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Polish plait (Plica polonica in Latin), plica, or trichoma is a formation of hair. This term can refer to a hairstyle, or supposes a medical condition. It also relates to the system of beliefs in European folklore, and healing practices in traditional medicine in Poland that supported neglected, matted hair as an amulet, or as a catchment for illness leaving the body.
Plica Polonica (synonym, plica neuropathica; common name, "Polish plait") is an uncommon condition in which the hair shaft becomes entangled irreversibly, forming a mass which is matted and sometimes can be sticky and moist.
In this condition the protective layer of the hair (cuticle) is damaged, and the cortex of the hair is exposed. The cortex is a more moist and sticky part of the hair than the outer layer, and the affected hairs adhere to each other and other, unaffected hairs. Several factors may contribute to this condition: chemical exposure, hair with natural kinks, hair extensions, quality of water and shampoo, or absence of hair grooming and poor hair care techniques. It may also be caused by or accompanied with lice infestation (pediculosis) leading to inflammation of the scalp, or the mass can become malodorous.
Larry Wolff in his book Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of Enlightenment mentions that in Poland, for about a thousand years, some people wore the hair style of the Scythians. Zygmunt Gloger in his Encyklopedia staropolska mentions that Polish plait was worn as a hair style by some people of both genders in the Pinsk region and the Masovia region at the beginning of the 19th century. He used the term "kołtun zapuszczony" which denotes artificial formation of Polish plait. According to folklore studies today, dreadlocks were formed using liquids or wax. Among liquids, a mixture of wine and sugar was used, or washing hair daily with water in which herbs were boiled. The most commonly used herb was Vinca (Vinca major), followed by Lycopodium clavatum and moss, which caused hair to mat into dreadlocks. A similar effect can be had by rubbing hair with wax, or inserting a piece of a candle at the hair ends. Newer Polish dictionaries mention plica as a disease, but the old ones also mention artificially created plica.
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