Reetha – Soapnut: Uses, Research, Side Effects

Used to 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 to China but is cultivated in north India.

Systemic classification, habitat

Family- Sapindaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae (Soapberry family) (Arishtaka kula)
Tribe: Andropogoneae
Genus: Sapindus (Soapberry)

Habitat: Temperate to Tropical regions of India and Nepal

Reetha - soapnut

Vernacular names

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

Chemical constituents

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

Medicinal properties

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.

Uses, indications

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, and 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 contraindicated during pregnancy, as it is capable of inducing abortion.

Shampoo preparation

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.

Reetha powder uses

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.

Reetha for washing clothes

For washing clothes, dried reetha fruit is tied in a thin cloth and put in the washing machine. It produces froth and cleans it.
Or, the dry fruits – 3 – 4 are soaked in a bucket of water. Clothes are dipped in it and then washed.

Ayurvedic medicines

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

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.


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.

Sthanika karma (Systemic Acton)

External use
Analgesic, Anti inflammatory, Anti poisonous in nature. It has a Scraping Action on tissues. Paste is used externally in painful inflammatory conditions like Animal bite, itching and blisters. Powder nasya is indicated in Migraine, Giddiness, Asthma, etc. Leaves are used for upanaha in joint pain, Hemiplegia etc. Its froth is applied to reduce burning sensation on the skin.

Nervous system – Seed can cause intoxication. indicated in Helminthiasis
Digestive system – Induce vomiting and purgation. Indicated in Ascites, Phantom tumor etc.

Circulatory System – Blood purifier
Respiratory system – Expels out kapha dosha, Indicated in cough, Asthma etc.
Reproductive system – Constructs the uterine muscles. In olden days its suppositories were used in Delayed / Obstructed labor
Skin – Indicated in skin disorders
Satmikarana – Anti poisonous. Acts against Ahiphena (Opium) poisoning.

31 comments on “Reetha – Soapnut: Uses, Research, Side Effects

  • Sowmya Vijaya Kumar

    02/09/2015 - 10:41 pm

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

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      28/09/2015 - 9:58 pm

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

      Reply to comment
  • nilesh

    19/11/2015 - 7:02 pm

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

    Reply to comment
  • Kris

    24/01/2016 - 8:35 am


    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?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      13/04/2016 - 11:18 pm

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

      Reply to comment
      • Kris

        09/10/2016 - 12:03 pm

        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.

        Reply to comment
        • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

          12/10/2016 - 12:16 pm

          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.

          Reply to comment
          • Kris

            13/10/2016 - 2:52 pm

            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?

            Reply to comment
            • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

              16/10/2016 - 10:56 pm

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

              Reply to comment
  • Swathi

    25/04/2016 - 3:45 pm

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

    Reply to comment
  • vijender gupta

    12/05/2016 - 12:03 pm

    can you give procedure to make reetha oil

    Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    06/01/2017 - 9:51 pm

    Read more home remedies using soapnut here –

    Reply to comment
  • Victor

    19/06/2017 - 5:21 am

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

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      19/06/2017 - 5:56 pm

      Hi, that was a mistake. The dose of powder of fruit is 1- 3 grams orally.

      Reply to comment
  • jyoti

    03/11/2017 - 9:03 am

    Are the uses (medicinal and other) mentioned applicable for both the soapnut species?

    Reply to comment
  • Ishwar

    03/01/2018 - 11:56 am

    For use in washing clothes, do we need to powder the dried reetha fruit or the seeds? Also, can this be used for washing utensils too? Or is there any other herbal alternative for this?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      18/01/2018 - 11:19 am

      hi, for washing clothes, dried reetha fruit is tied in a thin cloth and put in the washing machine. It produces froth and cleans it.
      Or, the dry fruits – 3 – 4 are soaked in a bucket of water. Clothes are dipped in it and then washed.

      It can also be used to wash utensils.
      A combination of carbon soot, Triphala is also used for washing utensils.

      Reply to comment
  • Dr.Harshitha

    22/03/2018 - 10:09 am

    Sir, where can we find the reference about Reethi in Nighantu Sangraha

    Reply to comment
  • Smita

    28/03/2018 - 12:40 pm

    Sir nice to read ur article. Can reetha be used in washing dishes.steel vessel on daily basis

    Reply to comment
  • Mayuri

    31/03/2018 - 12:23 pm

    Is there any side effect of reetha in long term if I wash my hair regularly

    Reply to comment
  • Srividhya

    03/04/2018 - 11:10 am

    Dear doctor Hebbar, I use reetha often as hair wash. Is it only the shell which has the soapy quality? Are there any uses for the black seed? The seed seems to have an oil content.
    Regards, Vidhya

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      03/04/2018 - 10:58 pm

      The shell is the mainly used part.

      Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    03/06/2018 - 5:37 pm

    With solvent like water, ethanol etc.

    Reply to comment
  • Priya

    02/09/2018 - 8:15 pm

    Sir my scalp is so oily and premature graying , so I am washing my hair everyday with shampoo, in future I decided washing my hair with homemade soapnut shampoo in every day basis, that is good or bad for my scalp condition sir?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      03/09/2018 - 6:44 pm

      It is a very good idea.

      Reply to comment
  • Sachin Navale

    11/04/2020 - 1:23 pm

    How reetha is used for Astama

    Reply to comment

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