Friday, December 12, 2008

Soapnut Tree - Ritha - Cleansing hair as Shampoo!

In the past century, women here in Tamilnadu of India used to tie and wear extra entwined hair tufts on their heads. This is to show off about 'their' possession of lengthy hairs and to make up for their actual shorter hairs! I have seen such hair tufts being washed and dried before wearing on. For this a washing solution was prepared by dissolving in water the powder of dried fruits obtained from a tree. We, as children used to play with this solution to blow out bubbles of air through a tube dipped in it! The fruit mentioned here is that of the Soap-nut tree or Ritha (Sapindus trifoliatus, ‘Poonthi kuoattai maram’ in Tamil). It is a berry with a nut inside. Its fleshy part contains Saponin which has surfactant action like that of soaps and detergents! Nowadays this saponin is an ingredient in shampoos.

Another species of the soap-nut tree is found in Himalayan regions grown by Nature by itself (Sapindus mukorossi). It bears larger fruits. Seeds of soap-nut trees are said to germinate easily. But now propagation of this tree by man is drastically low; the tree needs to be grown in all farms as its canopy gives cool shadow, and its fruits have also contraceptive and antimigraine chemicals in addition to its cleansing saponin content.

Soap-nut tree that gives us many such natural products is really a wonder tree among all the other trees, as it was in the past!

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