Soapnut-tree (English) Sapindus mukorossi, Sapindus emarginatus, Sapindus trifoliatus , Bara rita, Ritha (Bengali), Phenila, Arishta (India): A deciduous tree found wild in north India, usually with 5-10 pairs of leaves, solitary with large drupes. This tree belongs to the main plant order Sapindaceae and family Sapindeae. The species is widely grown in upper reaches of the Indo-Gangetic plains, Shivaliks and sub-Himalayan tracts at altitudes from 200m to 1500m. Also known as soap-nut tree, it is one of the most important trees of tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia. It is also called doadni, doda and dodan in Indian dialects. This tree flourishes in deep clayey loam soil and does best in areas experiencing nearly 150 to 200 cm of annual rainfall. The trunk of Ritha is straight and cylindrical, nearly 4 to 5 m in height. The canopy comprising side branches and foliage constitutes an umbrella-like hemispherical top measuring about 5 m in diameter. The tree can reach an height of 25 m and a girth of 3 to 5 m in nearly 70 years of its existence. Ritha is thus an excellent tree for planting along boulevards.
Ritha flowers during summer. The flowers are small and greenish white, polygamous and mostly bisexual in terminal thyrses or compound cymose panicles. These are sub-sessile; numerous in number and at times occur in lose panicles at the end of branches. The fruit appears in July-August and ripens by November-December. These are solitary globose, round nuts 2 to 2.5 cm diameter, fleshy, saponaceous and yellowish brown in color. The seed is enclosed in a black, smooth and hard globose endocarp. The fruit is collected during winter months for seed and or sale in the market as soap nut.
The trunk of Ritha is straight and cylindrical, nearly 4 to 5 m in height. The canopy comprising side branches and foliage constitutes an umbrella-like hemispherical top measuring about 5 m in diameter. The tree can reach an height of 25 m and a girth of 3 to 5 m in nearly 70 years of its existence. Ritha is thus an excellent tree for planting along boulevards. Ritha wood is hard and light yellow in color. It is close-grained and compact weighing about 30 kg per cubic foot. The wood is utilized for rural building construction, oil and sugar presses, agricultural implements, etc.
Ritha seed germinates easily. To ensure cent per cent germination, the seed is soaked in lukewarm water for 24 hours and then sown, either directly in already prepared 60 x 60 cm pits at 5m x 5m spacing or sown in polythene bags filled with clayey loam soil mixed with farmyard manure or similarly prepared nursery beds.
For thousands of years Indians have been using it for a variety of purposes. It is known in Hindi as Ritha, reetha, aritha, dodan, kanma and thali. Had soapnut arrived in Britain at the same time as tea, this country would have remained far less polluted, with greater reserves of fossil fuels for the millennium ahead.
Chinese peasants traditionally used the small yellow fruit of the soap berry tree (Sapindus mukorossi) to make soap. Very easy to make: simply grinding up the rind and soaking it in water produces a soft liquid soap used for washing and as a shampoo — popular with village women because it “beautifies the skin and removes freckles”.
Soapnuts have been around for a very long time in India and Nepal. People there have always been washing their clothes with soapnuts. The secret of the soapnut is as simple as it is effective: The nut shell contains saponin, which acts like soap as soon as it gets in contact with water.In fact the skin of the fruit is highly valued by the rural folks as a natural produced shampoo for washing their hair. They also use these for washing woolen clothes. This is why some botanists have named the species as Sapindus detergens.
Soapnuts have long been used in the Western world for soap production, usually together with many chemical additives which are not really necessary for the actual washing process and which are damaging to the user as well as our environment.
The percentages of individual acids were found to be: palmitic, 4.0; stearic, 0.2; arachidic, 4.4; oleic 62.8; linoleic, 4.6; linolenic, 1.6; and eicosenoic, 22.4. The oil is composed of 0.1, 2.1, 22.0, and 75.8% trisaturated, monounsaturated disaturatd, diunsaturated monosaturated, and triunsaturated glycerides, respectively. The special characteristic of the Sapindus mukorossi seed oil is its content of 26.3 and 26.7% triolein and eicoseno-di-oleins, respectively (Lipids. 1975 Jan;10(1):33-40).
