Soap Berries

soap berries

Soap Berries


Certified by USDA’s National Organic Program & Ecocert

ELS’s soap berries are certified organic, complying with both Ecocert and USDA NOP standards. Our soap berries are wild-harvested from Sapindus mukorossi trees found in forests at the foothills of the Himalayas. To ELS, the term wild-harvested means the trees grow naturally throughout the region and that small, family based collectors hand harvest the soap berries. These hardy trees are naturally resistant to disease and insects without the use of chemically based fertilizers, or toxic pesticides. They are capable of growing in poor quality soil and help fight erosion. Soap berry trees grow 10 – 20 meters in height and begin to flower & bear fruit after 3.5 – 4.5 years; however, they do not reach full maturity until they are 9 – 10 years old. They have great longevity and produce fruit for 90 to 100 years.

Micro Awareness

While soap berries have the ability to protect themselves from insects and can exhibit mild anti-microbial properties, they are still prone to micro-contamination. It is important to understand that all agricultural products are grown outdoors where they come in contact with a wide range of contaminates. Some of these contaminates include: yeast, molds, coliforms, and specifically spore formers. Spore formers can lay dominate on the outside the berry’s skin, and are some of the most difficult microorganisms to destroy. They can resist high temperatures and pH and will begin to grow as soon as they come in contact with water and heat. Testing of various soap berry suppliers showed samples having >20,000 cfu/g of mold and/or >40,000 cfu/g on total plate count. Even at these high levels of contamination, the microbiological growth could not be seen by the naked eye. It is our hope that ALL soap berry suppliers create a safer environment for consumers by doing regular internal testing and providing Certificates of Analysis (third party laboratory testing to verify products meet stringent micro standards) on all their soap berry products.

Genus and Species Names

Sapindus is the genus (botanical name) for approximately twelve species of small trees and shrubs which include: Sapindus delavayi, Sapidnus emarginatus, Sapidnus laurifolius, Sapindus marginatus, Sapidnus mukorossi, Sapidnus oahuensis, Sapidnus rarak, Sapidnus saponaria, Sapidnus tomentosus, Sapdinus trifoliatus, Sapdinus vitiensis, & Sapidnus detergens. ELS primarily purchases soap berries from Sapindus mukorossi trees native to in Nepal. The soap berries from this tree contain the highest quality, as well as, quantity of saponins found in any known species. A diverse variety of soap berry species can be found on all continents.  In North America soap berries were used by Native American Indians to clean their skin, hair, clothing, and utensils.

Sustainable Opportunities

As the demand for soap berries increase, it will become increasingly important to find ways to utilize the soap berry’s seeds. The seed have a hard outer layer with a meaty center and comprises of about 50% of the fruits total weight. Laboratory tests indicate the total fat content in the seed ranges from 25 – 30%. A seed containing this amount of fat can be considered an ‘oilseed’ – allowing the oil to be effectively extracted using modern methods. This oil could be used in soap making or sold into the biodiesel market. We believe there is a demand for oil that does not come from food related sources i.e. coconut, palm, soy, corn, etc.  After extracting the oil from the seed one would be left with a high protein meal, which could then be used as an organic fertilizer. Protein is nitrogen rich and nitrogen is the basis for most synthetic and petroleum based fertilizers. Organic fertilizers help support a sustainable farming system by returning vital nutrients back to the soil. As Elton John would say, “it is the circle of life”. One of ELS’s goals is to help create a system that can utilize the entire soap berry, allowing the most sustainable system to be developed. In doing so, we can help provide REAL ecological solutions for global issues.

Importance of Soap Berries in Ayruvedic Medicine

In the countries of Japan and China, soap berries have been used in medicinal, home, and personal care products for centuries. In Japan the soap berry is called enmei-hi, meaning “life prolonging fruit”.  In China it is called wu-huan-zi, or the” non-illness fruit”.  In India they are known as ritha or reetha. Soap berries are among the list of herbs and plants used in Ayurvedic medicine. In Sanskrit, ayus means “longevity”, and veda, “related to knowledge or science.” The word ayurveda translates into – the complete knowledge, or science for long life.

Ayurvedic medicine, or Ayurveda, is a comprehensive system of medical treatment based on a holistic approach that dates back more than 6,000 years. The essence of ayurveda is based on a heightened awareness, understanding, and knowledge of nature’s powerful healing and rejuvenating qualities. Great encyclopedias of medicine (the Susruta Samhita and the Caraka Samhita) were compiled from various sources from the mid-first millennium BCE to about 500 CE. These books are part of the foundational works of Ayurveda, and soap berries have played a key role in this natural medicine.soap berry
For thousands of years the fruit of the Sapindus mukorossi tree has been used for its powerful medicinal properties. Soap berry powder and liquid concoctions are popular ingredients in Ayurvedic shampoos (to prevent hair loss & dandruff). The extracts have gentle insecticidal properties, and are used to remove lice from hair in both people and their pets. Soap berries are anti-microbial and used to clean hospitals, equipment, and patients. There are numerous Ayurvedic medicinal treatments made from soap berries for the following conditions: eczema, psoriasis, skin lightener, acne, epilepsy, birth control, as a sedative to the uterus to ease the pain during child birth, migraines, arthritis (anti-inflammatory), reduction of lung congestion (as an expectorant), lower cholesterol, digestive aid, to treat diarrhea, cholera, paralysis, an anti-venom, and control of salivation.

In March 2010, The Journal of the Taiwan Institute of Chemical Engineers published a 7 page paper called, “Tyrosinase inhibition, free radical scavenging, antimicroorganism and anticancer proliferation activities of Sapindus mukorossi extracts”. The abstract reports, “…The antiproliferative effects of S. mukorossi extracts in human skin, lung, liver, prostrate, cervical, bone, bladder, and breast cancer cell lines were also evaluated. Interestingly, S. mukorossi extracts showed strong specific inhibition activities on the proliferation of human melanoma and lung cell lines. The…data exhibited the high potential of applying S. mukorossi extracts in medical cosmetology, food supplementation, antibiotics, and chemotherapy.”

Additional Information On Soap Berries

Modern science is beginning to quantify what those practicing Ayurvedic medicine have known for 6,000 years.  Eco Logical Surfactants, LLC (ELS), embraces Ayurvedic wisdom and supports it through our natural and organic process fractionation technology.  ELS is proud  to produce a highly functional, competitively priced, ultra-purified, and concentrated soap berry saponin extract (trade named Soap Berries Saponin ConcentrateTM)