Perennial growing to a height of 3 ft (1 m). Soapwort has lance-shaped leaves and clusters of delicate pink 5-petaled tubular flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, soapwort thrives in open woodland areas and on railroad embankments. It has been widely cultivated as a garden plant. The herb is gathered while in flower in summer; the root is unearthed in autumn.
Root, aerial parts.
All parts of soapwort contain saponins (around 5%), resin, and a small quantity of volatile oil.
History & Folklore
Soapwort has mostly been used as a substitute for soap, especially in washing clothes. Boerhaave (1668–1738), a Dutch physician, recommended soapwort as a treatment for jaundice.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Soapwort’s main internal use is as an expectorant. Its strongly irritant action within the gut is thought to stimulate the cough reflex and increase the production of a more fluid mucus within the respiratory passages.
Consequently, the plant is prescribed for bronchitis, coughs, and some cases of asthma. Soapwort may be taken for other problems, including rheumatic and arthritic pain. A decoction of the root, and, to a lesser extent, an infusion of the aerial parts of the herb, make soothing washes for eczema and other itchy skin conditions.
Soapwort is a potentially toxic herb. Take internally only under professional supervision.