Soapnut

Sapindus mukorossi

Herbs gallery - Soapnut

Common names

  • Aritha
  • Doda
  • Dodan
  • Doadni
  • Kanma
  • Ritha
  • Soap Berry
  • Soap Nut
  • Thali

This deciduous tree is found growing naturally in the northern regions of India. Soapnut (botanical name Sapindus Mukorossi) bears anything between five to ten pairs of leaves that are separate and its fruits are solitary, large and contain a pit inside. This tree is a member of the genus Sapindaceae and is a member of family Sapindeae. This tree is grown extensively in the upper Gangetic plains in India as well as the sub-Himalayan region in altitudes ranging between 200 meters and 1500 meters. This species is also called soap-nut tree and is among the most important trees in the tropical as well as sub-tropical areas of Asia.

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Soapnut is an attractive deciduous tree that grows to a medium height of 20 meters. While its leaves are pinnate, the bark of this tree is smooth and gray colored. Its canopy is akin to that of an umbrella, covering about 16 feet across. This is an ever-growing tree and when it is about 70 years, its height may reach up to 82 feet, while its width may be anything between nine feet and 16 feet. The size of soapnut tree leaflets gets thinner towards the pointed end of the rachis.

The flowers of soapnut are small and their color is greenish white. The trees are in blossom during summer, while their fruits appear between July and August. The fruits become mature by the time it is November or December. The ripened soapnut fruits are sold either in the form of soap nuts or gathered for their seeds, which usually germinate without much difficulty. The texture of the dehydrated fruits is soapy and they are usually used to produce superior quality detergents, shampoos, or used in place of soaps for cleansing hands. In its fresh state, the soapnut plant is green as well as soft.

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The flowers of soapnut are polygamous in nature and generally bisexual. They appear on the compound cymose panicles or the terminal thyrses. The flowers are sub-sessile (attached by the base) and appear in large numbers. Occasionally, they also appear in lose panicles at the branch terminals. The yellowish brown fruits of this tree are always solitary and have resemblance to the globe (globose). The fruits are fleshy and soap like that measure about 2.0 cm to 2.5 cm across. The seeds are contained inside a black, glossy and a solid endocarp, whose appearance also has resemblance to that of the globe.

The dehydrated soapnut fruit is the most important and useful part of this plant. The fleshy part of the fruit encloses saponin, which is an excellent alternative for washing soap and, hence, is extensively used to produce superior quality shampoos, hand washes, detergents and a number of other similar items. The rural people value the skin of soapnut fruit greatly and use it in the form of a shampoo to wash their hair. In addition, it is also used for washing woollen garments. This is the prime reason for a number of botanists naming this plant as Sapindus detergents.

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The soapnut foliage is also used by villagers to feed their cattle when other fodder is scarce, especially during droughts. The fruit of this species also possesses therapeutic properties. People practicing Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Unani medicine systems hold the fruit in high esteem and use it to treat several health problems, including nausea, common cold, constipation, epilepsy and even pimples. In addition, the herbal remedies prepared from the soapnut fruit are used in small doses in the form of an enthelmintic (a medicine that kills and expels worms from the body) and expectorant.

The timber of the soapnut tree is firm and has a pale yellow hue. The wood is close-grained and dense and each cubic foot of the timber weighs approximately 30 kg. It is utilized in the form of construction material in rural areas, in addition to making agricultural implements, sugar and oil presses and for a number of other purposes.

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Parts used

Dried fruits, powder.

Uses

The soapnut plant has a number of therapeutic uses and is often employed for treating epilepsy, migraine, extra salivation and also chlorosis (a benign form of anaemia in teenage girls due to iron-deficiency).

Ayurveda, the ancient medicine system of India, has ranked soapnut highly in its list of popular herbs as well as minerals. In Ayurveda, soapnut is utilized in the form of a vital constituent in shampoos and cleansers. Moreover, this herb is also used for treating a number of skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema and also to remove freckles. In addition, soapnut possesses mild insecticidal attributes and, hence, is also employed to eliminate lice from the scalp.

