Very simply put, Soap Nut （无患子） is a fruit that is used for cleansing and medicinal purposes. It is not a new discovery. But something that is traditionally used since ancient times.
In China, Soap Nut was recorded in the Compendium of Materia Medica (本草纲目), a medical book written by the famous physician, Li Shi Zhen (李时珍). In India, it was listed in the Ayurveda ancient Indian medical system. As well as in Tibetan indigenous and century old medical systems. In these records, Soap Nut was valued for its cleansing properties and its many medicinal uses. One such uses is to treat or relieve skin problems such as Eczema, Psoriasis and any other skin conditions.
This amazing little fruit grows on Sapindus trees, more commonly known as Soap Nut trees. It is under the Sapindacae family, a family which plants like Lychee and Longan also belong to. There are a number of different Soap Nut species and they are found in many countries including India, Nepal, Indonesia, China, Japan and America.
It goes by different names in different regions. As its botany is similar to berries, they are also commonly called Washberry, Soapberry and Chinese Soapberry. When it is sun-dried, its shell crinkles up and looks just like nuts. Perhaps this is how its nut names like Soap Nuts, Wash Nuts, Ritha Nuts come about.
Among the different species, Sapindus Mukorossi and Sapindus Trifoliatus species are more commonly found in the markets. However, Sapindus Mukorossi is regarded as the best quality as compared to the others due to its highest Saponin content – cleaning properties.
The shell of Soap Nuts range from golden brown to a dark brown. Its shell contains Saponins that works great for cleansing. It is used for personal care like hair and body wash, laundering clothes, cleaning jewellery, bathing pets, and all-purpose household cleansing needs. And it does not harm our environment.
Its big black seed which has no cleansing property is usually de-seeded manually before they are sold by weight. The seeds are often made into handicrafts such as earrings and beaded bracelets. So, when you purchase Soap Nuts especially when it is sold by weight, ask if it is de-seeded as the seeds do take up some weight and even so if you’re ordering in huge amounts.
Thanks to the informational age that we are now in, and thanks to the global green movement in recent years, more and more people are starting to know about Soap Nuts. The green benefits of Soap Nuts are spreading wildly. It is now pretty popular in Europe, UK, US, Taiwan and in many countries. And I am thankful to the informational age which I am in, that enables me to learn a significant amount about Soap Nuts.
To get started, you can try out the mini pack from the store that contains 10 whole Soap Nuts, which is good for 2 or more washes. Happy washing!