The medicinal power of soapwort

Soapwort is a common plant and grows 40 to 70 centimeters high. The flowers of soapwort are white to pink and bloom from July to September. The plant grows throughout the area from Europe to Siberia. In the Northern Hemisphere this plant blooms from May to September and in the Southern Hemisphere from October to March. Soapwort was widely used in history to wash clothes. Even today there are people who always wash their hair with it. It is a soap that dissolves fats like other soaps, but it is friendlier to the skin; soapwort is recommended for people with dry skin. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing soapwort / Source: Johann Georg Sturm (Painter: Jacob Sturm), Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Traditional use
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Soapwort loosens mucus
  • Soapwort cleans up waste
  • Dose and safety
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Traditional use

the oldest evidence of soapwort use has been found in Switzerland and it is estimated that the soapwort discovery can be traced back to approximately the year 3400 BC. This concerns the Saponaria ocymoides , a smaller brother of the Saponaria officinalis with exactly the same effectiveness. The oldest evidence of soapwort use in the Netherlands comes from Medemblik and is estimated from 700 to 1200 BC. The slightly toxic saponin in soapwort has always been known as a good remedy for skin diseases. Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine and phytotherapy, already knew soapwort. Columella said that the root was cut into pieces and mixed with water to wash sheep’s wool. Until well into the 20th century, the root was for sale under the name radix saponaria, which literally means soap root.


In Latin, soapwort is called Saponaria officinalis . In Dutch, soapwort was also called sad fillets, bubonic and waxwort. In Frisian this plant is called Sjippekr├╗d. Sapon is the Latin name for soap. The French word savon for soap still comes close. Officinalis confesses that it comes from the apothecary workshop. Officinale used to be the general name for the pharmacist’s workplace; all herbs with widely accepted medicinal properties were given the addition officinalis.

Active substances

Of soapwort, mainly the root and to a lesser extent the herb are used for phytotherapeutic purposes. It contains the following active substances: saponins such as saponisides AD, glycosides and quillic acid, tannins and the flavonglycoside saponarin.

Soapwort loosens mucus

Soapwort cleans you from the inside, as it were, because it is a well-functioning expectorant for the respiratory tract. This means that the loosening and coughing up of mucus is made easier. This effect works as follows: soapwort irritates the stomach mucosa. Due to a reflex via the vagus nerve, this stimulation of the stomach membrane leads to increased secretion, the secretion of fluid, from the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. This loosened mucus loosens the already stuck mucus; it is coughed up more quickly. Because of these medicinal properties, soapwort is registered for the following indications:

  • Bronchitis or respiratory tract inflammation,
  • laryngitis or laryngeal inflammation,
  • Angina, pharyngitis or laryngitis,
  • The liquefaction of tough and dry mucus.

Soapwort cleans up waste

Soapwort has many more medicinal properties. The irritating saponins make it a sialagogue or saliva-stimulating agent. In addition, it is a diaphoretic, diuretic, bile-forming, laxative and blood purifying herb. Soapwort moves all kinds of bodily fluids such as saliva, mucus, sweat, urine and bile. This will allow toxins to leave the body more efficiently. Soapwort cleans up waste products, so in this sense too, the inside of the body becomes cleaner through soapwort. The accumulation of waste leads to a range of diseases and conditions. In phytotherapy

Saponaria officinalis or soapwort / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

soapwort is used for the following indications:

  • Asthenia or fatigue,
  • Urinary tract disorders,
  • Rheumatic conditions,
  • Hyperuricemia or increased uric acid levels,
  • Impaired liver function,
  • Urticaria or hives,
  • Chronic skin conditions.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • You can eat one and a half grams of this root per day to achieve the medicinal effect.
  • You can boil 15 grams of root for one liter for two minutes and not let it stand or macerate.
  • 15 drops of mother tincture three times a day.
  • Shampoo: 10% decoction.
  • Shampoo: 10% solution of mother tincture.

At the indicated dose, soapwort is safe. If doses are too high, gastrointestinal disorders including vomiting and diarrhea may occur.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant mentioned in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.