Nearly the entire soapwort plant contains a number of therapeutic properties. It has expectorant, laxative, tonic, depurative, anti-inflammatory, mild diuretic and diaphoretic actions. A tincture or decocoction can be made with the plant but care should be taken when taking the herb internally because it can irritate a person’s digestive system.
As its common name suggests, soapwort is perhaps best known as a plant for making natural soaps and also for cleaning and brightening delicate fabrics. It does however have several other medicinal uses including the treatment of respiratory issues like coughs and bronchitis.
Soapwort which is known scientifically as Saponaria officinalis originated in Europe but has since spread to various other parts of the globe. It is a member of the caryophyllaceae family and other common names for the plant are Bouncing Bet, Sweet William, Fuller’s herb and Bruisewort.
Its main constituents are saponins and its roots and rhizomes are used medicinally and its leaves are used to produce natural soaps and shampoo.
Dosage: 30 drops, 3 times a day.
Although soapwort has a number of potential therapeutic benefits, it is mainly taken internally for its expectorant properties as a natural remedy for coughing and bronchitis. The reason that it works for respiratory complaints is uncertain.
One possible explanation is that the plant’s action in irritating the gut and alimentary canal stimulates a coughing reaction. This helps induce a greater secretion of liquid mucus within the respiratory system.
Because of its expectorant properties, soapwort is often recommended by herbal practitioners as a treatment for coughs, bronchitis and asthma caused by allergies.
As well as its more common use, soapwort can also be used to help treat joint pain stemming from arthritis, rheumatism and gout. It has anti-inflammatory actions as well as being a mild diuretic which can help flush uric acid from your system.
Decoctions made from the herb’s roots have been used traditionally to treat a range of skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis. The same decoction can be used for soothing allergic rashes and boils. As well as the roots, it is possible to make infusions from other parts of the plant to cleanse the skin and relieve irritations.
Native Americans used soapwort to treat rashes caused by poison ivy. A traditional gypsy remedy for bruising and black eyes is to make a poultice with the plant and apply it against the bruise.
Soapwort has mostly been used as a natural cleanser which can be used on the face, hair and even on your delicate laundry items. Soapwort is still used in this day and age by in the textile restoration industry to clean and brighten fragile fabric. In the Middle East, the plant is still cultivated to wash woolen items.
Making your own soapwort soap or shampoo at home is actually quite easy. It produces a dark yellow or light brown soap with a mild and pleasant aroma much like unscented soap with a hint of wood.
The saponins found in soapwort are the compounds responsible for its cleansing actions. If you are going to make your own soap with the plant, don’t expect big, sudsy bubbles that you would get from commercial soaps and shampoo. Despite its lack of bubbles, it is an excellent natural cleanser that does not irritate even the most sensitive skin
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