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Ritha, Aritha or Soap Nuts - the 100% Natural Detergent and Cleaner - Its Benefits and Uses and Many Health Benefits

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

Soap Nuts In A Bag

Latin name: Several species of the Genus Sapindus, like S. mucorossi, S. emarginatus, S.laurifolius etc.

Indian names: Reetha, ritha, aritha, etc

Common names: Soapnuts, Indian soapberry, laundry tree, washing nuts, washing berry, etc

Ritha, Aritha Or Soap Nuts

The Genus Sapindus belongs to the lychee family; Sapindaceae. The trees in the genus Sapindus are small and 5 to 10 species of this genus provide the soap nuts or ritha that are the fruits of these trees. These trees grow in warm, temperate to tropical parts of the world. The Sapindus trees are native to India and Nepal.

S. mucorossi, S.laurifolius, S.emarginatus, S.trifoliatus, are grown in India while S.mucorossi is grown in China.

Among the other species are S.delavayi, S.marginatus, S.saponaria, S.ohauensis and S.rarak which also provide soap nuts and are grown in different parts of the world.

The soap nuts contain saponins which are natural surfactants and approximately 15% of the soapnut pulp contains these saponins.

About Soap Nuts or Ritha And The Soap Nut Tree - Some Uses And As Medicine

The soap nut tree grows to about 20 meters tall. It has a straight trunk with smooth bark. The tree lives for about 70 years and during this period keeps growing.

Soap nuts are 100% natural, environment-friendly and biodegradable. They contain saponins that are natural surfactants that remove dirt, preserve the colour and quality of the fabric and leave the clothes soft.

Soap nuts can effectively replace your normally used detergents used for washing clothes. They are extremely gentle because they are chemical-free and this is a boon for those with sensitive skin.

Traditionally these soap nuts - the pulp of the fruit and not the seeds - have been used since centuries by the native people of Asia to wash clothes as well as hair. Soap nuts are also used in cosmetics and detergents, and in various other products.

The most surprising part of soap nuts is their use in traditional folk medicine as a remedy to treat a variety of health conditions, though these have not been confirmed by research studies.

However, soap nuts have many properties that offer health benefits and there have been numerous studies done to confirm these properties. Some of these you can read in the references at the end of the article.

In the Ayurvedic system of medicine also, soapnuts are being used in Ayurvedic hair shampoos, cleansers and also in medicines for treating certain skin conditions.

In Unani and Tibetan medicine also ritha or soap nuts have been used in medicine.

The leaves of the Sapindus tree acts as food for the larvae of some species of moths and butterflies.

Extracts of the seed have been used to stop the growth and spread of the Aedes aegypt mosquito, which spreads viral diseases. The extract interferes with the enzyme activity of the larvae.

How To Make Soap Nut Juice

  • Add 50 grams of crushed soap nuts minus its seeds to 1 litre of water.
  • Keep to boil and once it starts to boil lower the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  • On simmering, the saponins will leach into the water. Cool the solution, strain and fill it into an empty bottle.
  • You can simmer for a longer time to make the solution more concentrated.
  • Add essential oil of your choice to this solution if you desire a particular fragrance.
  • The strained out soap nuts can be used to make a liquid hand wash by adding a little water to the soap nuts and blending it in a blender.

How To Use Soap Nuts For Different Purposes

Soap nuts can be put to various uses some of which are explained below.

  • A laundry detergent
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To wash clothes put 5-6 soap nuts in a muslin bag and drop it in the washer of the machine. The clothes will be cleaned naturally and smell fresh. If fragrance is needed add a few drops of your choice of essential oil in the washer.

  • A Shampoo

Crush about 5 to 6 soap nuts (remove the seeds before crushing). Put in a pan and add about 3 cups of water.
Keep to boil and once it comes to a boil let the contents simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain the mixture into an empty shampoo bottle. Discard the soap nuts.
Use little as it does not form much foam and this may lead you to think you haven't added enough. If the hair after washing feels stiffer than normal use less of it next time. Soap nuts' shampoo leaves the hair soft and clean.

You can also use a little soap nut powder on the body instead of soap and have a bath. It will cleanse the skin as well but take care to use just a little.

