Have you come across small nuts which are used as natural laundry detergent or natural shampoo? What are these soap nuts or soap berries? Many species of genus Sapindus are known as Soapnut or soapberry due to presence of saponins. Around one seventh of the soapnut shells consist of saponins. Small black berries produced by the tree, Sapindus mukorossi are popular soap nuts and also known as Reetha. Saponin content in Reetha is highest amongst Sapindus species.
Reetha is considered to one of the best natural and plant based sustainable cleaners available in the market today. The shells of reetha contain saponins that make it an excellent surfactant and detergent. Once the soap berries come in contact with water, saponins are released, which acts as a natural disinfectant and surfactant. These saponins lower the surface tension of water, thus loosening and removing the dirt, grime and oil from clothes and surfaces.
Soap nuts have long been a favorite choice as a hair care and skin care product for many people having sensitive skin. Reetha is also great for the skin and hair, Reetha can also be used as natural alternative to detergent to wash clothes. Unlike the other detergents, they are odorless and do not cause damage to the clothes. People with allergic reactions to soap can safely use this product as they are gentle on the hands and 100 percent chemical free. They are sustainable, eco-friendly, reusable, inexpensive and with several benefits to mankind.
Benefits of Reetha
Soap nuts have long history of medicinal use in India, China and Japan. Reetha has 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”. Given below are some of the benefits of using reetha:
Reetha for hair
The dried fruits of the soap nut tree contain saponins that make it a wonderful ingredient of many hair and skin care products all over the world. You can make a shampoo by soaking the soap nuts overnight and then mixing with shikakai powder. Regular use of this shampoo has been found to be effective in promoting hair growth. Reetha contains good amounts of nutrients like Vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, which keeps your hair healthy and gives shine and luster. Soap nuts have the ability to repel insects and hence are effective in getting rid of lice from scalp. The application of powdered reetha on the scalp is useful in fighting off various scalp problems such as dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis. Soap nuts also provide moisturization and natural conditioning to the hair and prevents hair fall. Reetha benefits for hair also includes it effectiveness in preventing dandruff and hair fall.
Reetha cleanses the skin
The natural cleansing properties of reetha make it a common ingredient in skin lotions and washes. Since reetha is a cent percent natural and toxic free product, it is gentle on the skin and hence is particularly an ideal choice for people who have very sensitive skin. For people who prefer odorless cleansers, reetha happens to be a great choice. In Ayurvedic medicines, reetha nuts are used to cleanse skin, remove tan, treat eczema and psoriasis.
Soapnut as a multipurpose cleaner
Unlike the other cleaners that use toxic chemical ingredients, soap nut is 100 percent chemical free, gentle and at the same time very effective too. It can be used for cleaning sinks, toilets, bathtubs, porcelain, tile, grout, etc.
Soap nut for washing laundry
Powdered reetha can be used effectively in high efficiency washers. The saponin found in these berries makes a good stain remover. In order to remove the spots and stains, you just have to moisten the affected area and gently rub it clean.
Reetha is an excellent pet groomer
One of the many benefits of reetha is that it can be used for grooming pets. It is useful and shampooing and washing your pets. The saponin present in soap nut has natural insect and pest repelling properties, which helps in eliminating flies, ticks and other insects. It will also give your pet’s fur a beautiful shiny and healthy appearance.
Soap nut for detoxifying fruits and vegetables
Powdered soap nuts, when added to warm water can be used to wash fruits and vegetables. It will help in getting rid of the residual chemicals and pesticides found in them.
Reetha as vaginal contraceptive
Spermicidal properties of saponins of Reetha has been area of study. Reetha saponins caused damage to morphology of sperms in vitro. This property has been used in contraceptive cream called consap by Central Drug Research Institute, India. This cream offers local, non hormonal, herbal contracepative alternative to women without any side effects on women menstrual cycle. Study claims this women controlled contraceptive to be vagina friendly and effective contraceptive method.
Anti-microbial activity of Soapnut
Lab studies have found anti-bacterial properties of Reetha extract. Similarly, another study found crude soapnut extract exhibiting strong inhibition to growth of various disease causing fungus including Candida.
Liver protective properties of Reetha
A lab research studied effect of alcohol extract of Reetha on metabolism of fat in rats with non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases. It was found that reetha extract helped regulate blood fat levels and protect liver tissues. In another in vitro study extract of Sapindus mukorossi, protected liver cells from damage caused by carbon tetrachloride suggesting liver protective capacity.
Reetha cancer cure properties
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 antioxidant properties of extract of Sapindus mukorossi seeds which have potential to protect body from cancer causing free radicals.
