We are a family run business and following the success of our own experiences with Soapnuts - my son suffered quite badly with eczema until we started using them. Ever since we have been a personal quest to be more environmentally conscious.
Soapnuts have been featured on the BBC show ‘Not Easy Going Green’ and BBC Radio 4 as well as many well known websites such as ‘mumsnet’ recommending them. In America and in Germany the use of soap nuts is well established as they been imported there for many years now.
What are Soapnuts?
Soapnuts are known worldwide by many names such as soapberry, Reetha (Hindi), Chinese soapberry and many more. Very simply, soapnuts are the dried shells or husks from the soapberry tree.
Based upon its high amount of 'soap' content ( 12 - 18% ) and consistency, the highest quality soapnut is Sapindus Mukorossi, which grows primarily in northern India and Nepal. The soapnut tree grows uncultivated in poor quality ground and helps fights erosion, particularly in the Himalayan foothills. It also provides needed income to the local population.
It is a relatively hardy tree being resistant to diseases and insects (due to the high amounts of saponin which are a natural pest and insect repellent for the tree!) To see how well it works try our organic pesticide recipe. The tree grows to 10 to 20 meters in height and begins flowering and bearing fruit after about 9 years. The tree has great longevity and will produce fruit (soap nuts) for about 90 years.
The saponin contained in these soapnuts which produces a soaping effect, is a 100% natural alternative to chemical laundry detergent and cleansers. It can replace many chemical detergents such as those containing sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) that are becoming well known by consumers for being a skin irritant and health hazard. The detergent which goes out as waste also has the antimicrobial properties which causes cleaning of the drainage and sewer system and thus becomes eco-friendly.
There are many kinds of shells that have saponin (chestnut is one). However the sapindus (soapnut) trees have an abundance. There are actually ten varieties of sapindus, but we only sell sapindus mukurossi, because these yield the most saponin (soap) when mixed with water. In nature saponin is a mild insecticide and anti-bacterial compound, it is used to repel bugs and fungus from tress naturally!
We only sell 100% Sapindus Mukurossi, because it has the highest amount of saponin in the shell and will be most effective when used for cleaning. Don't be fooled by cheaper, less effective products.
Not all soapnuts will clean or sud in the same way. We have test-driven six different varieties/suppliers before deciding on these - sapindus mukurossi. We paid a bit more to ensure we got the right kind of soapnuts, so that they will yield the most saponin and as a result more suds and more cleaning power!
You may find soapnuts elsewhere on the internet but not all soapnuts are created equal! There are other soapnut varieties like Sapindus rarak and Sapindus trifoliatus that do not have the same amount of soap and will therefore not be as effective. Some other suppliers may mix these for a cheaper product, which will mean it will not be as effective as our soapnuts.
Soapnuts are highly-effective and gentle at the same time. It will leave your laundry fresh and clean and compared to other detergents, its mildness will keep colours bright, maintaining fabric structure of your clothes for longer periods. It can be used on all fabrics and at all temperatures. There are so many benefits of using soapnuts!
How Do Living Naturally Soapnuts Get To The UK?
Local farmers / families harvest the fruit after it falls from the tree. A linen is spread under the tree to catch the mature
fruits when they fall down. The shells are then dried and cleaned, the seeds are removed
and we are left with the soapnut shells. The soapnut seeds can then be replanted. The leftover shells are dried in the sun using absolutely no chemical processing. Our organically certified supplier is also involved in contract farming. It means that they are supplying the farmers with selected input including technical advice if required. The soapnut collectors are given a wage on per kg sold
No commercial manufacturing processes are required in any way for the soapnut to become effective. Hence, soapnuts are absolutely 100% natural, unmodified dried fruit shells.
Next, they are packaged up and shipped to the UK for distribution. We ship them instead of flying them over, so your conscience can rest easy on the carbon footprint. We would grow them here but the soapnut berries would not produce enough saponin because of the lack of sunshine. However we are looking into alternatives.
Soapnuts Used In Ayurvedic Practices
Soapnut powder is used extensively in Ayurveda for the treatment of scalp issues such as hair loss, dandruff, and to alleviate parasites such as lice (You can use a solution of Soapnuts in the garden to repel pests as persistent as aphids). In modern India, Soapnuts are an essential ingredient in hair care products to increase lustre and softness of hair. The Soapberry is among the most important trees for beautification in tropical Asia, aesthetics being an important factor in Ayurveda. Used topically, Soapnuts are used to eliminate freckles, fine lines, chemical stains and cracks in the skin. They are also used traditionally to treat mild to moderate skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis. Soapnuts are safe for people with sensitive skin, even people who suffer allergic reactions to store bought "sensitive skin" cleansers. To make your own soapnut powder cleanser click here
Soapnuts are even safe enough to use as toothpaste and as a fruit and vegetable wash. A ten-minute soak in a solution of Soapnuts removes 95% of the surface pesticides and chemical residues on fresh produce. Soapnuts are also useful in the kitchen as a food-safe cleaner for countertops, appliances, and sinks.
In India the list of uses for reetha is impressive, claiming over 20 medicinal preparations, which alter the fruit to make it either 100% digestible or emetic. Reetha fruit is so rich in iron it is considered a haemolytic and is used often to treat anaemia. When prepared by an Ayurvedic doctor it can treat chlorosis and epilepsy. It is also used as an expectorant for severe lung congestion, and can help to promote blood circulation in patients with low blood pressure. Reetha is a sedative to the uterus and is used to ease childbirth. It can also be prepared as a digestive aid, an anti-venom, or to treat diarrhoea, cholera and paralysis.
There have been clinical trials on the use of Sapindus mukorossi as a spermicide (replacing Nonoxynal-9, which has shown to lead to widespread sexually transmitted infections.) Recent studies by Chinese researchers show that the saponins in Soapnuts inhibit tumour cell growth in humans. Indian researchers show that a solution made from the fruit of Sapindus trifolatus decreases behaviours associated with migraines in mice. Early Vedic medical texts describe thick solutions made by crushing and adding water to reetha fruit that were used regularly to pacify folks suffering from chronic viral infections and headaches. There is also evidence it was used to treat hysteria.