Other Names: Soaproot, Bouncing Bet,
Fuller's Herb, Bruisewort, Crow Soap, Sweet Betty
Soapwort is a perennial European
native herb which has become thoroughly naturalized in the United States. Found growing in
moist ditches, along roadsides, waste places, near old home sites, in meadows, and as a
planted ornamental. Cultivation: propagate Soapwort with seeds or by division done in
early spring. Soapwort spreads vigorously it has many attractive and aromatic flowers and
can be used as a ground cover. Succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun
or semi-shade. Prefers a neutral to alkaline soil. The fragrant flowers have five white to
pinkish or red showy petals, each notched and refluxed, about an inch in diameter and are
borne in large clusters in the axils of leaves and at the tip of the stems. Flowers bloom
from June to October. The leaves are opposite, sessile, slightly hairy, simple and entire,
the stem is smooth and swollen at the joints. It forms colonies from underground rhizomes.
The root is harvested in the spring and can be dried for later herb use. Use flowers and
leaves fresh as body soap.
Pictures Copyright Karen Bergeron 2006
Soapwort root, has been used as an
alternative medicine since the time of Dioscorides. It is medicinal as an alterative,
antiscrophulatic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, expectorant,
purgative and tonic. A decoction of the herb is applied externally to treat itchy skin.
One of the saponins in this plant is proving of interest in the treatment of cancer. A
soap can be obtained by boiling the whole plant (but especially the root) in water. It is
a gentle effective cleaner, used on delicate fabrics that can be harmed by synthetic
soaps. The best soap is obtained by infusing the plant in warm water. Soapwort is
sometimes recommended as a hair shampoo, though it can cause eye irritations.
Caution is advised, when taken in excess, this plant is
POISONOUS, it destroys red blood cells and causes paralysis of the vasomotor center.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen
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