The Secret Hair Ingredient - Awapuhi and Why We Use It

While hiking one of the botanical trails in Hawaii, you stumble across something close to the ground that looks like a greenish or reddish pinecone, but it’s far from a pinecone. 

Each time you lather up with that little purple bar of magic, All-In-One, a whirlwind of ingredients is used to keep your body and our oceans healthy and intact.

One of these ingredients is used solely for shampoo and is sourced directly from the Earth; it even introduced itself to the Hawaiian culture. This ingredient is known as Awapuhi, or the “shampoo ginger” - and it’s the “pinecone” you may find while hiking.

pinecone ginger

Where’d It Come from?

The Hawaiian people have used Awapuhi for centuries, and if you go hiking in Hawaii, you may stumble across it. However, it isn’t native to the islands; it’s one of the plants the Polynesians brought on their ocean voyages as they colonized the Hawaiian islands from approximately 1400 BC to 12 AD.

Awapuhi was one of several plants and animal species that the Polynesians had chosen to grow in their new homes, and it was most likely taken for its cleansing mucilage and medicinal, antiseptic properties. It was used to enhance the flavor of food, pounded into powder, and sliced to be consumed, and the root of the plant was cooked to soothe cavities and toothaches.

Although these fragrant plants are associated with tropical locations, they originated in India and migrated eastward throughout Polynesia.

Now, ginger is used in soups, stir fry, desserts, health drinks, shampoo, and anything else you want to add it to!

Girl with pinecone ginger pinecone lily shampoo ginger

How Do They Grow?

Awapuhi is a 0.6 - 2 meter tall plant grown outdoors in mild climates and indoors in colder climates. These tender perennials love moist, shaded, forested areas; and arise each summer from underground rhizomes. Awapuhi is a deciduous plant, meaning it goes dormant for a portion of the year - for Awapuhi this time is during the “wet season.” During spring, with the lessening of the rains and slight drying of the soil, shoots begin to emerge from the surface. The shoots are typically bright green with blades arranged on either side of the stem. The blades become floral bracts that gradually turn red when maturing.

The flowers and rhizomes are incredibly fragrant when the plant has matured, with a pleasant warm ginger spice scent and plenty of sudsy mucilage.

There isn’t a clear record of how the Awapuhi flower evolved and why it produces so much mucilage - not much is known about its ecological origins before humans began propagating it thousands of years ago. It’s theorized that the mucilage could be produced to protect the inflorescence from predators, trapping them like a carnivorous plant.

In the garden, Awapuhi makes a nice specimen to plant during the summer months; it works well under fruit and other trees or can be planted in a flower border or herb garden. The plant will die and grow back every year and has a fairly thick rhizome mat just under the surface of the soil that may leave a blank in the garden for a while. This can be taken care of by planting shallow-rooted annuals after the tops have died back.

ginger root

Why It’s Fantastic for Our Bodies

Awapuhi has several incredible uses that are healthy and impactful for our bodies - and after reading about all its benefits, you may love it even more.

Not only is Awapuhi used for shampoo, but it’s edible as well; the leaves and leaf stalks can be used in cooking to impart a ginger flavor and taste to pork, fish, and other sources of meat. Traditionally, the meat is wrapped in the leaves and placed in underground ovens to cook. 

Medicinally, the plant has several well researched uses including as an anti-inflammatory, for digestive issues, for treating diarrhea, and for treating intestinal worms. Usually, the leaves and rhizomes are macerated, powdered, and combined with alcohol as a tincture for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Why Does Surf Soap Use It?

The Polynesian God Kane is the god of procreation, and it’s believed that Awapuhi is one of his forms. Like Surf Soap, Kane creates with the best intentions of the land and sea - that’s why we use Awapuhi in our All-In-One bar.

Awapuhi extract balances moisture for shiny, manageable, and healthy-looking hair. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, allowing it to decrease inflammation and help prevent damage from free radicals. The anti-inflammatory properties could make ginger helpful for soothing inflammatory scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff. When inflammatory scalp conditions improve, hair growth can improve - so our Surf Soap soothes and encourages hair growth with each use.

It thoroughly cleanses all hair types, including color-treated hair, and brightens hair by removing dulling buildup - so you can surf with bright pink, purple, or whatever color of hair without the expense of the oceans’ damage. It even helps prevent moisture loss while special conditioners help improve hair texture and add volume - so you won’t have brittle, straw-like hair after a refreshing swim.

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