  • To Control Pests

Add 1 teaspoon of soap nut powder or reetha powder to a bowl of water mix well and soak the vegetables and fruits in this. The insecticide and chemical sprays will be cleaned away. Be sure to rinse and wash the foods well with fresh water.

  • An All-Purpose Cleaner

Ritha or soap nuts can be used to clean almost anything. Mix a little soap nut powder in water and use this solution to clean windows, glass, carpets, pets etc.

  • Soap nuts are the main ingredients in soaps and shampoos for washing skin.
  • Precious metals like gold and silver can be brightened by using soapnuts.
  • Soap nuts can be used for making soap nut juice. This juice can be used to do laundry @ 3 tablespoons per wash load, wash utensils and crockery in the dishwasher @ the same concentration as in laundry, sweep floors, bathrooms, wash hair, clean windows @ 2 tablespoons of soap nut juice and 3 tablespoons of vinegar.

Some Benefits Of Soap Nuts

  • Good for the environment. They are totally biodegradable.
  • Safe for those suffering from sensitive skin or those with skin allergies or conditions like psoriasis, eczema etc as they are non-irritating.
  • Safe for the washing machine be it front loading or top loading. Though not much suds are generated by the use of soap nuts the clothes will be washed clean.
  • Safe for all types of clothes even delicate fabrics like those with embroidery etc.
  • Safe for the septic system and they also have antimicrobial properties.
  • They are good as eco-friendly gifts.

Health Benefits Of Soap Nuts Or Ritha

  1. Ritha or soap nuts have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibiotic, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antipruritic, antihyperlipidemic, emetic, and CNS depressive activity.
  2. Soap nuts have anti-inflammatory properties. They can be used on inflamed joints externally to reduce inflammation.
  3. Ritha acts as a purgative to reduce both body heat and accumulated mucus.
  4. In morphine poisoning, ritha powder is given to induce vomiting.
    Dose: For inducing vomiting it is 3-6 grams of the fruit pulp powder, as purgative, it is 4-8 grams of the powder and for other medicinal use it is 1-2 grams of the powder.
  5. The soap nut tree has inhibitory activity against a number of pathogens like E.coli, Salmonella, Pseudomonas, Klebsiella, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Streptococcus, Bacillus species.
    A study was done to assess the antibacterial effects of the leaf extract on these bacteria as compared to Penicillin and Streptomycin.
  6. Active ingredients in the leaves include the phytochemicals, sugar, tannins, flavonoids, saponin, terpenoids, cardiac glycoside etc.
  7. The fruit extract lowers both cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  8. Ritha leaf extracts show lower blood sugar due to its anti-diabetic activity.
  9. The antioxidant activity can be used to manufacture anticancer & anti-ageing products for use on the skin.
  10. Soapnut extracts have hepatoprotective and antiepileptic activity and are an anti hysteric.
  11. Because of its spermicidal activity, a herbal contraceptive has been made from it. Concentrations almost 10 times lower than above have been shown to inhibit trichomoniasis in women, a sexually transmitted disease.


The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.


Some Of My Other Healthy Hubs

Do Soap Nuts Work?

Using and Foaming Your Soapnuts

Soap Nuts Harvesting Process

A Natural Way to Wash - How to Use Soapnuts

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly


Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 24, 2020:

Thank you, Demas, for reading the article and passing it ahead.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on April 24, 2020:

My wife has spoken of these nuts availability in Laos. I will pass this article along to her, knowing she will enjoy reading it. Thanks for another gifted read.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 16, 2018:

You ought to try these

Lisa Bean from Virginia on December 14, 2018:

I've never used these but heard of them and I'm intrigued!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 10, 2014:

Thanks DreamerMeg.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on December 11, 2013:

very interesting and informative, thank you. I must see if I can buy soapnuts here.

jennifer west on June 25, 2013:

I discovered soap nuts about 6 months ago and find that the basic liquid recipe works very well for cleaning all sorts of surfaces, especially removing dried food from the stove. I don't care for the smell on its own so I will put lavender and chamomile herb in with the nuts the last 10 minutes or so of boiling. Smell wonderful and it a very effective natural cleanser. Very nice article.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 05, 2013:

Hi Patricia,

Soap nuts are certainly very versatile fruits. I'm glad you like the info. Thanks for stopping by.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 05, 2013:

Hi rajan jolly

I have only read one other article about soap nuts and it was not quite this detailed.

