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Soapwort Herb - Uses And Side Effects

Other Names : Bouncing bet, bruisewort, crow-soap, fuller's herb, latherwort, soap root, sweet Betty, and wild sweet William.


Soapwort is a common ingredient in herbal shampoos because its chief components, called saponins, produce foam or suds in water. (The term saponification refers to the soap-making process.) Plants that contain a lot of saponins reportedly taste much like soap. Soapwort is also known as fuller's herb because the textile industry once used it as a fulling (cleaning and sizing) agent.

Soapwort is a perennial European native herb which has become thoroughly naturalized in the United States. Found growing in moist ditches, along roadsides, waste places, near old home sites, in meadows, and as a planted ornamental. Cultivation: propagate Soapwort with seeds or by division done in early spring. The Egyptian soapwort root, Gypsophlla struthium, occasionally is used in place of soapwort because it contains saponin and some of the same components as S. officinalis.

Description of the herb Soapwort

A stout herbaceous perennial with a stem growing in the writer's garden to 4 or 5 feet high. Leaves lanceolate, slightly elliptical, acute, smooth, 2 or 3 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Large pink flowers, often double in paniculate fascicles; calyx cylindrical, slightly downy; five petals, unguiculate; top of petals linear, ten stamens, two styles; capsule oblong, one-celled, flowering from July till September. No odour, with a bitter and slightly sweet taste, followed by a persistent pungency and a numbing sensation in the mouth.

Common doses of Soapwort

Soapwort comes as dried root, dried leaves, decoction, extract, fluid extract, and juice. Some experts recommend the following doses:

  • As a decoction, 2 to 4 fluid ounces taken orally three or four times daily.
  • As an extract or a juice, 10 to 20 grains taken orally.
  • As fluid extract, 0.25 to I dram taken orally.

Uses of Soapwort herb

Soapwort root, has been used as an alternative medicine since the time of Dioscorides. It is medicinal as an alterative, antiscrophulatic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, expectorant, purgative and tonic. A decoction of the herb is applied externally to treat itchy skin. Specifically, soapwort may help to :-

  • Acne
  • As a shampoo
  • Boils
  • Constipation
  • Dandruff
  • Gout
  • Intestinal problems
  • Jaundice
  • Rheumatism
  • Skin problems, including psoriasis (scaly, raised skin patches)and eczema (a type of skin inflammation)
  • Skin reactions caused by syphilis

Side effects of Soapwort

Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of soapwort:

  • nausea
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting.
This herb also can cause:
  • digestive tract ulcers
  • kidney damage
  • liver damage
  • nerve damage.

Are there any interactions?

Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Tell your health care practitioner about any prescription or nonprescription drugs you're taking.

Important points to remember

  • Don't use soapwort if you're pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Don't use high doses of this herb for more than 2 weeks because it may damage your digestive tract.
  • Know that most people can't or shouldn't use soapwort because ingesting it can cause toxic reactions and intense bowel evacuation.
  • Be aware that your health care practitioner may recommend periodic liver and kidney function tests while you're using soapwort.

What the research shows

In test tube studies, purified components of soapwort called saponins have harmed cancer cells. However, we have no evidence that the herb helps cure cancer in people. Because other treatments are effective against cancer, medical experts favor them over soapwort. The same goes for other ailments-not only because virtually no clinical data are available but also because soapwort could be toxic.

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