Home Herbal Monograph Soap Nut Tree of North India

It was used in ancient India as one of the ingredients in soap and hair wash powders. It was utilized by Indian jewellers for restoring the brightness to tarnished ornaments made of gold, silver and other precious metals. It was used as a substitute for soap in washing silk, woollens and other delicate fabrics. In Kashmir, soapnuts were preferred to the best soap for washing woollen shawls. It was reportedly used for washing and bleaching cardamoms, thereby improving the color and flavor of the spice.


It grows throughout north India in hills and plains and is rarely cultivated in south Indian gardens

Morphology Description (Habit)

It is a handsome tree. Paripinnate leaves are crowded near the ends of the branches. The leaflets are 5-10 pairs and lanceolate. The flowers are polygamous, mostly bisexual, small, in terminal, compound panicles. The drupes are globose, fleshy, saponaceous, usually solitary, sometimes two or three drupes together. They are smooth and green when fresh. The pulp dries into a light-brown, somewhat translucent saponaceous rind with a wrinkled surface.

Principal Constituents

Saponins are the major active constituent of the fruit pulp. Mukorosside is one of the saponins isolated from the fruit rind1.


Strychnine has relatively more powerful stimulant action on the motor-cells of the central nervous system.


No adverse effect is reported on use of this fruit for hair wash.


Soapnuts are used in all kinds of hair washes. It is added to get rich foam and pleasant aroma. Soapnuts are used as detergent for washing cloth before dying.

  1. Indian J. Chem. 1966, 4, 36.