The Natural Way to Cleaning and Body Care Part 1 : Soapnuts and saponins

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Substantial pollution has been caused by synthetic detergents to our ecosystem, mainly our water bodies. They damage our health and the health of aquatic organisms and wildlife. We tend to think that this is a complicated problem; the solution being that the government should enforce strict laws for the industry about limiting the use of harmful chemicals in their products. The industry would, of course, be resistant to such laws since there would be loss of profit, if their cleaning product’s efficiency reduces due to such regulatory action. All these complicated problems we face can be solved by a simple solution: using natural alternatives for cleaning, skin and hair care. We don’t need synthetic products at all. It is just that we have just gotten accustomed to using them and we cannot imagine living without them now. Natural cleaning and body care products are not something new; they have been used in the Indian tradition and in the tradition of ancient civilizations all over the world. The Indian science of health, Ayurveda, provides natural formulations for skin and hair care. The ingredients are from Mother Nature and ensure the best health of skin and hair.

In this article, we will look at the many wonders of the soapnut. Soapnut is called Pannankottai, Punalai, Punthi and Puvanti in Tamil; Reetha, Aritha, Rishtak in Hindi; and Kumbha beeja (round shaped seeds), Phenila (frothy fruits) in Sanskrit.

A historical and botanical introduction
Sapindus is genus of about 5 to 12 species of shrubs and small trees. They are native to warm temperate to tropical regions in both the East (Africa and Eurasia) and the West (the Americas). The genus includes both deciduous and evergreen trees.1 Members of the genus are commonly called soapnut trees because the fruit pulp is used to make soap. The fruits of these trees, called soapberries or soapnuts, have been used for washing by ancient people in Asia as well as the Native Americans. [1] The generic name is derived from the Latin words sapo, meaning “soap”, and indicus, meaning “of India”.

The soapnuts contain saponins, which are a natural surfactant2. Saponins are chemical compounds which are found in particular abundance in many plant species. [2] They derive their name from the soapwort plant, the root of which was used historically as a soap.

Sapindus mukorossi (native to northern India, Nepal and southern China) and Sapindus trifoliatus (native to southern India) are the main sources for the fruits that have become famous as the soapnut. [3] The soapnut from Sapindus mukorossi has the highest saponin content.

Sapindus mukorossi grows wild throughout an immense region around the Himalayas, extending from southern China, through Nepal and into northern India. It grows uncultivated in deprived soil and helps fight erosion in the Himalayan foothills. It is a comparatively resilient tree as it deters insects and disease. It also provides a source of income to the local population. [14]

The soapnut trees can grow to a height of 12-20 metres and have a trunk girth of 3-5 metres. They begin producing soapnuts in 9-10 years. They produce small white grouped flowers (during spring and the beginning of summer) which become round yellow berries that turn reddish tan and crumpled when ripe. The fruit appears in July-August (fall) and ripens by November-December (winter). The round nuts are 2 – 2.5 cm in diameter. The fruit is collected in winter months for seed and for sale in the market.

Soapnut trees bear fruit (soapnut) for about 90 years. [3]

The saponins are present in the shell of the soapnut. The seed is removed from the shell and the shells are dried in the sun. There is no processing involved, as the dried shells can directly be used for washing and cleaning. The actual “nut” (the seed inside the shell) does not discharge saponin, so it has no cleaning properties. It is removed and used for planting new trees.

Fig. 1 Sapindus mukorossi (native to northern India, Nepal and southern China)

Fig. 2 Soapnuts of Sapindus mukorossi

Fig. 3 Sapindus trifoliatus on the left (native to southern India)

Use of soapnut in cleaning

Soapnuts have been used since ancient times all over the world as a laundry detergent, as soap for personal hygiene, and as a cleanser with lots of other uses.

Making the soapnut liquid
* Add 50 grams (about a handful) of soapnut shells (without seeds) to 4 cups of water. Crush the shells to smaller pieces before adding.
* Bring to boil and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
* The boiling process extracts the saponin from the nut shells and allows it to combine with the water.
* The liquid can be used immediately, or can be allowed to steep overnight.
* Strain into an appropriate container.
* Compost the used shells.
* Experiment with longer boil times and water to shell ratios for stronger and weaker concentrations.

