My Friend, Soapwort   1 comment

Whether you call Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis, Bouncing Bet or Sweet William, it’s a great friend to have.  Indentifying, collecting, processing and using Soapwort is easy fun.

 A perennial plant from the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) Soapwort loves cool, shady places; along roadsides and stream banks; everywhere!

Soapwort stands on smooth, leafy, un-branched stems, tinged with red; and grows in patches, attaining a height of 2 or 3 feet.

The broad, tough, lance shaped, leaves are opposite and between 1/2 and 6 inches long.

Soapwort’s sweetly scented flowers bloom from May to September; with white to pink, notched, almost heart shaped, petals, arranged in dense, terminal clusters on the main stem and its branches. The long tubular calyx is, also, often tinged with red.  I like to use the dried flower heads in potpourri; especially the variety with double petals.  Due to the long blooming time, heaps of flowers can easily be gathered.  Sachets, for closet and drawer freshening can be quickly, easily and cheaply made.  Just take a 6 inch square piece of net or lace fabric, place a handful of dried flowers in the center, gather together all the edges and tie with a piece of string or ribbon.  Dried rose buds, star anise, bayberries, juniper berries or other foraged goodies can be added to alter the fragrance and appearance of your lovely bundles.

Small sprigs of Soapwort in a bud vase make a nice bathroom accent; or a great Posey!

Saponins, give Soapwort its cleaning power; and are contained in the roots at levels up to 20 percent when the plant is flowering.  Now that’s true flower power!  Dig the roots in autumn.  Rinse clean under cold running water.  I use a toothbrush to loosen the dirt.  Split length-wise or cut into small pieces; then spread out on clean paper or cloth and turn twice daily, the roots take about a week to two weeks, to fully dry; depending upon your current atmospheric conditions.

As the name implies, Soapwort has been used, throughout history, for personal hygiene and to clean delicate or unusual textiles.  Some folks believe it was used to treat the Shroud of Turin.  Soapwort is an effective cleanser that won’t damage delicate fabrics; making it useful to help restore old paintings; and freshen antique linens. Jane Auel mentions the usage of Soapwort in her Earth’s Children series, often. I like washing my woolens, silks, and other hand-washables, with Soapwort; and making traveling, reusable wet-naps.  Just dip a washcloth in Soapwort solution, place in a zip-lock bag and store in the freezer.  Whenever you’re ready to go, your wet-naps will be, also.  Certainly these would be great for small children and diaper changing.  When soiled, the washcloths can go back into the zip-locks for the trip home.

The Shakers used Soapwort for various medicinal applications; however, care should be taken when used as saponins can be toxic. Any possible medicinal benefits obtained from this plant can be SAFELY derived from another plant that does not pose risks.

”The difference between poison and medicine is dosage.”  ~ Howie Brounstein

To make Soapwort solution:

Crush the fresh or dried root; this can be done with gardening shears and a meat mallet.

Add 1 tablespoon plant material for each cup of water, in saucepan.

Place the pan over low heat and stir, just until suds begin to form. Do not allow the solution to boil.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

Use the solution while still warm; or cool completely and store in an opaque, air-tight container in the refrigerator, for up to 10 days.

 To clean fabrics:

Place the cooled solution in a basin, more than, big enough to hold the fabric; then, add a cup of solution and enough water to cover.  Let your garment soak in the solution.  Gently swish and rinse with cool water.  Dry as you usually would, lying flat on a clean towel, or out on the line.

For personal care:

Soapwort is great for sensitive and/or itchy skin. Use it as you would any other liquid soap.  Once a month I make a ten cup batch of soapwort solution for my scalp.  For five consecutive showers I pour 2 cups of the solution over my head; after my regular shampoo and conditioner, and leave it in, without rinsing.  Thanx to this routine, I no longer need dandruff shampoo.

Soapwort solution is, also, the basis of my favorite luxury spa bath:

Add 4 tablespoon dried Soapwort root, and 4 tablespoons crushed juniper berries (dried or fresh) to 4 cups of water, in saucepan. Place the pan over low heat and stir, just until suds begin to form; do not allow to boil.  Strain the solution through a fine-mesh sieve and add to a bathtub full of very warm water.  Undress, climb in, relax and enjoy!

Just click on any photo to enlarge, for greater detail.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.

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  1. Pingback: Wild Discoveries in The Knotweed Forest « Forageporage's Blog

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