As the soapnut plant also possesses anti-microbial attributes, it is beneficial for septic systems.

Soapnut is a valuable herb and is often used to treat contaminated soil. In addition, this herb has been employed for cleansing as well as bleaching cardamoms with a view to further enhance their hue as well as flavour.

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As soapnut possesses a soap-like attribute, it is used to prepare cleansing lotion, shampoo, protein shampoo as well as protein shampoo added with conditioner. This fruit encloses elevated amounts of saponins. In addition, it is also anti-bacterial, a cleanser and a gentle foaming agent. Soapnut is pulverized into a powder and used for cleansing hair, skin as well as washing laundry. It is also useful for getting rid of stains on your hand and it may also be beneficial for people suffering from psoriasis, eczema and inflamed and sensitive skin. This herb is a wonderful tonic for the hair. Soapnut extract is obtained from the trees of the soapnut (Sapindus Mukorossi) tree. The soapnut fruit pulp encloses elevated amounts of natural foaming substances. You can not only use soapnut extract to cleanse your hair and skin, but also wash clothes, especially woollen garments.

An excellent facial can be prepared by adding soapnut to a mixture of clay and milk powder for cleansing the skin delicately. In addition, soapnut can also be blended with salt scrubs to enhance its cleansing action. Soapnut encloses high amounts of saponins, which are used in the form of a textile auxiliary and also for toothpaste production. Soapnut is also helpful for curing more than a few ailments, such as common cold, constipation, pimples, nausea, epilepsy and some others.

In addition, soapnut is also employed for treating conditions like diarrhea, asthma, verminosis, and cholera as well as gastralgia dyspepsia. This herb is also used for treating hysteria, lumbago (pain in the lumbar region), and dyspepsia as well as worm affection. Soapnut is often used in the form of a surfactant and also for cleansing hairs as well as fabrics.

The soapnut trees enclose the maximum amount of saponin, which is a naturally occurring detergent extensively used for cleaning several things. In addition, soapnut has also been used for various therapeutic purposes in the form of an emetic, expectorant, contraceptive as well as for curing a number of conditions, including head lice, psoriasis, epilepsy, migraines and excessive salivation. Findings of various scientific studies have revealed that saponins contained in soap nuts restrain the growth of tumour cells. Soapnuts are extensively used in Ayurvedic cleansers and shampoos. In addition, Ayurvedic medicine uses soap nuts to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

In the West too, soap manufacturers have been using saponins for long. Usually, they use saponins extracted from soap nuts along with several chemical additives that may not be essential for the real washing process and may harm the users as well as contaminate the environment. In fact, over the years, saponins have turned out to be extremely well-accepted substitutes for the chemical detergents. Saponins are considered to be environment friendly and also safe for use.

In India, jewellers have been using the soapnut plant for restoring the brightness of gold, silver ornaments as well as those made from other precious metals.

Habitat and cultivation

Soapnut is generally propagated by its seeds, which have been found to have a tendency to germinate without any difficulty. In order to ensure speedy as well as satisfactory germination of these seeds, it is advisable that you drench them in warm water for no less than 24 hours prior to sowing. However, some people favour scratching the surface of the seeds before soaking them. They scarify the seeds by carefully scraping, filling or striking them. The soaked seeds may be sown right away into their permanent positions outdoors or in containers. To sow the seeds outdoors, you need to prepared square pits measuring 5 meters (16 feet) on all sides and these pits should be well spaced. Ideally, the pits or containers should be packed will clayey loam soil blended with manure from farmyard. Alternately, you may prepare nursery beds using the same soil and manure for sowing the seeds.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of the soapnut fruit has revealed that its most important chemical constituents include saponins, kaempferol, sapindoside A and B, oleic, stearic, palmitic and linoleic and eicosenoic acids, B-sitosterol, glycerides as well as quercetin.

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