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Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)

(Note: Rock Soapwort redirects to this page. The genus is the same, but some species-specific properties may differ)

Saponaria officinalis also known as soapwort or fuller’s herb is a perennial plant in the family Caryophyllaceae (Thakur et al., 2014).  It is native to habitats in Europe and Central Asia and is commonly found growing along roadsides, in hedges and close to water(Jia, Koike, & Nikaido, 1998; Koike, Jia, & Nikaido, 1999).  It is cultivated as a horticultural plant in several countries (Smulek et al., 2017).  In ancient times the underground stem of the plant were used as a detergent (Smulek et al., 2017).  The extracts of Saponaria officinalis are used to treat rheumatic disorders, bronchitis and skin ailments (Jia et al., 1998; Koike et al., 1999). 

Historical Use

Historical information on the use of soapwort can be found in John Gerarde’s The herbal, or Generall historie of plantes written in 1633.  The leaves were brewed and put over cuts on the fingers, hands and legs to speed up the healing process.  It was also used to assist with expelling of kidney stones by provoking the flow of urine.  There was speculation that soapwort would vernal diseases, but there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove this claim. 

This image of soapwort comes can be found in John Parkinson’s Theatrum botanicum written in 1640  

Latest Research


Jia, Z., Koike, K., & Nikaido, T. (1998). Major triterpenoid saponins from saponaria officinalis. Journal of Natural Products, 61(11), 1368-1373. doi:10.1021/np980167u 

Koike, K., Jia, Z., & Nikaido, T. (1999). New triterpenoid saponins and sapogenins from Saponaria officinalis. Journal of Natural Products, 62(12), 1655-1659. doi:10.1021/np990311r 

Smulek, W., Zdarta, A., Pacholak, A., Zgola-Grzeskowiak, A., Marczak, L., Jarzebski, M., & Kaczorek, E. (2017). Saponaria officinalis L. extract: Surface active properties and impact on environmental bacterial strains. Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces, 150, 209-215. doi:10.1016/j.colsurfb.2016.11.035 

Thakur, M., Jerz, G., Tuwalska, D., Gilabert-Oriol, R., Wybraniec, S., Winterhalter, P., . . . Weng, A. (2014). High-speed countercurrent chromatographic recovery and off-line electrospray ionization mass spectrometry profiling of bisdesmodic saponins from Saponaria officinalis possessing synergistic toxicity enhancing properties on targeted antitumor toxins. Journal of Chromatography. B: Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences, 955-956, 1-9. doi:10.1016/j.jchromb.2014.02.008 

Other Resources

Natural Medicines record: Red Soapwort (Access to UI only)