The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

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Soapwort

Scientific Names

Soapwort

  • Saponaria officinalis L.
  • Pink family

Common Names

  • Bouncing Bet
  • Bruisewort
  • Dog cloves
  • Old maids’ pink
  • Soap root

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Parts Usually Used

The whole plant

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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Soapwort is a wide-spread perennial plant; the finger-thick creeping rootstock produces a reddish, branching stem, which grows from 1-3 feet high and bears opposite, ovate, pointed leaves whose bases clasp the stem. Flat-topped, corymbed clusters of pink, sometimes white or purple, flowers bloom from June to August. Soapwort tolerates poor soil as long as it is well-drained, and full sun or light shade.

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Where Found

Grows in waste places and along roadsides and railroad embankments in eastern North America, Asia, and Europe.

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Medicinal Properties

Cholagogue, diuretic, expectorant, purgative

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Legends, Myths and Stories

A rugged perennial very common along roadsides and near old homesites. It was brought to America by early colonists. The fresh leaves, stems and flowers produce a considerable amount off saponin and cleans as well as leaves a beautiful luster to fabrics. According to an English source, soapwort has been used to clean “filthy”, colorless, decrepit brocade curtains more than 200 years old. The antique curtains were not only cleaned but the original color and luster restored. Bunches of fresh soapwort were put in a muslin bag and boiled in a cauldron until it produced a foaming brown liquid similar to beer. When luke-warm the bag of herbs was removed and liquid squeezed out. The curtains were gently dunked in the saponin liquid. They probably were allowed to steep to loosen embedded dirt. The curtains were then removed and dunked again in several changes of rain water. Never use chemically treated water for silks or fragile materials. The author of this information believed soapwort was safe for washing antique tapestries and silks.

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Uses

A decoction is used as an expectorant for respiratory congestion. Has been used for gout; externally as a wash or fomentation for dermatitis, itching skin, furuncles, and tumors. Soapwort has a mild purgative action. Poulticed on acne, eczema, psoriasis, poison-ivy rash, cuts, bruises, helps expel kidney stones, and increases urinary output. Root tea used for lung disease, asthma, gall disease, and jaundice.

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Formulas or Dosages

Decoction: boil 1 to 2 tbsp. dried root in 1 cup water. Take 1 tbsp. at a time.
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Warning

Soapwort is now believed to be toxic and is only used externally.

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Bibliography

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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