry /Glycosmis arborea (Yong komla)

26. Pomella or Grapefruit /Citrus maxima (Nobab)

27. Sugar lemon /Artabotrys hexapetalus (Chini champa)

Benefits of Chenghee

The presence of inositol in Chenghee makes the hair less frizzy, enhancing the hair texture.

Regular use of it smoothens the texture of the hair and improves hair growth

It is also free from preservatives and chemicals it helps to maintain the pH with the hairs natural oil.

The plants and herbs add on quality of the chenghee.

It helps rid baldness. The addition of East Himalayan Mussaenda (hanurei) or Sand ginger (yai thamnamanbi) or Aloe  helps get rid of baldness.

Sandal (nongleishang) helps kills lice. Lemon (Champra) and Elephant Apple (heigri) helps remove dirt, cure dandruff

It prevents hairfall

hina rose (Jubakushum) flower helps prevent greying of hair at a young age and makes hair darker and thicker.

Chenghee the humble starchy water left over after rice is cooked or washed is thought to make the hair smooth and shiny. It also helps the hair to grow faster. Some rice water advocates claim that fermented rice water has more benefits than plain rice water. Fermented substances have a higher amount of antioxidants to combat hair and skin cell damage.

It is often the little things that we tend to overlook and our attention can be drawn by the glitz and glamour of clever marketing but it is high time to relook at Chenghee as a truly indigenous quality product available in ready to use form. Chenghee is therefore a beauty product and can be used as a natural hair rinse conditioner or shampoo.


First published:25 Oct 2020, 11:44 am


Osmee Nongmeikapam

Osmee Nongmeikapam

Lecturer, Tamphasana Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Imphal, Manipur

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