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Uses

Toxic parts

The plant contains saponins[1]. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food 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].

Edible uses

There are no edible uses listed for Saponaria officinalis.

Material uses

A soap can be obtained by boiling the whole plant (but especially the root) in water[2][1]. It is a gentle effective cleaner[3][4], used especially on delicate fabrics that can be harmed by modern synthetic soaps (it has been used to clean the Bayeaux tapestry). It effects a lustre in the fabric[5]. The best soap is obtained by infusing the plant in warm water[6]. The roots can be dried and stored for later use[6]. The plant is sometimes recommended as a hair shampoo, though it can cause eye irritations[7]. The plant spreads vigorously and can be used as a ground cover when planted about 1 metre apart each way[8].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Soapwort's main medicinal 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[9].

The whole plant, but especially the root, is alterative, antiscrophulatic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, expectorant, purgative, sternutatory and tonic[10][3][11][1][12][13]. A decoction of the whole plant can be applied externally to treat itchy skin[10][14][7]. The plant has proved of use in the treatment of jaundice and other visceral obstructions[10], but is rarely used internally in modern herbalism due to its irritant effect on the digestive system[7]. When taken in excess, it destroys red blood cells and causes paralysis of the vasomotor centre[7]. See also the notes above on toxicity[10][3]. The root is harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use[3].

One of the saponins in this plant is proving of interest in the treatment of cancer, it is cytotoxic to the Walker Carcinoma in vitro[13].

Ecology

Ecosystem niche/layer

Soil surface

Ecological Functions

Ground cover

Forage

Nothing listed.

Shelter

Nothing listed.

Propagation

Seed - best if given a short cold stratification. Sow autumn or late winter in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates within 4 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, it can be successfully done at any time in the growing season if the plants are kept moist until they are re-established. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Saponaria officinalis. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.



Cultivation

Succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade[15]. Prefers a neutral to alkaline soil[7].

Hardy to about -20°c[16]. A very ornamental plant[17], soapwort is often grown in the herb garden and is sometimes cultivated for the soap that can be obtained from the roots. There are some named forms, usually with double flowers, that have been selected for their ornamental value[16]. Plants can be very invasive when grown in good conditions[K]. Soapwort should not be grown next to a pond with amphibians or fish in it since if the plant trails into the water it can cause poisoning[7]. The flowers are slightly scented with a sweet aroma that has an undertone of clove[18]. Hybridizes with other members of this genus[15].

A good moth plant[1][19].

Crops

Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Saponaria officinalis. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Saponaria officinalis.

Descendants

Cultivars

Varieties

None listed.

Subspecies

None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Taxonomy
Binomial name
Saponaria officinalis
Genus
Saponaria
Family
Caryophyllaceae
Imported References
Edible uses
Material uses & Functions
Botanic
Propagation
Cultivation
Environment
Cultivation
Uses
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Functions
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Environment
Hardiness Zone
4
Heat Zone
?
Water
moderate
Sun
full sun
Shade
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Ecosystems
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Life
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    ?
    Herbaceous or Woody
    ?
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    1 x 1 meters
    Fertility
    ?
    Pollinators
    Flower Colour
    ?
    Flower Type

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    "image:Saponaria-officinalis-flower.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

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    References

    1. ? 1.01.11.21.31.41.5 Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-33545-3 (1975-00-00)
    2. ? 2.02.1 Mabey. R. Plants with a Purpose. Fontana ISBN 0-00-635555-2 (1979-00-00)
    3. ? 3.03.13.23.33.43.5 Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald ISBN 0-356-10541-5 (1984-00-00)
    4. ? 4.04.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
    5. ? 5.05.1 Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press (1952-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.16.2 Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
    7. ? 7.07.17.27.37.47.57.67.7 Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    8. ? 8.08.1 Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover J. M. Dent & Sons ISBN 0-460-12609-1 (1990-00-00)
    9. ? 9.09.1 Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    10. ? 10.010.110.210.310.4 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.1 Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    13. ? 13.013.113.2 Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-917256-20-4 (1985-00-00)
    14. ? 14.014.1 Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting. Cassell Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-304-34324-2 (1993-00-00)
    15. ? 15.015.115.2 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    16. ? 16.016.1 Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30936-9 (1991-00-00)
    17. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    18. ? Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World. Robert Hale. London. ISBN 0-7090-5440-8 (1994-00-00)
    19. ? Baines. C. Making a Wildlife Garden. ()
    20. ? Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named PFAFimport-17

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