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Not to be confused with Soapnet.
Sapindus marginatus.jpg
Sapindus marginatus shrubs
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae
Subfamily: Sapindoideae
Genus: Sapindus
Type species
Sapindus saponaria

See text


Dittelasma Hook.f.[2]

Sapindus is a genus of about five to twelve species of shrubs and small trees in the Lychee family, Sapindaceae, native to warm temperate to tropical regions in both the Old World and New World. The genus includes both deciduous and evergreen species. Members of the genus are commonly known as soapberries[3] or soapnuts because the fruit pulp is used to make soap. The generic name is derived from the Latin words sapo, meaning "soap", and indicus, meaning "of India".[4]

The leaves are alternate, 15–40 cm (5.9–15.7 in) long, pinnate (except in S. oahuensis, which has simple leaves), with 14-30 leaflets, the terminal leaflet often absent. The flowers form in large panicles, each flower small, creamy white. The fruit is a small leathery-skinned drupe 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter, yellow ripening blackish, containing one to three seeds.


The drupes (soapnuts) contain saponins which are a natural surfactant. They have been used for washing for thousands of years by native peoples in Asia as well as Native Americans.[5] Soapnuts are being considered[6] and used[7] for commercial use in cosmetics and detergents as well as many other products.

Soapnuts have historically been used in folk remedies as a mucolytic agent,[8] emetic,[9] contraceptive,[10] and for treatment of excessive salivation,[8] epilepsy,[8][11] and to treat chlorosis.[8] While they do exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, the effectiveness of some of these folk-remedy treatments have not been subject to extensive scientific scrutiny. However, modern scientific medical research has investigated the use of soapnuts in treating migraines.[9][11]

Investigation of the contraceptive capability of plant saponins have shown some spermicidal capacity for certain extracts.[10][12] While the Sapindus saponins have not been proven be as effective as more commonly used spermicides it has been shown that they are less irritating than chemical alternatives.[13]

Soapnuts, such as those of Sapindus mukorossi, are used in Ayurveda. They are a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic shampoos and cleansers.[14] They are used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema, psoriasis, and for removing freckles. Soapnuts have gentle insecticidal properties and are traditionally used for removing lice from the scalp. Soap nuts are also used as the base for nontoxic laundry detergents.

Sapindus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) species including Endoclita malabaricus. Kernel extracts of soapnut disrupt the activity of enzymes of larvae and pupae and inhibits the growth of the mosquito Aedes aegypti, an important vector of viral diseases.[15]


The number of species is disputed between different authors, particularly in North America where between one and three species are accepted.

S. saponaria var. drummondii berries

Formerly placed here[edit]


  1. ^ "Sapindus L.". TROPICOS. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  2. ^ "Genus: Sapindus L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  3. ^ a b "Sapindus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  4. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. IV R-Z. Taylor & Francis US. p. 2381. ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3. 
  5. ^ Austin, Daniel F. (2004). Florida Ethnobotany. CRC Press. pp. 601–603. ISBN 978-0-8493-2332-4. 
  6. ^ Stoffels, Karin (September 2008). "Soap Nut Saponins Create Powerful Natural Surfactant". Personal Care Magazine (Jeen International Corporation). 
  7. ^ Kath (May 2011). "Home Neat Home: Nuts For Laundry". 
  8. ^ a b c d P. C. Maiti; S. Roy; and A. Roy (November 1968). "Chemical investigation of Indian soapnut, Sapindus laurifolius Vahl.". Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 24 (11) (Birkhäuser Basel). p. 1091. doi:10.1007/BF02147773. ISSN 1420-682X. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  9. ^ a b D.K. Arulmozhi; A. Veeranjaneyulu; S.L. Bodhankar; S.K. Arora (17 February 2004). "Pharmacological studies of the aqueous extract of Sapindus trifoliatus on central nervous system: possible antimigraine mechanisms". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 97 (3) (Elsevier Ireland Ltd., published 8 February 2005). pp. 491–496. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.12.012. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  10. ^ a b S. Garg, G. Doncel, S. Chabra, S.N. Upadhyay and G.P. Talwar, Synergistic spermicidal activity of neem seed extract, reetha saponins and quinine hydrochloride. Contraception 50 (1994), pp. 185–190.
  11. ^ a b D.K. Arulmozhi; A. Veeranjaneyulu; S.L. Bodhankar; S.K. Arora (March 2005). "Effect of Sapindus trifoliatus on hyperalgesic in vivo migraine models". Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 38 (3). pp. 469–475. doi:10.1590/S0100-879X2005000300019. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  12. ^ B.S. Setty, V.P. Kamboj and N.M. Khanna, Screening of Indian Plants for biological activity Part. VII. Spermicidal activity of Indian plants. Indian J Exp Biol 15 (1977), pp. 231–232.
  13. ^ P. Ojha; J. P. Maikhuri; G. Gupta (August 2003). "Effect of spermicides on Lactobacillus acidophilus in vitro — nonoxynol-9 vs. Sapindus saponins". Contraception 68 (2) (Elsevier Science Inc., published 27 August 2003). pp. 135–138. doi:10.1016/S0010-7824(03)00138-0. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  14. ^ Flowers of India - Sapindus mukorossi
  15. ^ Mosquito repellent - Down to Earth - March 2011
  16. ^ "Taxon: Sapindus vitiensis A. Gray". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-04-30. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  17. ^ a b "GRIN Species Records of Sapindus". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-04-30. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 

External links[edit]