Herbs & Plants

Reetha (Soap nut)

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Botanical name : Sapindus laurifolius or Sapindus trifoliatus or Spindaceae or Sapindus mukorossi
Family: Sapindaceae
Genus: Sapindus
Species: S. mukorossi
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Sapindales

Common names: Reetha, Puchikottai, Munippungu, Urulinji, Kumkuticettu, Uruvanci, Phenila, Antolakaayi, Chavakkai

Habitat: It is a native of Western coastal Maharashtra – Konkan, and Goa in India. Sapindus mukorrossi, known as the ritha or reetha tree in Nepal, is a deciduous tree that is grown in the lower foothills and midhills of the Himalayans, up to altitudes of 4000 feet. It is tolerant to reasonably poor soil, can be planted around farmers’ homes, and one Ritha tree can produce 30–35 kg of fruit per year.


The soap nut is a large deciduous tree with fleshy fruit like a berry which yields a soap. Unlike the soaps produced by pharmaceutical companies, the substance taken from this fruit does not have a high acid content.The Indian soapnuts are natural washing agent, it is a 100% ecological alternative to polluting chemical washings.Soapnuts are fruits of a tree growing in India called Sapindus Mukorossi (soap tree).The soapnuts are not used by themselves, but rather the shell which contains a highly precious substance called saponine, that holds exceptional washing properties.

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The seeds of the soap-nut tree yield a thick viscous oil which can cause acute nausea and acrid poisoning. The oil is used with extreme caution by Ayurvedic physicians in drugs made for patients suffering from severe cases of chronic diarrhea or cholera. Ayurveda also uses pessaries made from the fruit to induce childbirth, both the purposes of abortion and for cases of difficult delivery, while other concoctions are made into nose drops and administered through the nostrils to relieve attacks of hysteria, epilepsy, and Hemicrania.

Reetha powder is prepared from dried fruit of Reetha. It can be used as a face pack to improve facial complexion. It is used as a hair application to make hair shiny and their beautification. It also removes dandruff and lice in hair.

How to use it:
Use 1 part reetha powder and 6 parts water , soak it for two hours then stain and use it. Use it on hairs to kill the lices. The main use of Reetha powder is in Herbal shampoo industry.

Parts used:
Soapnut shells
Soapnut shells powder
Contents: Tannic acid, Vitamin C.

Properties and Action According to Indigenous Medical Systems:

Rasa: Spicy.
Vipaka: Spice.
Veerya: Ushna veerya.

These seeds are rich in saponins.
It is an antibacterial cleanser. Exfoliant.
It has expectorant and emetic properties.
It is used as cleansing agent for hair, skin and laundry.
It clears skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, itchy skin.
It also protects sensitive skin.

Names due to Physical properties:
Krishnabeeja: Black seeds.
Phenila: Creats foam.

Names due to Medical properties:
It prevents hair loss, controls dandruff.
It balances salivation, epilepsy and chlorosis.
Good remedy for dental caries.
It is good cleaning agent for oily skin.

Excellent hair tonic :
These dark-brown pods are highly beneficial for the hair. Reetha completes the family of shikakai and trifla. Equal proportions of all three, can be soaked in water and then used to clean hair. Reetha is rich in iron, phosphorous and Vitamin A. Soak reetha overnight and then make a paste from the soak pods. Apply this paste on the hair and leave for an hour. Wash off with a good shampoo or even rinse with plain water. This lends the hair a rich, dark colour. It improves blood circulation in the scalp and treats dandruff.

For Dandruff: Mix soap nut with water and apply once a week.
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It is suggested that the soapnut can also be used as a natural remedy for many health problems, such as for treating migrane headaches, or for dermatological purposes such as using the seeds to remove skin impurities like pimples or eczema.

Other Uses:
The soapnut contains the compound of saponin, which has natural cleansing properties, and therefore the soapnut can be used as a cleanser for hair, skin, and clothing.  These saponins are also useful as insecticides, for purposes such as removing head lice off the scalp.

Methods of extracting the maximum amount of oil from existing oil reserves has become a scientific focus in a world that has become dependent on fossil fuels. Researchers have found that the Ritha fruit can be used in an enhanced oil recovery technique.[9] More specifically, Chhetri, Watts, Rahman, and Islam (2009) found that extracts from the soapnut can be used as an organic surfactant to increase the mobility of oil from the fields. In addition, researchers have demonstrated the potential for the soapnut to be used as a natural surfactant for washing arsenic from soils that are rich in iron.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

One reply on “Reetha (Soap nut)”

Thank you for sharing your insight into one of nature’s greatest gifts. I have used Maggie’s Soap Nuts, an American brand of Retha, in my laundry and on my skin and am delighted that my psoriasis is completely gone. Ancient, organic ways are best.

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