It’s likely that you have heard the expression “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Well, in the case of soap, you’d be dead wrong! Say hello to the Indian Soapnut. Originally from subtropic Asia, these berries grow on the Sapindus Mukorossi tree along the hills of the Himalayan mountains. (1) The fruit has a remarkable reputation for being an all-natural, eco-friendly, and non-toxic cleanser with many practical uses. Let’s discover soapnuts together!
A Dirty Truth
The last several decades reveals a history of the attempts made by big detergent industries to revolutionize how bathing, laundry, and cleaning is done. According to the Environmental Working Group: (2)
“U.S. law allows manufacturers of cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish, including known carcinogens and substances that can harm fetal and infant development. And the government doesn’t review the safety of products before they’re sold.”
The legacy left for this generation is all but squeaky clean, as summed up in the words of the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia. They state: “Petroleum-based detergents cause more childhood poisonings than any other household product.” (3)
Could this be the reason why so many of the “hidden” ingredients in detergents are not clearly labeled? After all, soap is an unregulated product. (4) Is it any wonder why parents are concerned, when some of these toxic compounds, like SLS, is the number one cause of childhood poisoning? (5)
Thankfully, health-conscious parents and individuals do not need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to friendly cleaning products. The use of ancient washing secrets is available to those who want the cleanest environment today.
The Soapnut is literally a heaven-sent gamechanger when it comes to cleaning. Natural, organic, and hypoallergenic, you can use soapnuts in a variety of ways: as a household multi-purpose cleaner, a laundry detergent, body wash, and shampoo, touching everything from your pet to your window. In fact, the berries, also known as Reetha, are the highest known concentrated source of plant-derived saponins. Wow! (6)
This natural soaping agent acts as an effective surfactant and just a small amount will do. A soapnuts cleaning solution at just 1.5% concentration cleans as well as its synthetic counterpart at with a concentration of 14.7%. Its unique chemical structure allows for water permeability while at the same time binding to and lifting dirt, oil, and stains from fabric. (7)
Unique Applications for Soapnuts
The benefits of soap berries don’t stop with non-toxic, unprocessed, and chemical-free… as if that wasn’t good enough. No! There’s more to this fruit than meets the eye!
First, a 2011 scientific study from the journal Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that extracts are effective at combating the vaginal candida species. Bye-Bye, yeast infections! (8) Another study, in 2008, found that the leaf and fruit extract contain anti-gastric and anti-ulcer potential. (9)
Believe it or not, the First Nations peoples even used the Soap berries to make their Indian Ice Cream, which gave it a strong, sour aftertaste. Yikes! (10) The Chinese, too, by combining soapnuts with longan and jujube, can make an amazing tonic soup from its medicinal properties. (11)
How To Make Soapnuts Practical
Modern research reveals that the Greeks were about Soapnuts. They contain several antimicrobial activities against many common dermatophytes to improve skin health.
To make a liquid base for skin health or cleaning, soak 10-20 Soapnuts overnight, then soak them in hot water for 15 minutes the next day. Squeeze the shells until they have a greyish color. Strain and transfer the liquid to an airtight container. Add lavender or frankincense essential oil as needed. Refrigerated, it will last about a month. (12) If you want to extend its shelf-life outside of the fridge for over 6 months, then consider using a natural preservative such as Leucidal at 4% per solution.
Can’t quite make that move from chemical detergents to soapnuts? Well you may want to check out this article on synthetic chemicals and the damage they can cause.