Reetha, scientifically known as Sapindus mukorossi, is a large deciduous tree of the Sapindaceae family. It is commonly kReetha, scientifically known as Sapindus mukorossi, is a large deciduous tree of the Sapindaceae family. It is commonly known by many names like soapberry, soapnut, washnut, aritha, dodan, and dodani. In countries like Japan and China, Reetha has been used for centuries. In Japan, it has been used as a life-prolonging pericarp (the part of a fruit enclosing the seeds) and in China as a fruit for managing illnesses. The plant is well known for its folk traditional values.1 Reetha is found in the hilly regions of the Himalayas in India. The fruit of Reetha has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for decades.2 Reetha is a popular ingredient of many Ayurvedic shampoos and cleansers.3
The major constituents present in Reetha are saponins, sugars and mucilage.1 The seed kernels of Reetha are a rich source of proteins and show a balanced amino acid composition as per the World Health Organization. In addition to proteins, sugars and fibres are also present. Phytochemicals like polyphenols and saponins are also present.4 The seed oil contains vitamin E and beta-sitosterol.5 The nutritional value is mentioned in the table below.
|Nutritional component||Content (g/100 g) (approx.)|
|Oil (seed kernel oil)||3.9|
Properties of Reetha
Reetha may have the following beneficial properties.
- It may have de-tanning properties
- It may have antifungal activity
- It may have antibacterial activity
- It may act as an expectorant (may help remove sputum from air passages).
- It may have anti-protozoal activity (may kill head lice)
- It may have an anti-inflammatory effect
- It may have wound healing action
- It may help relieve joint pain.1
Potential Uses of Reetha
Potential uses of Reetha for cancer
Reetha contains essential compounds such as saponins. These compounds may possess anticancer and antitumour activities. Various laboratory studies have found that Reetha effectively stopped the growth of cancer cells and tumour formation in cancer cell lines. Hence, Reetha may have the potential to induce the death of cancer cells.1 However, this study is insufficient because it is done in the laboratory and not on humans. Therefore, large-scale human trials are required to suggest the true potential of Reetha in fighting cancer in humans.1
Potential uses of Reetha for anti-bacterial activity
According to an animal study, Reetha extract stopped the growth of the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori when administered orally. Furthermore, the extract was beneficial in clearing out the Helicobacter pylori infection in an in-vivo study.1 However, this information is not enough and further studies are required to support the potential use of Reetha in humans for managing bacterial infections.
Potential uses of Reetha for liver
Reetha may benefit liver health. In an animal model study, the extract of fruit pericarp of Reetha showed a positive effect on the liver of the animal. The extract might help reduce the damage caused to the liver cells.1 You must consult a qualified doctor if you observe any changes in your liver health.
Potential uses of Reetha for anti-fungal activity
According to a lab study, the extract of Reetha might stop the growth of Candida albicans, which causes cutaneous (skin) candidiasis infection. The extract of Reetha showed strong anti-fungal activity against Candida parapsilosis. In addition, the saponin portion of the extract showed activity against the fungus Trichophyton rubrum.1 This data is insufficient; therefore, extensive human studies are needed to support its benefits in humans.
Potential uses of Reetha for wound healing
Oil derived from the seeds of Reetha showed wound healing benefits in animal studies. The oil also showed anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-bacterial properties. It was found that the benefit of skin wound healing may be the result of the anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. The vitamin E present in the oil may provide antioxidant benefit. Reetha seed oil may have the potential for skin wound healing in humans.5 However, before using Reetha for wound healing, it is better to consult a doctor to avoid further complications.
Potential uses of Reetha for hair
Reetha is widely used in preparations like shampoo.3 The dried fruit powder may be used as a foaming agent in shampoos.6 It may clean the oily secretions in the skin and might be used as a cleanser for hair and a hair tonic as it forms a natural lather.1 It may also be used for removing lice from hair.3 However, you should never use any herb to self-medicate yourself. It is always best to consult your doctors and only use them if recommended.
Though studies are showing the benefits of Reetha in various conditions, these are insufficient, and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of Reetha on human health. Additionally, every person may respond differently to this herb. Therefore, it is essential to consult a doctor before using Reetha for any medical condition.
How to Use Reetha?
- The dried fruit powder may be used as a foaming agent.6
- It is the ingredient of many Ayurvedic shampoos and cleansers.4
You should consult an Ayurvedic doctor before taking herbal supplements made of Reetha. In addition, we advise you not to replace or discontinue your ongoing medications with ayurvedic or herbal preparations without consulting a qualified physician.
The saponins present in the extract may be safe to be used in cosmetics.7
- However, the oral administration of saponins obtained from Reetha showed signs of poisoning in animal studies, characterised by a swollen stomach and intestine.7
- There are no significant reports suggesting the side effects of Reetha in humans.
Therefore, if you experience any side effects, immediately rush for medical help from your doctor who has prescribed it and get proper treatment.
Precautions to Take with Reetha
- Saponins found in Reetha are quite bitter and show toxic effects. These should be removed by leaching in running water, thoroughly cooking and changing the cooking water before use.8
- It is not advisable to consume a large number of foods containing Reetha.8
- There is no major report available to show the safe use of Reetha for breastfeeding and pregnant women. Thus, during these times, you should consult your doctors before having it as a herb.
- Avoid giving it to children and older people.
- Without consulting a doctor, you should never use Reetha or any other herb to self-medicate yourselves.
Interaction With Other Drugs
There is no information on the interaction of Reetha with other drugs. However, you should not assume that there are no interactions. Therefore, it is best to follow the advice of your doctors. They will prescribe you a better way to have it as a herb.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Reetha?
Reetha is a large deciduous tree, scientifically known as Sapindus mukorossi. The fruits of Reetha have been used in Ayurvedic medicines.1
How to use Reetha for hair?
The seeds of Reetha may be used as a cleanser for washing hair. It forms rich and natural lather.1 Reetha may also be used to remove lice from the scalp.3 However, if you have hair problems, contact a qualified doctor and ask for proper hair treatment. We recommend you do not use Reetha to self-medicate yourself.
Can Reetha remove oil from the scalp?
Reetha may be used to remove the oils from the scalp generated by oily secretions.1 However, it is better to seek medical help from a dermatologist if you have scalp issues.
Is it safe to eat Reetha?
The seeds of Reetha are edible. However, the saponins found in Reetha are bitter in taste. To remove these saponins, you can leach the seeds in running water, cook them thoroughly or change the cooking +. It is not advisable to consume large quantities of Reetha as it can be toxic.8 Therefore, it is recommended to take the advice of an Ayurvedic doctor; they will guide you with the best form and dosage to have Reetha as a herb.