Soapwort is a pretty little wildflower of the Carnation family that commonly grows in wet meadows and ditches. Native to Europe and Britain, it came to the United States with the first settlers, who most likely used it as a soap plant where it quickly spread and naturalized in its new habitat.
Soapwort contains saponins, which in conjunction with water create a soft, gentle lather. This property was widely used in times gone by, not just as a ready soap supply for washing clothes, but also as a particularly gentle natural shampoo for dry, easily breaking hair.
Sheep farmers in the Alps also used it to wash their sheep prior to sheering.
Today Soapwort is used in some cosmetics, such as soaps and shampoos, and as a particularly gentle agent for restoring old and fragile textiles.
This herb is no longer used internally in herbal medicine due to the potentially toxic nature of saponins.
In the past it was used as an expectorant, laxative and cholagogue. It was also used for syphilis and other venereal diseases.
Externally it may be used as a shampoo for fragile hair or as a wash for bruises and afflictions of the skin.
Do not use during pregnancy.
Soapwort is not noted for any particular magical uses, but it could be employed as cleansing herb to add to a ritual bath or to wash ceremonial apparel.
Other names: Bruise wort, bouncing bet, sweet Betty, wild sweet William, Fuller’s herb, latherwort, lady’s washbowl