July 30, 2013 | Soapwort

Meg brought some of her homemade Sumac-ade to our last workday so we could all sample it. It was mild but quite refreshing! This evening I experimented with making liquid soap from soapwort, one of the wild herbs that we grow in the Demo Garden. Here are some fast facts on soapwort from the TJDG Guidebook:


Saponaria officinalis

Plant Family: Caryophyllaceae

Plant Type: Perennial

Place of Origin: Europe

First Jefferson Reference: 1780s

Used Medicinally:

  • Can clear up congestion from colds
  • As an effective sternutatory, or chemical that causes sneezing and coughing
  • European settlers used it to treat acne and skin problems, like the poison ivy rash

Used Industrially: 

  • Contains saponins and glycosides that foam and act like soap when used with water (caution: saponin content makes it dangerous in large doses)
  • Can be used as a body wash, clothing cleaner, or shampoo 
  • Used as soap substitute in the Middle Ages to clean animal fibers

Tonight I used soapwort in two (slightly) different ways to create both a skin cleanser and shampoo. Making the skin cleanser is similar to making tea. You pour a cup of boiling water over a handful of chopped soapwort leaves and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain the leaves out and allow the liquid to cool before using it to clean your face or body. You could add a couple drops of an essential oil to suit your skin type or add fragrance. I plan on washing my face with my soapwort cleanser and a little lavender oil tonight – I’ll let you know how it goes!


To make soapwort shampoo, I brought a cup of water and a 1/4 cup of chopped soapwort leaves to a boil, covered the pot, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. I then strained the leaves and let the shampoo cool. I only used a cup of water, which yielded about three tablespoons of shampoo in the end. Depending on how much hair you have and how much shampoo you need to get it clean, you might want to use two cups of water and perhaps a half cup of soapwort leaves. As with the skin cleanser, you could add your favorite essential oil to jazz it up. Oils good for normal hair include lavender, rosemary, lemon, cedarwood, and thyme. Oils good for dry hair include lavender, rosemary, and sandalwood. Oils good for oily hair include lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and cypress. I’ll update the blog after I wash my hair with the soapwort shampoo. 

After I strained the soapwort out of the shampoo, I rinsed out the pot and was very impressed with the foamy suds that formed!

ImageWe’ll see how my skin and hair likes it!




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One Response to July 30, 2013 | Soapwort

  1. Fascinating, I’m enjoying reading the uses of the plants in your demo garden!

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