This concentrated liquid can then be used for multiple purposes, as follows:

1) A natural laundry detergent

Soapnuts are mild yet highly effective natural detergent. The soapnut liquid prepared can be used to wash clothes by hand.

Soapnuts can be used in machine wash also. All that is needed is a small cloth satchel with 4-5 soapnuts placed in the wash. Nothing else is required. Not only are soapnuts, a natural detergent, but also they act as a fabric softener. Each soapnut can be reused for washing upto 6 times, after which it loses its surfactant property due to the decrease in saponin content. The used soapnuts can then be composted.

Absence of toxic chemicals, irritants and allergens: Since soapnuts don’t leave chemical residue, they are ideal for people with sensitive skin, and those with eczema3 and psoriasis4. It is also ideal for washing babies’ clothing.
Since it is natural, there are no toxic ingredients which irritate the skin and respiratory system (as is the case with synthetic detergents made from petrochemicals).
Soapnuts are hypoallergenic; that is, they are relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.

Washing delicate clothing: They are gentle in nature and hence can be used for delicate clothing like silk, cashmere and wool. Its mildness keeps colours bright.

Durability of clothes: Owing to their mild nature, using soapnuts for detergent helps maintain the fabric structure of clothing for longer periods.

Washing cloth diapers and napkins: Soap nuts are a chemical-free option to wash cloth diapers. Soapnut liquid can be used directly to wash cloth diapers and napkins. Soapnuts are great for washing cloth diapers because unlike chemical detergents, they do not clog the fabric causing the diaper to loose its absorbency. They do not cause diaper rash. In addition, soapnuts clean and remove detergent residue from diapers.

Water and energy saving: They save water because they rinse easier and so less water is required. If using the washing machine, one can use a shorter rinse cycle thus save energy. Its low foam is perfect for high efficiency machines.

Recycling: Washing water from soapnuts can be reused in the garden for watering plants.

2) Dishwashing
Soapnut liquid can be used for washing dishes, cutlery, pans and glasses. The lack of bubbles while washing with soapnut liquid does NOT indicate the effectiveness of washing. Since soapnuts don’t contain artificial foaming agents, there will be few, if any, lasting bubbles.

3) Cleaning and detoxifying food
Fruits and vegetables can be soaked for around 10-15 minutes in soapnut liquid and rinsed. This removes harmful chemicals and residue. This soapnut solution can be reused for household cleaning.

4) Skin cleanser
The soapnut liquid can be used for bathing. Soapnut is a natural product with no toxins and is gentle on the skin. Hence it is particularly an ideal choice for people who have very sensitive skin. Since it is odorless, it is a great choice for people who prefer odorless cleansers. In Ayurvedic medicine, soapnuts are used to cleanse the skin, remove tan, and treat eczema and psoriasis. [4]

5) Shampoo
The soapnut liquid can be used in place of regular shampoo. Soapnuts were the reason for Indian women had long thick hair braided down to their hip. It does not lather as much as regular shampoos, so one needs to avoid overuse and apply the appropriate quantity. Again, that a shampoo or soap should lather in order to prove its effectiveness in cleaning is an idea we have been conditioned to believe, because we are accustomed to using products which contain artificial foaming agents5. This is NOT true at all. Natural preparations which have been used in the ancient Indian tradition did not produce much lather, and yet people had healthy and glowing skin, and healthy long hair.

Makes hair strong, healthy, soft and lustrous: Regular use of soapnut shampoo makes hair strong, healthy, soft and lustrous. Soapnuts contain good amounts of nutrients like Vitamin A, D, E and K, which keeps hair healthy and gives shine and lustre.

A natural conditioner: Soap nuts also provide moisturisation and natural conditioning to the hair and prevents hair fall.

