Common Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is a vespertine flower, and a common perennial plant from the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). Other common names are Bouncing Bet, Sweet William, and soapweed. There are about 20 species of soapworts altogether.
The scientific name Saponaria is derived from the Latin sapo (stem sapon-) meaning "soap," which, like its common name, refers to its utility in cleaning. From this same Latin word is derived the name of the toxic substance saponin, contained in the roots at levels up to 20 percent when the plant is flowering (Indian soapnuts contain only 15 percent). It produces a lather when in contact with water. The epithet officinalis indicates its medicinal functions.
In the Romanian village of Sieu-Odorhei, natives call the plant "Sǎpunele". It is traditionally used by the villagers as a soap replacement for dry skin.
In the Middle East, the root is often used as an additive in the process of making the popular sweet, halvah. The plant is called ‘erq al halaweh in Arabic, çöven in Turkish, and is utilized to stabilize the oils in the mixture or to create a distinctive texture of hlavah.
The plants possesses leafy, unbranched stems (often tinged with red). It grows in patches, attaining a height of 70 cm. The broad, lanceolate, sessile leaves are opposite and between 4 and 12 cm long. Its sweetly scented flowers are radially symmetrical and pink, or sometimes white. Each of the five flat petals have two small scales in the throat of the corolla. They are about 2.5 cm wide. They are arranged in dense, terminal clusters on the main stem and its branches. The long tubular calyx has five pointed red teeth.
As the name implies, it can be used as a very gentle soap, usually in dilute solution. It has historically been used to clean delicate or unique textiles; it has been hypothesized that the plant was used to treat the Shroud of Turin.
A lathery liquid that has the ability to dissolve fats or grease can be procured by boiling the leaves or roots in water. Take a large handful of leaves, bruise and chop them and boil for 30 minutes in 1 pint/600ml of water; strain off the liquid and use this as you would washing-up liquid.
Despite its toxic potential, soapwort finds culinary use as an emulsifier in the commercial preparation of tahini halva, and in brewing to create beer with a good "head". In India, the rhizome is used as a galactagogue.
- Paul Slichter. "The Pink Family in the Columbia River Gorge: Caryophyllaceae".
- Farmakognosia, by Raimo Hiltunen (in finnish)
- Shroud of Turin. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-06-03.
- Mabey, Richard; 'Plants with a Purpose: A guide to the everyday use of wild plants', William Collins, Fontana, Glasgow, 1977
- Alice Arndt (10 August 1999). Seasoning Savvy: How to Cook With Herbs, Spices, and Other Flavorings. Psychology Press. pp. 215–. ISBN 978-1-56022-031-2. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- Purple Sage page on Soapwort. Purplesage.org.uk (2012-04-01). Retrieved on 2012-06-03.
|Wikiversity has bloom time data for Saponaria officinalis on the Bloom Clock|
Media related to Saponaria officinalis at Wikimedia Commons