It is very interesting to know that they have such a wide array of properties which make them a versatile substance to use.

I must find out more and give them a try.

thanks for sharing and I hope all is good with you.

Angels are on the way ps

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 01, 2013:

@vespawoolf-that's so good to hear. I wonder what the name of the plant whose leaf foams in water, is? Of course, soapnut as usual is a wonderful cleansing agent.

@hempsuperfood-thanks for reading and commenting.

Diane from Colorado on May 31, 2013:

Great read, thanks....never even heard of these!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on May 30, 2013:

I use a soap nut shampoo. It's a commercial brand but has no artificial or chemical ingredients. I don't like that it doesn't foam, but when I went to the hairdresser to get my roots touched up, she commented that my hair condition had improved incredibly and didn't look like chemically treated hair anymore. She wanted to know what condition I was using. Well, the only thing I had changed was the shampoo so the soap nut must really pamper my hair.

I have to wash 3 times/week instead of twice a week, but now I think it's worth it. Peruvian women in the mountains use a leaf that foams in water as a natural substitute for shampoo. I'm going to see if I can get a supply of them as I'm sold on natural shampoos! Thanks for this informative and interesting Hub. Voted up, up, up!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 30, 2013:

@Linda-I've read the hub by Mary while I was in the process of writing this one. These nuts have been used since ages here.

@Anamika-you are right. They leave the hair squeaky clean.

@moonlake-these trees grow in hot climates. The share button is back today.

@PegCole-Yes they do look a lot like brussels sprouts but are not eaten like a vegetable. Thanks.

@agapsikap-thanks for reading and sharing. I think you should be able to locate them in the philippines.

@Abdus-thank you.

@Devika- thanks.

@Laura-thanks for the read and interest. It is just too cold for the plants to survive there.

@Joe-now that info about one of the ginger plants is interesting too. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Aloha!

@Mary-I think I did comment when I read your hub on soap nuts that mine was in the pipeline. I'm glad you've found many uses for this natural cleaner.

I'll be honored to have this hub linked to yours and I'll be linking yours to mine. Thanks for all the votes and sharing.

@pinto-you are right. Thanks.

@truthfornow-it would certainly benefit your skin to use these nuts for washing clothes.

@Peggy-thank you for the read and sharing.

@Suzie-this is one research article that says that of the many uses, epilepsy is one that is treated by this plant. You can see it mentioned in the introduction immediately following the abstract.

Thanks for reading and sharing of this hub.

@Margaret- thanks for giving this a read and for sharing it too.

@Dolores-nature is amazing isn't it! appreciate the read and sharing.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 30, 2013:

Wonderful! How much more organic can you get. I make homemade soap and love the idea of homemade purity. But when you get your soap right from the tree - not only pure but simple! (Tweeted and shared)

Margaret Perrottet from San Antonio, FL on May 30, 2013:

What an interesting hub. I'm interested in the anti-inflammatory properties of soap nuts, since I have arthritis. Voted up, useful and interesting - and sharing.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on May 29, 2013:

Hi Rajan,

Wow, what an incredibly useful nut you have in India! So many wonderful ingredients stem from India and this is another I have not heard of. I was very interested to read it has benefits in Epilepsy as I have this condition and went to read your resource but it was not linked, do you have a link you recommend for it? Thanks so much you are a mind of information and this is such an interesting hub in your wonderful collection! Voted up, Useful, Awesome, Interesting, Shared (yeh, the button is back!)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 29, 2013:

Amazing! I am going to have to try these soap nuts. Many up votes and will pin and tweet.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on May 29, 2013:

Interesting, seems like I need to try washing my clothes with soap nuts. I have very sensitive skin and use the free and clean stuff which still makes me itch.

Subhas from New Delhi, India on May 29, 2013:

Hi rajan! You have quite wonderfully described this herb Ritha, which we are using in the Indian subcontinent from ages.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 29, 2013:

Well, Rajan.....between you and me we are doing our part to introduce Soap Nuts to those people who are not familiar with them. You and both published articles about them within days of each other.

You did a lot of research (as you always do) to write this Hub. I am happy I discovered Soap Nuts. I'm doing my laundry with them, and I've learned to made liquid from them for cleaning purposes. I also make foam to use for shampoo for me and my dog.

