Sapindus is a genus that belongs to the family Sapindaceae, order sapindales, and division Magnoliophyta in the plant kingdom. It contains about 12 species of low woody perennial plant that usually have several major stems and small trees that are found in the class Magnoliopsida. They are usually found growing in warm temperate zones and tropical zones. Plants and shrubs that sheds foliage at the end of the growing season and evergreen species are usually found in this genus. The species of this genus are commonly known as small soap nut, soapberry, reetha, and washing nuts. They popularly called soap nut because the fruit pulp gotten from this trees can be used to make soap.

The interpretation of generic name of the tree is “soap from India”. It is widely grown in the wild region of South India. The average height of the trees is 25 meters while the leaves are compounded as well as alternate and pinnate in shape. The leaves are about 30 cm long. They leaflets are usually found in group of twos or threes and are 7.5 cm wide, about 18 cm long. They are usually found around November and January. When the fruit of this tree is still young, it is smooth and soft to touch in nature. However, the fruit becomes hard and smooth when maturing. The number of seeds in the fruit usually range from one to three. It is usually yellow blackish in color when ripening.

Examples of species in this genus includes (though, not all this species are accepted or recognized), Sapindus delavayi, Sapindus detergens, Sapindus marginatus, Sapindus saponaria, Sapindus mukorossi, Sapindus rarak, Sapindus trifoliatus, and others.

Some of the chemical compound that are found in this plant include, sapindosid B, oleic acid, 13 – eicosenoic acid, fatty acid, serotonin, 11 – eicosenoic acid, arachidic acid, saponin C and Saponin A. The chemicals found in the plant are not limited to the ones listed above, there are many other useful chemical compounds that are extracted from the plant.


Soap nut has found useful applications both in biological activities and laundry services. Soap nut has been used in making soaps and detergent because of its non – harmful effects. It has been used for the treatment of eczema, chronic skin disease characterized by dry red patches covered with scales that occurs especially on the scalp and ears and genitalia and the skin over bony prominences, as well as removal of small brownish spots on the skin known as freckles. It is a common ingredient in the production of Ayurvedic cleansers and shampoos because of its excellent hair tonic characteristic. Their insecticidal properties makes them found application in the removal of lice from scalp.

They are good spermicidal and can be used against bacterial and fungi. The seeds of this herb are usually crushed and used in making soap and shampoos. By washing the skin regularly with soap nuts, it is prevented from skin diseases and the skin is made mild. The seeds of the herb are used in treating migraine and because of the emetic, astringent, anti – helminthic and tonic properties of the fruit, they are used for the treatment of asthma. The solution obtain from soap nut is used for relieving epilepsy and hysteria. They are not toxic, hence they used in making laundry detergent.

How to make use of soap nut for laundry purposes. Soap nut has been discovered to be free from any harmful or toxic chemicals. Their cleansing properties is being responsible for by the presence of a natural chemical agent that is capable of reducing the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved called Saponin. The saponin works, when dissolves in water, by allowing the fabric to be washed to evenly absorbed the water and thereby remove any dirt present in the fabric. The soaps or detergents made from soap nut are not harmful to the environment, i.e. environmental friendly. As discussed above, soap nuts are used for various purposes, ranging from laundry soap and detergent to production of natural pesticide and some useful pharmaceuticals. It can also be used in polishing your jewelries.

In order to use soap nut for laundry purposes, tie about 4 or 6 soap nut shells in a fabricated cotton bag and put it in the laundering machine at a specific or desired temperature. Wait until the shells becomes mushy and grey in color, then you can use the resulting output for your laundry purposes.

If you want to clean your dish or kitchen utensils with soap nuts, you should make use of the liquid form. To produce the liquid form of soap nuts, boil about 0.1 kg in 2.8 Liters of water for half an hour. Remove the shell after cooling the liquid to obtain your liquid soap nut solution. You will have to store the liquid soap in an air tight container so that it does not go bad, since no preservatives or chemicals are included to preserve it. If it is not properly kept, it can go bad within some days. The liquid soap obtained from soap nut can be used for several purposes. It can be used for large laundry, as shampoo, as cleaning solutions, etc.

Surprisingly, you can the liquid soap obtain from soap nut to purify your edible vegetables and fruits. All you have to do is to soak the fruits or vegetables in the liquid soap from about 12 minutes and they will be cleansed and free from germs. To cleanse and polish your jewelry, soak the jewelry in the liquid soap for some minutes after which you rub the jewelry with a clean soap.

You can as well use your liquid soap nut soap as pesticide by spraying the liquid to the affect area. It serves as a repellant. Repellants are substance that inhibit the activities of insects. The liquid can also be applied to your scalp to prevent dandruff by using it as a shampoo and leaving it on your scalp for some minutes after which you rinse it off with cool water. This process helps to prevent hair loss.

Soap nut has been a very useful and multipurpose natural herbs and its usefulness are not limited to the ones discussed above. Research are being made consistently to discover more uses of this amazing herbs.