Soap Nuts are related to the Lychee family, a subtropical fruit with a sweet taste. While the lychee fruit maybe good to eat we wouldn’t recommend eating soap nuts since their saponins have a strong bitter taste. A common terminology in botany refers to a nut as being a dried fruit with either one or two seeds. True nuts are produced by plant families in the order of Fagales. Both Soap Nuts and Lychees are in the botanical order Sapindales. People have referred to them as “nuts” because the dehydrated fruit can become hard spheres with one large seed that people assume are nuts. Soapberry fruits are round and reddish tan in color; they become gummy and wrinkled as they ripen. They are hand-harvested annually in autumn. The seed is removed, and the fruit is dried naturally in the sun to about 8% moisture.
Naturally Hypoallergenic – Soap Nuts
The major reason to properly identify soap nuts as being a fruit, vs. a nut (soap nuts) is to clarify that they are hypoallergenic. The 8 major allergens associated with foods consist of the following: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, & walnuts), fish (such as bass, cod, & flounder), shellfish (such as crab, lobster, & shrimp), soy, and wheat. Obviously, a person with allergies should avoid ingesting anything they are allergic too; however, it is equally important they avoid coming in direct or soft contact with the allergen. For example, severe peanut allergies can cause an anaphylactic shock by simply coming in soft contact (touched a surface that came in contact with peanuts).
One thing all these allergens have in common is that they contain proteins. Typically allergies are based on specific protein sensitivities, and why someone can be allergic to one protein source but not another. It is important to note that there are no fruits identified as being a major allergen. Fruits do not typically contain the protein complexes that cause an allergic reaction. This is not to say that people can’t be allergic to fruits, but it is not very common.
Since we now know that soap nuts are a fruit rather than a nut, it answers the million dollar question; are they hypoallergenic? Naturally they are! While many companies make hypoallergenic claims, we are one of the few corporations to actually submit our organic soapberry saponin concentrate for dermatological (skin irritation) testing.
Dermatological Soap Nuts Test Results
Although we had good reason to believe the hype with regards to soap nuts being hypoallergenic, we wanted to see how the fruit’s saponins scored on a skin irritation test. This type of scientific test data is helpful in determining, and understanding any potential skin sensitivity issues.
We are happy to share third party test results for the skin irritation test performed on Berry Saponin ConcentrateTM. The test involved numerous individuals and looked for any skin reactions potentially resulting from BSC. A 5% concentration of the surfactant was applied directly onto the skin of the subjects. Results were analyzed by a dermatologist and 100% of subjects* tested had ZERO reaction (noticeable irritation) after 48 hours of exposure. The saponins found in BSC have been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy (Ayurvedic Medicine) for many dermatological issues (psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff). It is nice when modern science can prove what ancient civilizations have known all along!
*Skin Irritation Test consisted of 52 subjects with Fitzpatrick skin types 2 & 3.
Whether you call them soap nuts or soap berries the world is definitely falling in love with these little guys.
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Read More about using soap nuts at soap-nuts-homemade-all-purpose-cleaner