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Cherry refers to a variety of trees in the Prunus genus, such as wild or black cherry. You probably know that cherry fruit makes a tasty pie filling, but did you know that cherry bark yields an edible resin, even though it contains the components of cyanide? These same plant compounds allow cherry bark to enhance the color and texture of your hair, but without poisoning yourself.
When cut, cherry bark exudes a fragrant resin that is traditionally used as chewing gum and as medicine. The bark and stones of cherry fruit, like peach, apricot and other tree cousins in the rose family, contain sugar-like compounds called amygdalin and prunasin. These chemicals react with water to form prussic acid, or cyanide. In small amounts, these agents reputedly improve digestion, increase respiration and kill a cough. As ingredients in your shampoo, they help to give new life to a fading crown of glory.
According to Chaz Dean, Los Angeles-based hair stylist, colorist and creator of a line of natural hair care products, ordinary shampoos and styling products contain harsh detergents and chemicals that can build up on hair and scalp, causing breakage, hair loss and premature loss of color. To better serve his clients, he developed several botanical formulas designed to cleanse and condition hair without the use of lathering sulfates and surfactants. The sweet almond conditioning formula contains cherry bark as a key ingredient to increase manageability and restore softness and shine.
Dean’s conditioning cleanser formula also contains cherry bark to enrich the color of both natural and color-treated hair, regardless of shade. Long before it became cosmopolitan chic to have a color extender applied to your hair at the salon, Native Americans and European settlers living on the prairie turned to Mother Nature for hair colorants. They found that a strong “tea” of the leaves of the cherry tree produced a green dye, while the fruit yields a funky color somewhere between green and gray. The inner pith of cherry bark, on the other hand, contains a reddish pigment that lends warm highlights to most hair colors and in particular adds brightness to red and burgundy shades.
You could cut down a cherry tree and strip its bark to get this botanical into your hair care regimen, but it might be easier to head into your local natural health store to have a look at the selection of herbal hair care products there. If it’s vibrant color you’re after, look for a semi-permanent hair color fortified with cherry bark, which typically lasts through 24 shampoos. These products can be found in most grocery stores and pharmacies.