Sapindus saponaria L.

Nota de alcance

PARTE UTILIZADA= Used part: Frutos, madera, raíz.

ACCIÓN FARMACOLÓGICA= Pharmacological action: Saponina (propiedades como las del jabón), (fruto, madera, raíz), anticlorótico, antihemorrágico, venenoso, insecticida, astringente, tónico, narcótico.

COMPOSICIÓN QUÍMICA= Chemical composition: Previously isoleted constituents. Alpha- and beta-amyrin, beta-sitosterol, luteolin and saponin. New isoleted constituents: 3beta-O-[alpha-L-arabinopyranosyl-(1-->4)-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-->6)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl]-hederagenin (0,01%).

ZONA GEOGRAFICA= Geografical zone: América central y del Sur. 

Nota de alcance (en)

Tropical America.

In Venezuela it is amply distributed in hot regions. The tree grows frequently in the Orinoco and Amazon region. The species is either found wild or as an escape from cultivation, occurring from the south of the USA to Argentina.

Ethnobotanical and general use

Economical utilization.
The fruits (called soap berries) contain saponins in their fleshy mesocarp and are actually drupes with a hard endocarp. The fruit flesh - when macerated with water-produces suds and foam like soap and is therefore used as a substitute for soap for washing purposes, e.g. clothes. It tastes bitter because of the high tannin content (RECORD & HESS 1943). Pounded seeds thrown into the water are used as a fish poison because they cause asphyxia. Up to 90% of the seeds germinate rapidly when released from the peri carp and washed. But only 50% germinate, when the pericarp is not removed; it is thus suggested that an inhibitory substance of germination is present in the pericarp (PONESSA DE MERCADO, PERSONAL COMMUNICATION). Seeds are furthermore used for ornamental purposes. The seeds contain 28-30% fatty substances with a low melting point of 15 °C. The oil extracted from the cotyledons is used in soap manufacture and medicine. Fruit pulp and roots pounded can paralyse fish. The poisonous seeds may likewise be used as an insecticide. Not only the fleshy mesocarp of the fruits, but also the leaves, the bark and the roots contain saponin.

Medical use
Leaves, bark, roots, fruits and seeds are medically used. Leaf The leaves in infusion help against snake bites and bites of rays (raya). Bark. Root and bark in decoction are applied for their astringent and tonic effects. Root. The root has febrifuge effects. It is also astringent and tonic, when used as a decoction. Fruit. The fruit has febrifugal activity and is also used against blennorrhagia. Seeds. A tonic is prepared from the crushed and boiled seeds to combat dandruff. The seeds have febrifugal activities. Seeds soaked in kerosene applied externally help against rheumatism and are also used as an insecticide.The oil extracted from the cotyledons of the seed is used in medicine and for the manufacture of soap (PITTIER 1926, 1970).

Method of use
Leaves in infusion, root and bark as a decoction, seeds crushed and boiled (externally), seeds soaked in kerosene (externally). The plant has to be used with much caution, particularly the seeds which are very poisonous. The aqueous extract of roots, wood and especially of the fruits is also pois onous. In some animals it has produced convulsions and paralysis of the nervous system, with consequent asphyxia (BLOHM 1962). The fruit may cause a pronounced rash in some individuals.

Healing properties
Tonic, astringent, scabicide, antirheumatic, febrifuge, against blennorrhagia, and as a detergent. It is also an antidote against snake bites and bites of rays.


Uses: blood depurative.                                                 

Origin: Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Caribbean, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan,Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Panama, Peru, South Korea, Suriname, Thailand, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam.


Root and Stem: Root and stem-bark for tonic astringents and bitters.

Fruit: Contains an emulsifying saponin (hederagenine) and thus used in French Guiana as a soap, and for shampooing the hair. Diuretic.


As in the case of other species from the genus Sapindus, S. saponaria (Sapindaceae) is distributed throughout tropical and subtropical regions of America and Asia, and is highly reputed as a natural soap due to its high content of saponins. Recently, however, pharmacological studies have also shown antifungal, antiulcer, antihemorrhagic, and insecticidal activities in soapberry, suggesting that this species may be of further interest from a therapeutically point of view.

Range. Tropical America, North India. In Myanmar, found in Magway.

Fruit: Used as treatment for epilepsy.

Fruit and Seed: Used to treat skin diseases.

Nota bibliográfica

1) TOURSARKISSIAN, Martín. Plantas medicinales de Argentina : sus nombres botánicos, vulgares, usos y distribución geográfica. Buenos Aires : Hemisferio Sur, 1980, p.117-118.

2) LEMOS, T.L.G., et al. Saponin from Sapindus saponaria. Fitoterapia. 1994, vol.65, nº6, p.557.

3) ALONSO, Jorge ; DESMARCHELIER, Cristian. Plantas medicinales autóctonas de la Argentina : bases científicas para su aplicación en atención primaria de la salud.  Buenos Aires: L.O.L.A, 2005, p. 271.

3) South American medicinal plants : botany, remedial properties, and general use / I. Roth, H. Lindorf. Berlin ; New York : Springer, c2002. -- p. 492.

9) Geraldini , Isanete, Journal of Ethnopharmacology v. 173, 2015 . -- p. 383-423

10) Plantas medicinales autóctonas de la Argentina. Bases científicas para su aplicación en atención primaria de la salud / Jorge Alonso y Cristian Jorge Desmarchelier. - 1a ed. - Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires: Corpus Libros Médicos y Científicos, 2015.

11) DeFilipps, Robert A.; Krupnick, Gary A. / PhytoKeys, v. 102. - - p. 1 - 314,  2018.

Sapindus saponaria L.
Término aceptado: 23-Nov-2007