Prevents dandruff: Soapnut shampoo prevents dandruff. The application of powdered soapnut on the scalp is useful in fighting off various scalp problems such as dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis. This treatment is used in Ayurveda.

Eliminates head lice: Soapnuts have insecticidal properties and hence are effective in getting rid of lice from scalp. They have been traditionally used for this purpose. [4]

Prevents hair fall: Soapnuts are used in Ayurveda to prevent hair loss. [3]

Note: Ensure that the liquid does not enter the eyes as it will cause a burning sensation.

6) Shaving cream
The recipe for preparing shaving cream from soapnuts is as follows: Pit and remove the shells of a few soapnuts and grind the flesh in a mixie. After making a paste of the flesh, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 3 tsps of soapnut liquid. Use this paste as a shaving cream immediately after preparing. [4]

7) Insect and pest repellant
Since soapnuts have insect repellent properties, the crushed or used shells can be used around the garden to repel insects and pests.
Soapnut liquid is also an effective and natural alternative to repel insects and pests off plants in the garden. Soapnut liquid can be sprayed on plants around the inflicted areas to get rid of the annoying pests.

8) Pet shampoo
The soapnut liquid can be used to wash pets and spraying their coat can repel pests. Again, the natural insect and pest repelling properties of saponin contained in soapnuts helps in eliminating flies, ticks and other insects.

9) All-purpose cleaner
They can be used as an all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner and for steam cleaning carpets. [3]
Soapnut liquid can also be used as a floor cleaner, which makes the house clean and free of pathogenic bacteria. It can also be used to clean the bathroom and window panes of a house. The liquid can be used for cleaning sinks, toilets, bathtubs, porcelain, tile, grout (fluid form of concrete used for filling gaps, such as seams between tiles), etc.

10) Car wash
Soapnuts can be used for car wash. The recipe is as follows: Take about 12 soapnuts and allow them to soak in 4 litres of hot water for 30 minutes [3] The liquid can be used to wash the car, wheels and even the dashboard, steering wheel and windows. The wash water can then be reused for irrigating trees or plants.

11) Cleaning jewellery
Soapnuts are commonly used in Indian households for cleaning jewellery. Jewellery is soaked in soapnut liquid and rubbed with a cloth to give it a shine.

12) Removal of metals from contaminated soil

Modern research has shown that soapnuts can be used in the removal of metals from contaminated soil.

Soapnuts have been found to be useful in the removal of nickel (Ni), chromium (Cr) and manganese (Mn) from contaminated soils and in the removal of copper (Cu), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) from contaminated industrial soils. Soapnut plant helps in removal of arsenic As (V) from iron (Fe) rich soil. [5]

Quillaja is used in chromium recovery and Quillaja bark is used in cadmium (Cd) and zinc (Zn) heavy metal removal. [5] Quillaja saponaria is also called the soap bark tree.

Composting and reuse as liquid soap for handwash
When the saponin has been exausted fom the soapnuts, they will look dark and feel soggy. They can be put into the compost heap. Or, they can be made into liquid soap for hand wash, by blending the used shells with some water in the mixie. The liquid soap can then be stored in a dispenser near the wash basin. [6]

Storing soapnuts
Soapnuts absorb moisture very easily and become dark and sticky if left exposed to air. Ideally soapnuts should be stored in an airtight container. However, sticky soap nuts do not mean that they have gone bad; they will still wash effectively, as it is the saponin content that determines washing efficiency. Soapnut powder, however, will become lumpy very easily if not stored in airtight conditions. The lumpy form makes the powder difficult to use even though it still retains all its original washing properties. [6]

Use of soapnut in Ayurveda

Soapnuts have long history of medicinal use in India, China and Japan. They have been used in various Indian folk medicines and Ayurveda. In Japan, its shell is called enmei-hi or “life prolonging shell”. Similarly in China it is wu-huan-zi or “no illness fruit”. In Sanskrit it is also called Raksha beeja and Arishtaka, meaning “that which thwarts away evil elements and protects”. Soapnuts are used in the treatment of several diseases in Ayurveda. The fruit, shells, shell powder, seed, roots and bark of the soapnut tree are used as medicine.

