Soap nuts are a fruit of Sapindus Mukorossi trees. These trees grow in south east India, China, Indonesia and Nepal. Sapindus has about five to twelve species of shrubs and small tree which grow in tropical and warm climate. There are nearly 5 to 12 different types across the world. The crushed seeds are used to make soap. In Indonesia it is called “Klerek”
The Sapindus genera of trees are straight cylindrical and have height of 4meters to 5 meters. The tree has life span of nearly 70 years; it can reach a height of 25 meters and trunk diameter of 1-2 meters. It is excellent tree to plant along boulevards. The bark is shinning gray and fairly smooth when the plant is young and dark grey when tree is mature. The fruit which is called soap nut is 1-2 cm in diameter small leathery skinned contains one to three seeds. The foliage is used to feed live stock during drought.
Soap nuts contain natural surfactant called Saponin which is used to clean clothes. Saponin cleans cloth by allowing water to enter fabric and removing dirt. The ripe fruit of the tree is golden or brown in color. Soap nuts are alternatively chemical detergents and are environment friendly. Soap nut are safe for washing woolens and other delicate fabrics. It can be reused many times by placing few nuts in cotton bag with a wash load.
Soap nuts are used for many medicinal uses. It is also in list of herbs and minerals for Ayurveda, ancient Indian medical system. The Soap nuts are also used in Unani and Tibetan indigenous and century old medical systems. Soap nuts are used as in Ayuvedic shampoos and cleanser also as medicine for eczema and psoriasis. The various uses are as under:
* Soap nuts shell is used as natural and environment friendly detergents. They are odorless. Also the waste water can be reused from irrigation. It is organic, bio-gradable and non polluting cleaning product.
* Being Hypoallergenic, soap nut does not harm hands.
* Soap nut are non soapy and have less suds, this reduces water consumption.
* Being mild detergent it helps maintain color and feel of the fabric.
* De-toxing Food: Soap nuts powder added to warm water can help remove the residual pesticide and chemicals in fruits and vegetables by washing them.
* It can be used washing pets, cars and carpets and other things at home as the waste water can be used for watering garden.
* It is recommended for bathing especially for people with skin disease and allergy.
* It is widely used for washing hair. It prevents dandruff and removing lice.
* Soap nuts solution can be used for cleaning jewelry.
* The saponin from the soap nuts is used in preparation of toothpaste and textile auxiliary.
* Soap nuts powder is added to facial pack to provide delicate cleansing of skin.
* It has been used for curing eczema and psoriasis.
* Soap nuts have also been used as an expectorant and emetic and even for migraine, epilepsy and cholorosis.
* Natural pesticides: Soap nuts are also used as an effective and natural pesticide for plants and repelling insects around the home.
* A contraceptive cream out of Ritha fruit has been recently developed by the Central Drug Research Institute, India
Soap nuts are really multipurpose natural produce in service of mankind and nature.
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