In these days of bewildering choice when it comes to soap, why would anyone want to grow the herbal alternative, soapwort? Well, if you have sensitive skin and find most soaps too drying (and those you can use too expensive) soapwort may be the perfect choice.
It is certainly the best choice for the environment – clean, green soapwort comes from nature and can be returned to nature when you are done with it. It has no harsh chemicals or environmentally destructive additives. It’s also very easy to grow. Saponaria Officinalis tolerates both drought and poor soil, and a little healthy neglect.
Soapwort contains saponins, which create the soap like cleaning action. Soapwort is not recommended for internal use, but the many ways it can be used externally make it a very useful herb in your garden.
The simplest way to use soapwort is to boil the leaves and stalks in water, and strain. You will need about a cup of fresh soapwort leaves (half a cup of dried) to a pint of water. The resulting liquid is a valuable wash for expensive fabrics. Just steep your precious real wool or silk articles in the soapwort liquid and wash gently. You will find this simple herbal soap alternative invaluable if you need to clean delicate old fabrics or embroideries. It has been used this way for centuries and is still used today for fragile, priceless fabrics such as the Turin Shroud.
You will find that soapwort really does foam even in this simple recipe, but if you want a more commercial look to your home made soapwort products, you can purchase a special pump bottle from herbal suppliers (called foamy or foamer bottles) which will pump us a rich thick foam for you.
You may prefer to use soapwort shampoo this way, although using the basic boiled liquid will get your hair just as clean. For shampoo you will need to boil your soapwort leaves in distilled water. Cool the boiled liquid and strain well. Add a few drops of citrus, rose or lavender oil for fragrance, and bottle.
If you want to make up enough shampoo and cleansers to store longer than a week, you will need to add some bacteria inhibitor like Germall Plus to your recipes. Use the shampoo as you would a commercial variety, massaging it into your hair and rinsing out. If you have fair hair, use chamomile tea for a rinse, if you have dark hair, use sage or rosemary.
Your soapwort liquid can be used for the face and bath as well, with the addition of aromatic essential oils in your favorite fragrances. Using soapwort has other benefits besides cleanliness – as a medicinal herb, it can help heal acne and skin rashes and soothe sensitive skin.
Around the home, soapwort makes an efficient cleaner for floors, paintwork and fabrics. Try adding lavender or peppermint oils and you can use the liquid to clean pet baskets, kennels and hutches, discouraging fleas at the same time. You can also use it to wash your pets, and it will not irritate their skin as commercial pet shampoo often does.
Soapwort is clean, green and good for you, your pets and the environment. Why not try it!