Guna (qualities) : Laghu (light to digest), Teekshna (strong, piercing)
Rasa (taste or nature in the pre-digestion stage, i e, while chewing) : Tikta (bitter) and Katu (pungent)
Vipaka (nature during digestion) : Katu (Undergoes pungent taste conversion during digestion)
Veerya (nature post-digestion) : Ushna (hot potency)
Effect on the Tridosha : Balances all the three dosha – vata, pitta and kapha

Medicinal properties of Soapnut

Emetic, expectorant and anti-helminthic properties : Fruits are emetic8, expectorant6 and antihelminthic. Soapnut has the property of lekhana, or “scraping” property. It is useful in balancing kapha, in respiratory disorders and in clearing chlolestrol/clot deposition in blood vessels. They have been traditionally used in the treatment of cold and cough.

Soapnut roots and bark are expectorant and demulcent7. Roots are specially used for migraine and epilepsy.

The anthelmintic9 properties of soapnuts help in expelling parasitic worms from the body. The powdered soapnut seeds are traditionally used for treating constipation, nausea.[7]

Anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties : Because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, soapnut shell powder is applied externally to treat boils, scorpion bites and itching lesions. [8] Lab studies have found anti-bacterial properties of soapnut extract. Similarly, another study found crude soapnut extract exhibiting strong inhibition to growth of various disease causing fungus including Candida. [7]

As mentioned previously, soapnuts are used as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis. [6] Soapnut shell powder is widely used as shampoo. It kills lice and prevents dandruff.

Because of its anti-inflammatory property, the powdered soapnut seeds are traditionally used for treating arthritis and dental caries (tooth decay or cavity). In order to get relief from joint pain, the poultice of soapnut (a soft moist mass) is prepared and applied on the affected areas. Leaves of soapnut are boiled in water and same is used for bath; it helps in relieving joint pain and treating gout10 and rheumatism11. [7]

It is also used in the treatment of lumbago (lower back pain) and chlorosis, which is anaemia caused by iron deficiency, especially in adolescent girls, causing a pale, faintly greenish complexion. It is beneficial for sore eyes and ophthalmia (inflammation of the eye, especially conjunctivitis). [7]

Anti-tumor property : Research has shown that saponins have anti-tumor properties. Around 11 classes of saponins with properties of suppressing tumor cells have been identified. Most of these classes of saponins are found in soapnut. Further research has pointed out the antioxidant properties of extract of Sapindus mukorossi seeds which have potential to protect the body from cancer causing free radicals. [7]

Abortifacient property : Soapnut also has the property called garbhapatana (abortifcient or abortion-causing). Hence, oral usage is contra-indicated during pregnancy.

Soapnut is used in the treatment of
1) Psychiatric disorders
2) Toxic conditions, poisoning
3) Skin diseases
4) Itching, pruritus12
5) Boils, blisters [8]

Use of soapnut as single herb remedy
Alhough oral Ayurvedic medicines containing soapnut are very few, it is used as single herb remedy in many ill-health conditions. It is used as an emetic agent in several diseased conditions in animals. It is used abundantly as external and internal medicinal substance in veterinary practice.

From his years of practice, Dr M.S. Krishnamurthy writes about a few simple remedies prepared using soapnut –
1) Soapnut seed with jaggery in gaseous distention of abdomen
2) Seed marrow in abdominal pain and menstrual pain
3) Soapnut water in food poisoning
4) Soapnut tree bark in wound washing. The same decoction is used for washing gangrene and getting rid of slough, which quickens healing process.
5) Soapnut leaf oil in eczema
6) Ghee and soapnut in itching skin diseases and herpes13 [9]

How to grow your own soapnut tree

* Weaken the shell by using a nail file or sand paper to scarify. If the shell is too tough, it can be hammered gently, being careful not to crush the seed within it.

* Soak the seed in warm/hot water for 24 hours. The soaking process is particularly important as the water is what activates germination.