Anti-inflammatory activity of Reetha
Soapnut extract was found to reduce edema in lab rats, suggesting anti-inflammatory property. The powdered soap nut seeds are traditionally used for treating arthritis and dental caries. In order to get relief from joint pains, the poultice of reetha is prepared and applied on the affected areas. Leaves of Soap nut are boiled in water and same is used for bath; it helps in relieving joint pain and treating gout and rheumatism.
Reetha for treating cold and cough
The soap nut seeds have been used as folk medicines for treating common cold. This can be attributed to its properties as a mucolytic, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent.
Soap nut and Diabetes
Lab studies have found to reduce blood sugar and lipid levels in drug induced diabetic rats. More research would be required to establish benefits of soap nut over treatment of diabetes. Read more about natural ways to treat diabetes.
Other Medical uses of Soap nut
Reetha is for also used for the treatment of epilepsy, excessive salivation, migraines, lumbago, paralysis of the limbs and chlorosis. It is an effective expectorant and beneficial for sore eyes and opthalmia. The anthelmintic properties of soap nuts help in expelling parasitic worms from the body. The powdered soap nut seeds are traditionally used for treating constipation, nausea.
Did you know? Reetha in tamil is Boondi Kottai /punalai / punthi /puvanti. In Hindi it is also known as phenil or rishtak. Kumkudukaya is its name in Telegu. In Spanish it is called Nueces de Lavado.
How to use Soap nuts or Reetha
Soap nuts can be used for preparing a liquid detergent that finds variety of uses such as, laundry detergents, shampoo, insect repellent, face and body wash and many more. It is very easy and simple to make this liquid detergent. Reetha has been popular ingredient of Ayurvedic herbal shampoo. Today Soapnuts are popular natural alternative to chemical detergent.
Amla Reetha Shikakai Natural Shampoo: Want to try soap free shampoo for your hair? Then this reetha based natural shampoo for hair would serve your purpose. To make soap nuts shampoo, start with soaking dried shikakai pods, soap nutsand dried amla powder in water. Leave it overnight. Boil them till the pods are soft. Mash and strain the liquid. This liquid is our soapnut shampoo and is effective over hair fall.
How to use amla reetha and shikakai powder for hair: One can store reetha, amla and shikakai in powdered form. Equal quantity of these powders can be soaked in water for 3-4 hours. Thick paste of this mixture can be used as very good hair pack. Amla shikakai reetha hair pack is considered effective over dandruff.
Making Soap nut liquid: First of all, crush a few soap nut berries using a mortar and pestle and boil them in water for about half an hour. Let the solution cool and then strain it through a muslin cloth. Store it in a jar inside the refrigerator. You can use this solution to wash clothes, dishes, clean glasses, repel insects, clean jewelry and also as a shampoo and all purpose cleaner.
Soap nut as natural laundry detergent
Take the reetha, break it open and remove the seeds from them. Soak the reetha in water overnight or for at least 3-4 hours. Add some more water to the soaked reetha and boil them. When you boil, you will see the foam coming on top. Once the reetha turns mushy, remove from fire and cool. strain the liquid and your chemical free reetha liquid is ready! Use this as chemical free laundry detergent.
Soap nuts can be used as whole nuts or in the form of liquid, paste or powder. The following are some homemade recipes that can be easily made:
Soap nut glass cleaner: Combine 1 Tbsp of soap nut Liquid, ½ cup of water and 2 Tbsp of vinegar in a spray bottle and use it for cleaning glass.
Soap nuts for cloth diapers: Many people uses soap nuts as chemical free option to wash cloth diapers. Soap nut liquid can be used directly to wash diapers.
Soap nut dishwasher detergent – Combine together 2 cups each of washing soda and borax with ¼ cups of ground soap nut shells and grated castille soap.
Soap nut shaving cream – Pit and remove the hulls of a few soap nuts and grind the flesh in a food processor. After making a paste of the flesh, add a tbsp of olive oil and 3 tsps of soap nut liquid. Use this paste as a shaving cream immediately after preparing.
Aritha as jewelry cleaner – Reetha nuts has been long used by jwellers in India for polishing tarnished ornaments. Just place your jewelry in diluted soap nut liquid and allow it to sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then gently scrub the jewelry using a toothbrush.
Most of the detergents commercially available contain chemical ingredients, some of which have been found to have carcinogenic properties. However, soap nuts, which have been used for centuries in many places of the world, are plant based, all-natural, hypoallergenic and extremely safe to be used. Once you try soap nuts and realize their various benefits, you definitely will not go back to using the chemical detergents again!