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Sapindus marginatus.jpg
Sapindus marginatus shrubs
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: 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 of the 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.


Soapnut is used with natural dyes to color the yarn of Tasar silk.
Sapindus emarginatus leaves, India

The drupes (soapnuts) contain saponins, which have surfactant properties, having been used for washing by ancient Asian and American peoples.[5][6] A number of other uses for Sapindus have also been reported such making arrows from the wood and decorative objects from the seeds.[7]

Folk medicine[edit]

Leaf and fruit extracts of Sapindus have historically been used in folk remedies to treat various conditions.[8]


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.[9]

Dyeing agent[edit]

Soapnut is used as a dyeing agent for coloring the yarn of Tussar silk and cotton.[10]


S. saponaria var. drummondii berries

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

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. Vol. 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. ^ "Highly potent anti-leishmanial derivatives of hederagenin, a triperpenoid from Sapindus saponaria L." European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. November 2016.
  7. ^ "Soapberry (Sapindus) in Arizona" (PDF). Phytoneuron. November 2020.
  8. ^ Upadhyay A, Singh DK (2012). "Pharmacological effects of Sapindus mukorossi". Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo. 54 (5): 273–280. doi:10.1590/s0036-46652012000500007. PMID 22983291.
  9. ^ "Soapnut, a mosquito repellent". Down To Earth.
  10. ^ Deshmukh, Anjali; Bansal, Lekhika (2014). "Sapindus emarginatus Vahl as a natural scouring agent in dyeing of cotton with Carissa carandas leaf extract" (PDF). BioLife. 2 (2): 599–604. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-08-11.
  11. ^ "Sapindus vitiensis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  12. ^ a b "GRIN Species Records of Sapindus". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-04-30. Retrieved 2010-11-01.

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