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Sapindus Mukorossi: (Soapberry Family)

Horsechestnut: (Soapberry Family)

  • releases a saponin that makes a natural surfactant (soap)
  • horsechestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum), a common local street tree

   Recipe 1:

  • historically used in France and Switzerland for whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool:  20 conkers steeped in 6L soft, cold water.
  • stir well at first, then let it settle; strain or pour off clear.
  • Linen washed in this liquid, then rinsed in clear running water, looks light sky-blue.
  • Takes spots out of both linen and wool, and never damages or injures the cloth.

    Recipe 2:

  • chop seeds into small pieces and infusing them in hot water.
  • use for washing the body, clothes etc.
  • main drawback is a lingering odour of horse chestnuts (try adding lavender)
  • seeds contains variable amounts of saponins, up to a maximum of 10%

    Recipe 3:

  • recent issue of "living woods" there is an article about how to make horse chestnut soap. 
  • Basically, wet some leaves and squeeze them.  Done.
  • Saponins don't keep as well as lye soap.  (freeze as ice cubes)
  • They poison fish: their molecular structure is similar to many hormones.
  •  also a blue fluorescent dye
  •  petrochemical detergents > soap > saponins.
  •  for washing skin, hair, and natural fabrics, the weakness is actually a good thing

Other species:

  • other local saponin plantsSoapwort (Saponaria officinali),  Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) and many of the Campions (Silene spp), Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) roots,  Soap Lily (Chlorogalum pomeridianum), Yucca ssp, Philadelphus lewisii
  • Soaproot (Chenopodium californicum ); dry then grate the root for top quality soap flakes
  • Mountain lilac ( Ceanothus species ); handful of blossoms or fruits, add water, and rub
  • BC streams with suds are not necessarily polluted; can be from natural saponin plants


  • Ash (Lye) + optionally, Grease (oil) 

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