What is Jagua tattoo?

Jagua tattoo is a temporary form of skin decoration resulting from the application of an extract of the fruit Genipa americana, also known as jagua. This fruit has been used for body ornamentation and medicinal purposes in many areas of South America for centuries. It has only recently been introduced in North America and Europe as an addition to henna body art, also called mehendi, mehandi, or mehndi in India. (The term henna tattoo is often used as a generic term for temporary tattoos.)


The jagua tattoo method involves the surface application of a dye which then sets within a few hours, staining the upper layer of skin, or epidermis. The body sloughs off this layer of skin continuously, and eventually the tattoo fades and disappears. This differs from Pacific Islands' methods of applying tattoos, the word itself derived from the Polynesian tatau, meaning "to write". The term is commonly associated with the permanent surgical insertion of pigment underneath the skin, as opposed to pigments applied to the skin's surface. Both mehndi (henna) and jagua tattoos stain the top skin layer. In the case of jagua the color develops and darkens over several days until blue-black.


While henna tattoos are associated with Indian, African and Middle Eastern cultures, jagua body art was invented by circum-Caribbean tribes and indigenous peoples of the Amazon region.


The fruit

Genipa americana is a species of Genipa, native to northern South America (south to Peru), the Caribbean and southern Mexico, growing in profusion in rainforests. It is commonly called huito; the alternate name jagua may refer to other species of Genipa as well. To the Inca, it was known as hawa or wituq. In the British islands of the West Indies, it was called the marmalade box.


It is a medium size tree growing to 15 m tall. The leaves are opposite, lanceolate to oblong, 20–35 cm long and 10–19 cm broad, glossy dark green, with an entire margin. The flowers are white, yellow or red, with a five-lobed corolla 5–6 cm diameter. The fruit is a thick-skinned edible berry 5–8 cm diameter.

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