• Varieties & Quality

Soap nuts were originally discovered and used by locals as a cleansing medium. They were primarily used for bathing and personal hygiene and a plethora of cleaning uses. They make an exceptional jewelry cleaner for example. Soap nuts were also used in numerous medicinal treatments and worked as an effective, yet safe, chemical-free pest repellent. These same uses prevail today – PLUS there is a long list of NEW uses in our modern age.

The botanical term Sapindus is derived from the Latin word “sapo” (soap) and (Indian) indicus, referring to its lather-producing fruit. It is this genus of tree that produces soap nuts – and there are many varieties. Saponin is found in many plants such as yucca, agave, soapwort, and others. What makes the soap nut SO special is their extraordinarily high concentration of saponin (the active ingredient and natural surfactant in soap nuts). Extracting enough saponin from other plants would simply not be feasible. However, Sapindus trees produce a fruit that not only makes it feasible, Sapindus trees make it easy AND SUSTAINABLE.

Soap nuts are a common name for the ripened and dried fruit harvested from a Sapindus tree. There are two primary species being harvested today: Mukorossi and Trifoliatus. Both are found mainly in Southeast Asia. Both are of the family Sapindaceae. I am often asked why does NaturOli use only Mukorossi soap nuts. The Mukorossi species consistently produces the highest level of saponin of the many soap berry varieties. Hence, consumers get the best possible experience from them. Also, other than Mukorossi and Trifoliatus there is no infrastructure and supply chain for the other varieties. When ordering tens of thousands of kilos, the Southeast Asian exporters are the only suppliers that can meet the demand. With time, increased consumer awareness, and increased demand this scenario will change. In decades to come, we will find suppliers in many regions around the Rocky, Andes, Sierra, Appalachian and other mountain ranges. Most likely it will be the Mukorossi variety being grown and harvested.

Sapindus Mukorossi is a large soapberry tree growing primarily in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains of China, northern India and Nepal. It is a prolific fruit producer and lives around ninety years. It is native to China and considered alien to the Doon Valley in India where it flourishes in poor soil conditions. It aids in the reducing soil erosion in these regions. The soap nut flowers are small, white and grouped in panicles (clusters). The fruits are round, yellowish berries that become gummy and wrinkled as they ripen. It produces large, colorful and glossy soapberries compared to other species. It is the most highly valued species.

Sapindus Trifoliatus is a smaller soapberry tree typically found in Southern India, Pakistan and numerous countries in Southeast Asia. It prefers lower altitudes and warmer climates. It produces a smaller soap nut (about half the size of the Mukorossi soap nut). It contains saponin as do all Sapindus fruits, however not as high of level as Mukorossi soap berries. Harvesting and de-seeding the smaller soap nuts is more difficult. Being sold by weight makes Trifoliatus less desirable in many ways. There is more work for the harvesters for less money. There is less money involved per kilo for the exporters. And they are of lower quality and effectiveness for the consumer. Trifoliatus soap nuts are certainly a valuable resource for saponin. HOWEVER, they are also the primary species sold deceptively to be its far superior cousin, the Mukorossi soap nut.

Local villagers, farmers, families and co-ops harvest the soap nuts after the fruit falls from the tree. Properly processed, the seeds are removed and the shells are dried in the sun. They are then sold to the exporters. Currently only about half of the Mukorossi soap nuts available are harvested annually. The rest go to waste. Harvesting provides an economic stimulus for these economically depressed regions. Increased global demand will provide additional stimulus and encourage more cultivation.

Many other varieties of these remarkable soap nut trees grow around the globe with differing data with regards to their fruits. There are actually many types of saponin, too – also with varying properties. We will be studying these soap nut varieties and their individual properties for many years to come. We have much to still learn. The consensus at NaturOli is that the further we drill into the benefits of soap nuts and saponin the more we continue to discover. Who knows how deep this rabbit hole goes?

8 replies
  1. Buy Reviews
    Buy Reviews says:

    I m very glad to have read this article. It has helped me gain a great deal of knowledge on this subject. I would love to read more of your articles.

    There is a long list of articles on sop nuts yet to be published. This is merely the beginning. Welcome to SoapNuts.pro!

  2. Tony Rymes
    Tony Rymes says:

    This is my initial stop by and I really like what I’m seeing. Your weblog is so much fun to look over, quite compelling as well as informative. I’ll undoubtedly recommend it to my friends. Nevertheless, I did have some problem with the commenting. It kept giving me an problem whenever I clicked on publish comment. I hope that can be fixed. Many thanks.

    Hi Tony, I appreciate the gracious words. There is no shortage of interesting aspects surrounding soap nuts, natural laundry and greener cleaning. What you are reading is the tip of an iceberg. Soap nuts and saponin are truly the future for healthier, environmentally friendly cleaning products – and much more. I don’t know what glitch you had, but I let my IT person know. Let me know if it continues. Thanks for visiting SoapNuts.pro! I am currently working on a far more detailed post on the increasing problem in the market with soap nuts containing seeds, plus an in depth look at Extreme 18X soap nuts liquid detergent concentrate. Come again soon! Chris

  3. Elvina
    Elvina says:

    Your explanations about soap nuts are easy to understand. I get irked when folks discuss issues that they plainly do not know about. You hit the nail right on the head and explain away a lot of questions I had about soap nuts, their types, their uses, different issues, etc. without complication. Will be back. Thanks!

  4. Claire
    Claire says:

    Im very glad to have read this article. It helped me gain a great deal of knowledge about soap nuts (soap berries). I will enjoy reading more of your articles.

  5. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    This post was very nicely written, and it also contains a lot of useful facts about soap nuts. I appreciated your professional way of writing this post. Thanks, you have made it very easy for me to understand.

  6. sara t.
    sara t. says:

    Why some soap nuts are darker than others?
    Does the color make a difference in quality and price?

    Hi Sara,

    Color alone is primarily an indicator of age. Age affects value more so than effectiveness. Most folks desire the freshest. They begin as yellow/golden, then turn reddish, then brown, and ultimately near black. Referring to NaturOli’s procedures, of which I’m most familiar, new harvest is brought in every year. Older berries are discounted and/or used in producing other saponin-based products. Regardless of color and age (within reason), there is no degradation of the pure saponin. Pretty cool actually. It’s a no-waste system.

    The berries darken quite a bit in the first year and there’s no reason for concern. Proper storage does keep them looking fresher longer. I’d avoid buying older berries when fresher ones are available, unless prices are VERY significantly lower. Ask specific questions of sellers, such as the year of harvest. Are the pictures representative of the actual product? If not, how so? The more specific, the better.

    Hope this helps!


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