Soap Nuts, More Than Laundry Detergent

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If you haven’t heard of these natural and fun little nuts/berries, I am oh so excited to share with you what they are used for and why we use them!

I first learned about soap nuts around the beginning of 2022, when my incredible friend Alexandria Rye shared some with me.
She and I are very much aligned in all things natural and both live on small farms here in North Carolina!
She and her husband and all their children are doing phenomenal things such as growing microgreens and mushrooms; raising goats, chickens, turkeys, and tiny cows; creating safe and natural products; and are stand-up humans, being very community oriented. You can check them out on their website Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok @ryefamilyfarm!


Soap Nut History and Origin

They are also referred to as soapberries, Scientific name: Sapindus. There are a few different types including Indian soapberries which is a deciduous tree that grows in the lower foothills and mid-hills of the Himalayas and there is the Western soapberry tree, which is a small to medium-sized tree that is located here in the United States.

There are also a few types that are native to Malaysia and Hawaii, however, the two mentioned above will be the most common types purchased.

Soap nuts have been used by indigenous people for centuries. Some say they originated in China, others in India, and some even say the America’s, as it is widespread here as well.
Some ancient Indian texts do make mention of soapberries. The book, “Saint Heritage of India” points out that Hatha yoga founder Machindranath was converted under a soapnut tree sometime during his life in the 9th to 10th century.
The “Historical Dictionary of Ancient India” explains soapnuts were found in a monastic complex dating back to the 6th century BC, and a paper titled “Some Notes on the History of Soap Nuts, Soap, and Washermen of India—between 300 BC and AD 1900” hints at even earlier roots.

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How Soapnuts Clean-Saponins

These dried-up nut/berries contain saponin which are a group of bitter-tasting chemicals that naturally occur in plants. Saponins are part of the plant’s defense mechanism, no plant wants to be eaten!

What is really neat about this defense mechanism is not only how it benefits the plant by warding off predators, but it uses antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, insecticidal, and antinutrient properties to protect itself.
However, because these saponins are a defense system, they are known to cause stomach pain, if a large amount is ingested, or ingested carelessly.
Be smart folks.

Saponin is nature’s surfactant, which I learned all about in my last post breaking down the ingredients of ASEA’s foaming cleanser.
The main purpose of the surfactants is to decrease the surface and interfacial tension and stabilize the interface. Without surfactants washing laundry would be difficult and many food products would not exist.

To state it plainly, the saponin has the ability to cut through grease and remove dirt from objects, hair, skin, etc.

Using Soapnuts Around The Home

Soapberries are both powerful and gentle.
They can be used on any skin type and are hypo-allergenic, making them perfect for infants and those with skin conditions. This is what I have started using to bath Atlas, and it works great, and on the plus side it doesn’t have all the foaming bubbles/suds!
Using soapnuts regularly on the skin will help your skin’s natural barrier to protect against bacterial and fungal infections.

If you have heard of soapnuts before it is generally as laundry soap, that is its largest association. And for good reason, you can throw 5 nuts in a muslin bag (shown above) and that is good for multiple loads of laundry. Not the super-soiled, but for everyday loads, absolutely! Cheap, environmentally friendly, and won’t kill your kids if they eat it!

I actually prefer to make a liquid concentrate out of the berries versus using them in the bag but it’s whatever fits your fancy.
Dry soap nuts can be stored for years, whereas the liquid has a shelf life of about a week unless it is refrigerated, then it is a few weeks. You could take it further and can it, and then it’s good indefinetely! It can also be ground into a powder, also called reetha powder.

Here are some awesome other ways to use soapnuts around your home!

Shampoo &Body WashPet ShampooDandruff Treatment
Fruit&Veggie WashJewelry CleanerWindow Cleaner
All-purpose CleanerCar WashGarden Pesticide

Medicinal Properties Of Soapnuts

I really thought I was going to be able to breeze through this article, as soap nuts should be a fairly simple yet entertaining topic. Then I started doing the research…
There is always so much more to this stuff folks, and I LOVE IT!

Of course, this delightful little nut berry isn’t only good for cleaning things but has a variety of medical benefits* as well. To keep this clean (hehe) and matching, I am going to create a table similar to the one above sharing a compilation I have found.

This is a general table! The preparations for each use will be different. Do not start eating soap nuts, do some research and speak with a naturopathic or Ayurvedic doctor to discuss any ailments.

Anti-venom PropertiesDiaper RashStrenthen Immune System
Drug & Tobacco AddictionEpilepsyRelieving Joint Pain
Migraine ReliefPanic & Anxiety Reducing Inflammation
Excess SalivationAsthmaControl Cholesterol
Lice RemovalMelanomasYeast Infections
Cancerous TumorsSpermicideContraceptive

Now, to be honest, this is way more than I had planned on getting into, and I would have to do so much more research to even begin to feel comfortable sharing more on these medicinal uses with you all.
That being said, this blog is aimed at all things self-healing! And damn it if soap nuts aren’t included within that category.


Wash Berry Summary

Hehe, yes, they are also called wash berries.

To conclude! Soapnuts are incredibly cheap, environmentally friendly, toxin-free (don’t eat them without caution), safe, and effective.

I purchase my soap nuts in bulk from Rose Mountain Herbs or you can find reputable sources on Etsy as well. As always try to buy organic and look at reviews.
You can purchase the soap shells with the seeds already taken out, which really saves time and hassle for the same cost, but totally up to you.

On this journey of self-healing, soapberries can be a very accessible and empowering tool. You are clearing your home and your body of products that have harmful chemicals, and by using a natural product, you are welcoming that natural energy back into your personal space. Plants vibrate at a higher frequency and they love to share themselves with us, as long as we respect and cherish them.

Love and vibes,

*You must not rely on the information on my website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice or discontinue medical treatment because of information on our website. 

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