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Sapindus mukorossi - Gaertn.

Common Name Chinese Soapberry, Soap Berry, Chinese Soapberry, Soapnut Tree
Family Sapindaceae
USDA hardiness 8-12
Known Hazards The fruit pulp contains saponins and is used as a fish pioson[303 ]. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of raw foods that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K ].(Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested)
Habitats Open rocky places at elevations of 600 - 1,300 metres in Nepal[272 ].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan, Korea, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Half Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Sapindus mukorossi Chinese Soapberry, Soap Berry, Chinese Soapberry, Soapnut Tree

Sapindus mukorossi Chinese Soapberry, Soap Berry, Chinese Soapberry, Soapnut Tree


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Other common names include Soapberry, Soapnut Tree, and Soap-nut Tree of North India. Chinese Soapberry, Sapindus mukorossi, is a fast-growing tropical deciduous tree native from India to Japan that grows about 10-20m tall. Its bole is straight, cylindrical, and can be up to 60cm in diameter. The flowers are small, white and occurs in large panicles. The fruits are smooth and yellow to orange. The plant is medicinally used in the treatment of epilepsy, burns, head lice, dental problems, etc. The seeds are edible, usually crushed and boiled and used in desserts. Seed kernels can be used as fertilizer after seed oil extraction. Due to its high saponin content, the fruits can be used as substitute for soap and for restoring and brightening tarnished silverware. Powdered seeds have insecticidal properties. The wood is used for making furniture, boards, plywood, etc. It is also used for fuel and charcoal-making.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Sapindus mukorossi is a deciduous Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Sapindus detergens Roxb. Sapindus utilis Trab.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

The seeds are crushed and boiled to make a liquid that is added to certain kinds of Indian milk sweets, known as 'rasgullas'[301 ]. This adds a frothy quality to the dessert[301 ]. The seeds have been used to bleach cardamom seeds, this treatment is reported to improve the flavour as well as the colour of the spice[301 ].


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The fruit and seeds are regarded as a cure for epilepsy in northern India[303 ]. A decoction of the fruit is used as an expectorant[303 ]. A lather of the fruit is used to treat burns[272 ]. The lather is also used as a soap to wash the hair and rid it of lice[307 ]. The seeds are used in China to stop dental caries[303 ]. The fruit is considered to be haemolytic[303 ].


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Other Uses

Agroforestry Uses: The tree has proved successful in the reforestation of eroded hill slopes at elevations below 900 metres in the western Himalayas[303 ]. The seed kernels, which are a by-product of the oil extraction from the pericarp and shells, can be used as fertilizer[303 ]. Other Uses The fruit is rich in saponins and is used as a soap substitute[46 , 372 ]. It is squeezed, mixed with water, then used to clean clothes etc[46 , 272 ]. Particularly useful for natural fibres and delicate materials, it is also used for restoring and brightening tarnished silverware[46 ]. The fruit is also used to wash the hair and control head lice; as an emulsifier in insecticides, for polishing jewellery[287 , 303 ]. A surfactant obtained from the fruit pericarp has proved effective in the remediation of contaminated soils[303 ]. The seeds are used to make rosaries[46 ]. The powdered seeds have insecticidal properties[303 ]. The seeds contain 23 % oil of which 92 % is triglycerides; the triglyceride fraction contained 30 % oleopalmito-arachidin glyceride, 13.3 % oleo-diarachidin glyceride and 56.7 % di-olein type glycerides such as dioleopalmitin, dioleo-stearin and dioleo-arachidin[303 ]. The heartwood is yellowish grey, the sapwood yellowish white[598 ]. The wood is moderately hard, compact and close-grained[146 , 303 ]. It is used for making furniture, sawing board, plywood, and boards[598 ]. The wood is used for fuel and to make charcoal[303 ].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

A plant of the subtropical to the tropical zone, where it can be found at elevations up to 1,500 metres. It is found in areas where the mean annual rainfall is around 1,750mm[303 ]. Succeeds in a sunny position in any well-drained soil[200 ]. Prefers a deep, fertile, moist soil[598 ], but plants are very tolerant of a wide range of soils, including those that are dry, stony or nutrient deficient[200 ]. A fast-growing tree[598 ]. Flowering Time: Late Spring/Early Summer(early summer, mid summer, late summer). Bloom Color: Cream/Tan(white). Spacing: 9-12 in. (22-30 cm).


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Seed - it can remain viable for at least 2 years[303 ]. Greenwood cuttings.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Dodan, Dodani, Reettha, Soapnut, Thali, aretha mota, bhakri, chhopra, chinese soap berry, chinese soapberry, dodan, gundarasi, hathan, indian soapberry, jharlyang, kalalgera, makalawa, mukuroji, ritha, soap nut tree.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Asia, Australia, China, East Africa, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nepal, Northeastern India, Pakistan, SE Asia, Sikkim,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Sapindus drummondiiWestern SoapberryTree12.0 7-10 SLMHNDM110
Sapindus marginatusWingleaf soapberryTree15.0 7-10 SLMHNDM100
Sapindus saponariaSoapberry, Wild Chinaberry, Florida Soap Berry, Soap Nut, Soap TreeTree10.0 10-12 MLMHNDM024

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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