Reetha – Soapnut: Uses, Research, Side Effects

Used for improve the shine of jewels, to wash cloths, hair and also for medicine purposes, Reetha – soapnut is a versatile medicinal herb. It is used for treating skin diseases and psychiatric disorders. 

Botanical Name- Sapindus trifoliatus Linn(S. Laurifolia Vahl),
As per Dr PV Sharma, in North India, Sapindus mukorossi is used in the name of Reetha.
Sapindus mukorossi is called chinese soapberry, is native of China but is cultivated in north India.

Family- Sapindaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae (Soapberry family)
Tribe: Andropogoneae
Genus: Sapindus (Soapberry)
Habitat: Temperate to Tropical regions of India and Nepal

Reetha - soapnut

Names in different languages:
English name- soap nut,  Soapnut, Soap Nut, Soapberry, Soap Berry, Washnut, and Wash Nut, South Indian Soapnut, three-leaf soapberry
Hindi name- Ritha, Reetha, Aritha, फेनिल phenil (as it produces froth), रिष्ट risht, रिष्टक rishtak
Kannada name – Antuvala kayi ಅಂಟುವಾಳ ಕಾಯಿ, ನೊರೆಕಾಯಿ norekaayi, ತೊಗಟೆ ಮರ togate mara
Telugu name- Kunkum Chettu, కుంకుడుచెట్టు kunkuduchettu, ఫేనిలము phenilamu
Tamil name- Pannankottai, புனலை punalai, பூந்தி punthi, பூவந்தி puvanti
Manipuri name – কেক্ৰূ Kekru
Malayalam name – ചവക്കായ് cavakkaay, പശക്കൊട്ടമരം pasakkottamaram, ഉറുവഞ്ചി uruvanchi
Bengali name – ৰীঠা Ritha
Oriya, Konkani name – ରୀଠା Ritha
Urdu name – Phenil, ريٹھا Reetha
Gujarati name – અરીઠી arithi, અરીઠો aritho, અરીઠું arithu

Sanskrit Synonyms-
Kumbha beeja – round shaped seeds
Peeta phena, Phenila – frothy fruits
Raksha beeja, Arishtaka – Thwarts away evil elements and protects
Garbhapati – used in inducing abortion
Mangalya – auspicious
Reetakaranja, Gucchapushpaka, Prakeerya

Classical categorization:
Bhavaprakasha – Vatadi Varga
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Oshadhi Varga
Raja Nighantu – Prabhadradi Varga

Sapindus trifoliatus chemical Constituents
Saponins from Pericarp- Hedera- genin & oleanolic acid and sopindic acid , Saapindoside A& B, Mukuroziosides, Trifolioside II

Soapnut medicinal properties
Rasa (taste) – Tikta – bitter, Katu – Pungent
Guna (qualities)- Laghu – light to digest, Teekshna – strong, piercing
Vipaka- Katu – Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion
Veerya – Ushna – Hot potency
Effect on Tridosha – Balances all the three Doshas
Part used- Fruit, shells, shell powder, roots, bark
Dosage- Powder 1-3 g in divided dose per day.

Reetha uses:
Lekhana – has scraping property, useful in balancing Kapha, in respiratory disorders and in cholesterol / clot deposition in blood vessels
Laghu – light to digest
Garbhapatana – induces abortion
Indicated in –
Graharoga – Psychiatric disorders
Kushta – skin diseases
Kandu – itching, pruritus
Visha – Toxic conditions, poisoning
Visphota – boils, blisters

roots and bark are expectorant and demulcent.
Roots are specially used for hemicrania (migraine) and epilepsy.
fruits which are bitter and astringent are emetic, abortifacient, expectorant, anthelmintic.

External application:
Because of its anti inflammatory and anti bacterial properties, its powder is applied externally to treat boils, scorpion bite, itching lesions.

Reetha is used as the main ingredient in soaps and shampoos for washing hair.
Reetha powder is still readily used widely to wash hair. It kills lice, prevents dandruff.

Side effects:
Oral usage is contra indicated during pregnancy, as it is capable of inducing abortion.

How to prepare a shampoo using Reetha:
Dry the reetha fruits. Cut open, remove the seeds.
Soak the dry de-seeded fruit in water overnight. Boil it. The reetha will turn slimy and mushy. Strain the liquid and add any of your favorite essential oil to it. Your shampoo is ready to use.

How to use Reetha powder to wash jewels and even cloth:
Dry the reetha fruits. Pound it, remove the seeds. Make a powder out of it.
Put 2 tablespoons of soapnut powder into half a bucket of water. Mix it. Leave it for five minutes. It will form froth. Now, this is used as soap water.
Soak the cloth in that water for one hour and then wash.
The same frothing water in small quantities is used for bringing back the shine in jewels.

Ayurvedic medicines with Reetha:
Asanadi kashaya 
– used in the treatment of diabetes, skin diseases and obesity etc.

Five Tirucallane saponins extracted from the gall of Sapindus mukorossi showed moderate on Epstein Barr virus early antigen activation assay.
Chemical composition and bio activities

Anti ulcer activity of ethanolic extract of Sapindus trifoliatus – A maximum anti ulcer activity was found at 400 mg/ kg of aqueous extract which was near equivalent to that of Sucralfate.


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  1. Sowmya Vijaya Kumar says:

    Doctor…I came to know that Reetha Water is added in making Rasagullas…So pregnant women avoid Rasagullas? Can you please clarify?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      If reetha powder is really added to rasagullas, it is best to avoid it during pregnancy.

  2. nilesh says:

    dr is the yellow powder of the reetha seed harmful if consumed

  3. Hi,

    Will external application of the paste of Reetha powder help in shrinking Gynecomastia (Glandular Tissue)? This tip was found on the internet; is it true?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      It may help to mobilize the tissues to some extent. But a cure with this alone cannot be promised.

      • Is there any ayurvedic remedy that is effective in eliminating the gynecomastia glandular tissue? According to the modern medicine the only way by which the gynecomastia glandular tissue can be removed is through surgery. I am guessing there should be some remedy in the alternative medical treatments. Kindly share your thoughts.

        • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

          Some doctors treat gynaecomastia with Kanchanara guggulu – 2 tablets 2 times a day after food for 2 months time. But I have not seen any sure shot remedy for this, yet.

          • Thank you for your prompt reply doctor. I wonder if I can try this for 2 months, I am an otherwise healthy person. Is there any side effects for the above mentioned medicine? Or is there anything that I should be cautious about?

            • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

              You can try with Kanchanara guggulu 1 tablet 2 times a day after food. with this dose, there are usually no side effects.

  4. Swathi says:

    Than you sir for the idea on the shampoo. It is still tough to wash off castor oil, though!

  5. can you give procedure to make reetha oil

  6. Shailender says:

    Sir how can i use the seeds of soapnut externally. what are the properties of soapnut seeds. i generally use soapnut for all my purposes. nowadays trying to use soapnut along with seeds. i soak and blend soapnut along with seeds in water for my use for my hair.

  7. Victor says:

    If intake of the plant is not recommended, how should this be used to help with psychiatric disorders?

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