SoapnutsSoapnuts can be used safely by people with nut allergies as they are a fruit closely related to the Goji berry. They can appear like a golden colored cherry while still on the tree and when harvested and dried they turn dark brown. They are also known as soap berries, washing nuts, soap nut shells, wash shells, soapberry nuts, ritha nut shells, soap pods, and chinese soapberry. There are about twelve species of shrubs and small trees in the soapberry family (genus Sapindus) that are native to tropical and subtropical regions in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Most popular and best known for its consistently high saponin content, the Sapindus Mukorossi is indigenous to China and over time grew southward through eastern Nepal and northern India. It is an exceptionally prolific fruit producer but takes 9-10 years for the tree to mature and begin producing. Blooming during summer, the small greenish-white flowers appear before the fruit which is then harvested in early winter. The ripe fruit is then dried, cracked and deseeded before use. These dried fruits otherwise known as soapnuts, contain a natural agent called saponin and when they come in contact with water this saponin is released to produce a soaping effect. They are a natural surfactant which by definition is a substance that reduces the surface tension of liquid, to aid in cleansing. Known in ayurveda treatments since ancient times, soapnuts are still the primary cleanser used in many remote parts of the world.