* The best time of the year for planting is from spring to early summer. Take a pot and fill it with a mixture of clayey loam soil mixed and compost. Plant the seeds to a depth of 2.5 cm. Choose a pot that is deep, since soapnut trees send down vertical tap roots. Place the pot away from direct sunlight, but where it can catch rainfall.
* Seeds can also be planted directly in prepared pits at 5m x 5m spacing

* Water the pots if the soil starts to dry, but do not water if the soil is moist, as it can promote fungal growth.

* Wait and watch the seeds growing. The germination process can take 1-3 months in summer months.

* In time, the seed will swell to almost double its original size and forms a white powder coating around the seed coating. This is a good sign that the seedling is about to emerge.

* As soon as the seedling emerges, re-pot into a plant bag to protect the very long tap root. Since soapnut trees grow in tropical and subtropical climates with good rainfall, keep it in a sunny spot and water regularly. After the seedling grows into a sturdy plant, transplant it from the bag into the soil and take care of it. [10]

Economic and ecological advantages

* Soapnuts are a renewable resource, easily grown in nature and native to the tropical and sub-tropical regions in countries in both the Eastern hemisphere as well as the Western hemisphere.
* No processing (except removing the seed and drying the shells in the sun), less packaging and can be packed in biodegradable packaging materials. No chemicals or fossil fuels are needed to produce soapnuts as there is no manufacturing process involved. Hence, the cultivation and widespread use of soapnuts contributes to climate action significantly.
* Even if purchased, they are economical.
* The cultivation of soapnuts will be a source of income to farmers who practice tree-based agriculture.
* They can substitute multiple cleaners that are toxic to health and environment and also last longer.
* Leads to self-sufficiency as we can grow a soapnut tree ourselves.
* The cultivation of soapnuts has two-fold benefit since they are used both in cleaning as well as in Ayurvedic medicine.

Saponins in other species

Species and native land (For the genus Sapindus) [6]

Sapindus delavayi – China, India.

Sapindus drummondii (Western Soapberry) –  Southern United States, Mexico

Sapindus emarginatus – Southern Asia.

Sapindus marginatus (Florida Soapberry) – Florida to South Carolina

Sapindus mukorossi (Chinese Soapberry) – Northern India, Southern China, Nepal

Sapindus oahuensis (Hawaii Soapberry) – Hawaii (endemic)

Sapindus rarak – Southeast Asia

Sapindus saponaria (Wingleaf Soapberry) – Florida Keys, Caribbean, Central America

Sapindus tomentosus – China

Sapindus trifoliatus (South Indian Soapnut, Three-leaf Soapberry) – Southern India, Pakistan

Besides the family of Sapindus (soapnut), saponins are also found in the closely related families Aceraceae (maples) and Hippocastanaceae (horse chestnuts). It is also found heavily in Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Genus : Gynostemma) and ginseng or red ginseng (Genus : Panax). Gynostemma pentaphyllum, known as jiaogulan in Chinese is indigenous to the southern reaches of China, northern Vietnam, southern Korea, and Japan. It is best known as an herbal medicine reputed to have powerful antioxidant and adaptogenic14 effects purported to increase longevity. Pharmacological research has indicated a number of therapeutic qualities such as lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, and strengthening immunity. Saponins are found heavily in this species in the form of gypenosides.

Fig. 4 Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Jiaogulan or “stranded blue plant”)

Ginseng is a perennial plant with fleshy roots and belongs to the genus Panax. Ginseng is found in North America and in eastern Asia (mostly northeast China, Korea, Bhutan, eastern Siberia), typically in cooler climates. Panax ginseng has been used as a herbal remedy in eastern Asia for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng is a highly valued herb and has been applied to a variety of pathological conditions and illnesses such as hypodynamia (exhibiting decrease in strength), anorexia, shortness of breath, palpitation, insomnia, impotence, haemorrhage and diabetes. [11] Ginseng is characterized by the presence of ginsenosides, which are a form of saponins. Panax quinquefolius is a perennial plant native to eastern North America, though it is also cultivated in places such as China. It is commonly used in Chinese medicine. The plant’s root and leaves were traditionally used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans. Panax vietnamensis, discovered in Vietnam, is the southernmost ginseng known. In Vietnam it is prized in herbal medicine, and hence commercially very valuable. As a result of over-harvesting in the wild, the species is now considered threatened.