May I link this Hub into mine that I wrote about Soap Nuts? The Hubs would certainly compliment each other, I think.

Great Hub. Voted UP and will share and also Pin.

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 29, 2013:

Hi, Rajan!

This was very interesting. In Hawai'i, one of the ginger plants had this soapy substance that the women used to shampoo their hair. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. Natural is way better than synthetic!



Laura Schneider from Minnesota, USA on May 29, 2013:

Fantastic article (and videos, though I didn't watch them all) about a topic I've never heard anything about before ( some of my Indian friends are in trouble LOL). I live in Minnesota (10, occasionally 20 and 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheight in winter, 80s and often a hot spell or two of 90-100 degrees F in the summer. Would a soap nuts tree grow here, do you think? Will they grow indoors? This might just solve my friend's elusive allergy problems! Thanks for writing this helpful article and I look forward to trying this myself!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 29, 2013:

Brilliantly put together and so well researched on this unique tree an d the benefits sound so helpful.

Abdus Salam from Bangladesh on May 28, 2013:

This is one of your best article. Very informative and Useful. Voted up. Thanks for sharing..

agapsikap from Philippines on May 28, 2013:

Am not aware of this nuts. And you gave me idea of looking where to find those nuts here in the Philippines. If they have it in China, then maybe we have something alike. It is very interesting to find out. This is really useful and informative. Awesome. Voted up and sharing!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 28, 2013:

Fascinating information on such a useful, natural source. Very interesting tree. I would like to grow one or two of these trees. The soap nuts look like tiny cabbages or Brussel sprouts. Thanks for posting this valuable hub.

moonlake from America on May 28, 2013:

Very interesting I have never heard of them. Wish we had some trees here. Voted up and shared. I was going to share this hub but I can't find your share.

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on May 28, 2013:

I used this nuts once when I was in a village for a wedding. When I asked for shampoo, an elderly lady handled me crushed nuts in half mug of water. And I should say that it worked better than any shampoo I used so far. Good Hub!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on May 28, 2013:

Hi Rajan! I never heard of Soap Nuts before, until yesterday. Mary615 also published a hub on Soap Nuts...what are the chances! :)

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 28, 2013:

wnd-nature never ceases to amaze me. Thanks for taking out time to read and comment.

@college dad-thanks.

@FlourishAnyway-glad to know this hub has provided you with more info. Thanks.

@MsDora-I agree the title is a tad different but I wanted it that way since this tree is different. Thanks.

@Kathryn-yes and very successfully at that. Thanks.

@Bill-Thanks for your comments and this is an exceptional tree. I appreciate your votes and sharing.

@Mary-Thanks for all the comments, votes and sharing.

Mary Craig from New York on May 28, 2013:

This has got to be THE most helpful hub of all! First, I never heard of soap nuts but an alternative to commercial detergent...fantastic! I have a feeling I won't be the only one purchasing some soap nut products. And a natural shampoo....I can't wait to try. This my friend is not only helpful but can be so beneficial.

Do the trees grow anywhere besides Asia?

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and shared.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on May 28, 2013:

Rajan, you continue to amaze me with these finds. I have never heard of soap nuts? You sure do have some amazing plants and trees in your part of the world. This was really interesting. Thanks for the education. Voted up, shared, etc....

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on May 28, 2013:

I have never heard of soap nuts! It is really interesting that they can be used as all-natural laundry detergent, shampoo, and as an all-purpose cleaner. I enjoyed learning about this.

Thank you for sharing this useful article with us.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 28, 2013:

Rajan, when I read your title, I wondered if I would read about detergent or food. Nuts? Smile, please. Anyway, I knew that I would learn something healthy, and I did as always. Thanks for the information. Voted Up!

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 28, 2013:

Wonderful eco-conscious hub! I had heard of these before briefly but knew little about them. Thank you for the research and helpful information and suggestions.

collegedad from The Upper Peninsula on May 28, 2013:

We were just talking about soap nuts the other day. Interesting hub!

wetnosedogs from Alabama on May 28, 2013:

How interesting. This is new to me and it sounds fantastic. Nature is wonderful to provide such a beautiful, useful tree. Always learning here.

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