Soapnuts contain saponin, which works similar to soap. Ironically, soapnuts are generally used in the West to extract the saponin in order to manufacture industrial soap, whereby the original potential of its use as a laundry detergent was ignored for a long time. Once these soapnuts get in contact with water in the washing machine, the saponin is naturally extracted and creates the same effect as a conventional laundry detergent.
The effect is positive: soapnuts clean remarkably well! All common stains will be removed, just as with the use of normal washing powder. Merely persistent stains, such as blood, or red wine, are more difficult to remove.
100 grams of soapnuts produces a good 2.5 litres of soapnut Juice. 3-4 spoons of Juice are sufficient for a laundry load, a little less, with added vinegar will clean a load of dishes in the dishwasher.
An infusion made from soapnuts gives a shampoo which works well and effective to fight dandruff as well as gives hair a silky shimmer and vitality. After the hairwash with a soapnut infusion it is easy to comb through the hair, and it takes much longer to become oily. Very suitable especially for allergy sufferers. Soapnut also discourages the occurrence of parasites, such as nits or lice.
soapnut is excellent for washing and bathing humans and pets. It leaves the skin with a soft, smooth layer which protects against infections and insects.
mechanic’s hands, stained hands, or those where the skin is cracked from chemical cleaners can gain considerable relief. noticeable improvements within two weeks have been found, including smoother skin and the removal of ingrained marks.
soapnut is a natural exfoliant. It is considered to be second to none and is also very common in the Indian Ayuverdic healing system.
in hair care, soapnut helps to remove dandruff, gives hair more body and works against infections of lice and other parasites. It leaves the hair, not just looking healthy but, actually healthy. Recently there has been evidence showing that soapnut also reduces hair loss.
soapnut is traditionally used as a natural and effective treatment for skin complaints including eczema, chronic itching and psoriasis.
soapnut is perfect for washing clothes, with no optical whiteners, foaming agents or other chemical additives. In Nepal, soapnut is used for washing the finest silks and woollens in preference to any other product.
elsewhere in the kitchen, soapnut is also invaluable; dishes, cutlery and even greasy pans can be cleaned with soapnut – and it is dishwasher friendly.
most of us are unaware that many of the fruit and vegetables we eat are grown using quantities of harmful chemicals. supermarkets also use chemicals to increase their shelf-life, hence their recommendation to was fresh produce before use. Scientific test have shown that a ten minute soak in a soapnut solution will remove up to 95% of the surface pesticides and chemical residues.
other uses include cleaning teeth, polishing jewellery, cleaning glass, paintwork and even washing the car!
in the garden a soapnut solution can be used as a spray to repel and prevent a wide variety of pests and blight, including aphids and blackfly. A well regarded scientific horticulturist is currently researching these claims, with great success.
Especially for allergic persons, persons suffering from neurodermatitis and people with sensitive skin, chemical detergents often provoke an aggravation of their ailment. Furthermore, it is evident that some of the chemicals used in some detergents are allergic. In our civilized surrounding, the amount of allergic substances rises steadily.
The fruit is valued for the saponins (10.1 %) present in the pericarp which constitutes up to 56.5 per cent of the drupe. The fruits are credited with expectorant and emetic properties and are used in the treatment of excessive salivation, epilepsy and chlorosis.
The powdered seeds are said to possess insecticide properties. They are employed in the treatment of dental caries. It cleanses the skin of oily secretion and is even used as a cleanser for washing hair and a hair tonic, and forms a rich, natural lather.
Its detergent action, which cleanses the hair and removes, accumulated debris and a sebaceous material further more imparting speculiar reflection and hair luster.