Fig. 5 Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng)

Fig. 6 Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng)

Fig. 7 Panax vietnamensis (Vietnamese ginseng)

The root of the soapwort plant, Saponaria officinalis, was used historically as a soap. There are about 20 species of soapwort altogether. The lathery liquid produced by boiling roots or leaves in water has the ability to dissolve fats and grease. Its native range extends throughout Europe, and in Asia to western Siberia. It is also found in North America, though it is considered as a pest species.

Fig. 8 Saponaria officinalis (soapwort)

Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees, native to the hot and dry (arid) parts of the Americas and the Caribbean. Roots of soaptree yucca, Yucca elata, are high in saponins and are used as a shampoo in Native American rituals.

Fig. 9 Yucca elata (soaptree yucca)

The species Quillaja saponaria, the soap bark tree, is an evergreen tree that is native to warm temperate central Chile and South America. The inner bark of Quillaja saponaria can be reduced to powder and employed as a substitute for soap, since it forms a lather with water, owing to the presence of a glucoside saponin. Soap bark tree has a long history of medicinal use with the Andean people who used it especially as a treatment for various chest problems. The saponin content of the bark helps to stimulate the production of a more fluid mucus in the airways, thus facilitating the removal of phlegm through coughing. This is similar to the property of soapnuts called lekhana in Ayurveda.

Fig. 10 Quillaja saponaria (soap bark tree)

The member of the genus Chlorogalum have the common name soaproot or soap plant. The common name comes from their use as soap. They are native to western North America, from Oregon to Baja California, and are mostly found in California. Soap plants are perennial plants, with more or less elongated bulbs, depending on the species. The juices of the bulb contain saponins that form a lather when mixed with water, making the bulbs useful as a kind of soap. Chologalum pomeridianum and Chlorogalum angustifolium were two of the many species known for detergent properties. It was particularly used for washing hair since Chlorogalum pomeridianum was effective against dandruff. The bulbs also had various medicinal uses, both external and internal. Examples of external uses include making a poultice to be used as an antiseptic, or as a rub in cases of rheumatism. Examples of internal use include decoctions for a range of purposes, including as a diuretic, as a laxative and against stomachache. [12*]

Fig. 11 Chlorogalum angustifolium (narrow leaf soap plant)

Fig. 12 Chlorogalum pomeridianum (wavy-leafed soap plant or California soaproot)

Australian aborigines traditionally used Alphitonia excelsa or Red Ash leaves for washing because of their high saponin content. The tree is endemic to Australia. When Red Ash leaves are rubbed in water, they produce lather which can be used for washing clothes. [13]

Fig. 13 Alphitonia excelsa (Red ash)

Fig. 14 Red ash tree

Most saponins, which readily dissolve in water, are poisonous to fish. The indigenous people of ancient civilizations used saponin containing plants to kill fish and aquatic organisms for their diet. Since prehistoric times, cultures throughout the world have used piscicidal (fish-killing) plants, mostly those containing saponins, for fishing. However, it is important to note that the ancient cultures worshipped and lived in harmony with Mother Nature, and they never took more than She could replace.

We clearly see that Mother Nature has provided us with all that we need for living, no matter where we are in the world. In the face of all the complex challenges we face today, it is time we return to Her. We need to draw from our ancient civilizational knowledge and rediscover the way to live as interdependent members of one family on our beautiful planet.

Explanatory notes
1 Deciduous trees are those that shed all of their leaves for part of the year, usually as an adaptation to a cold or dry/wet season. The converse of deciduous is evergreen. Evergreen trees do lose leaves, but each tree loses its leaves gradually and not all at once. Therefore they appear to remain green all year round.

