Nature has been a rich source of therapeutic agents for thousands of years and an impressive number of modern
drugs have been isolated from natural sources based on the uses of these plants in traditional medicine. Henna is one such
plant commonly known as Persian Henna or Lawsonia inermis, a bushy, flowering tree, commonly found in Australia,
Asia and along the Mediterranean coasts of Africa. Paste made from the leaves of Henna plant has been used since the
Bronze Age to dye skin, hairs and fingernails especially at the times of festivals. In recent times henna paste has been used
for body art paintings and designs in western countries. Despite such widespread use in dyeing and body art painting,
Henna extracts and constituents possess numerous biological activities including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial
and anticancer activities. The active coloring and biologically active principle of Henna is found to be Lawsone (2-
hydroxy-1, 4-naphthoquinone) which can serve as a starting building block for synthesizing large number of therapeutically
useful compounds including Atovaquone, Lapachol and Dichloroallyl lawsone which have been shown to possess
potent anticancer activities. Some other analogs of Lawsone have been found to exhibit other beneficial biological properties
such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitubercular and antimalarial. The ability of Lawsone to undergo the redox
cycling and chelation of trace metal ions has been thought to be partially responsible for some of its biological activities.
Despite such diverse biological properties and potent anticancer activities the compound has remained largely unexplored
and hence in the present review we have summarized the chemistry and biological activities of Lawsone along with its
analogs and metal complexes.