2 (Refer Part 1 of the article “Impact of Soaps and Detergents on our Ecosystem”) A surfactant reduces the surface tension of water and detaches dirt from clothes by emulsifying it and is washed away with water.

3 Eczema or dermatitis is a group of diseases that results in inflammation of the skin. The diseases are characterized by itchiness, red skin and a rash. Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by chemical irritants such as synthetic detergents and strong alkalies like those found in drain cleaners and soaps with lye residues.

4 Psoriasis is a long-lasting autoimmune disease (diseases arising from an abnormal immune response to a normal body part) characterised by patches of abnormal skin. The skin patches are typically red, itchy and scaly.

5 Sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), is an anionic detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products (soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc.). SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent. Some labels list this ingredient as being derived “from coconuts”. However producing sodium lauryl/lauryl ether sulphate requires the addition of petroleum-derived ingredients and the finished product is far removed from its vegetable origins. These detergents can cause eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and allergic reactions. [15]

6 An expectorant is a medicine which promotes the secretion of sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract) by the air passages, used to treat coughs. It helps loosen mucus so one can cough it up. It does this by increasing the water content of the mucus, and thus thinning it out.

7 Demulcent is an agent that forms a soothing film over a mucous membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation of the membrane. For example, mucilage (a thick, gluey substance produced by nearly all plants and some microorganisms) and oils are demulcents that can relieve irritation of the bowel lining.

8 An emetic is a substance that causes vomiting.

9 An antihelminthic expels parasitic worms (helminths) and other internal parasites from the body by either stunning or killing them and without causing significant damage to the host.

10 Gout is a form of arthritis characterised by severe pain, redness and tenderness in joints, caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints.

11 Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is an umbrella term for conditions causing chronic, often intermittent pain affecting the joints and/or connective tissue

12 Pruritus is a severe itching of the skin, as a symptom of various ailments, including dry skin, skin disease, pregnancy and in rare cases, cancer.

13 Herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Herpes appears most often on the genitals (genital herpes) or mouth (oral herpes). The virus causes contagious sores around the mouth or on the genitals.

14 Adaptogenic herbs, when they are administered, result in a stabilization of physiological processes and promotion of homeostasis, defined as the stable condition of an organism and of its internal environment; or as the maintenance or regulation of the stable condition, or its equilibrium; or simply as the balance of bodily functions. It results in decreased cellular sensitivity to stress.

Image courtesy
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Fig. 5 CC BY 3.0,
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Fig. 8 CC BY-SA 3.0,
Fig. 9 CC BY-SA 3.0,
Fig.10 CC BY 2.0,
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Fig. 12 CC BY 2.0,
Fig. 13 CC BY 3.0,

[1] Austin, Daniel F. (2004). Florida Ethnobotany. CRC Press. pp. 601–603. ISBN 978-0-8493-2332-4

[2] Hostettmann, K.; A. Marston (1995). Saponins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 3ff. ISBN 0-521-32970-1. OCLC 29670810

[3] About Soapnut – All about soapnut, its benefits and applications. [Online]

[4] Benefits of soap nuts/ Reetha. [Online]

[5] Ram Chandra (2015). Advances in biodegradation and bioremediation of industrial waste.
CRC Press, Taylor and Francis group. pp. 134. ISBN 13: 978 – 1- 4987 -0055 -9


[7] Benefits of soap nuts/ Reetha [Online]

[8] Reetha – Soapnut : Uses, Research, Side Effects [Online]

[9] Dr MS Krishnamurthy. Soapnut (Reetha) Remedies For Menstrual Pain, Eczema. [Online]

[10] Grow a Soapnuts tree (Sapindus mukorossi) [Online]

[11] Xiang YZ et al. (2008) A comparison of the ancient use of ginseng in traditional Chinese medicine with modern pharmacological experiments and clinical trials.

[12*] Compiled from

[13] Toni. Grow your own laundry soap. [Online]

[14] About Soapnut – All about soapnut, its benefits and applications. [Online]

[15] Petrochemical beauty? No thanks! [Online]