Saponaria officinalis - Bouncing-bett

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink family)

"Saponaria officinalis is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone (UK) 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

Characteristics: "The leaves and root contain bitter tasting saponine and produce suds when rubbed under water." [PDR]


"General: Perennial herb from a stout, branched rhizome and long stolons; stems erect or ascending, several, simple or branched above, glabrous or nearly glabrous, forming large clumps, 30-90 cm tall." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Leaves: Basal leaves lacking; stem leaves opposite, as many as 20 pairs, lanceolate to oblanceolate, 4-10 cm long, 1.5-4 cm wide, short-stalked or the upper ones unstalked; stipules lacking." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Flowers: Inflorescence of numerous flowers in many tight clusters, fragrant, often double; petals 5, white to pink, stalklike at the base, stalk of the petals usually slightly exceeding the calyces, the blade mostly 10-15 mm long, egg-shaped to wedge-shaped with 2 linear appendages near the base, shallowly notched at the tip; sepals 5, green, united, forming a tube 15-20 mm long, with 5 teeth at the tip." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Fruits: Oblong to narrowly egg-shaped capsules, to 25 mm long, 4- or 5-valved; seeds black, about 1.7 mm long, concentrically pimply." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat/Range: "Dry roadsides and waste places in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; infrequent in SW and SC BC; introduced from Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Exotic [IFBC-E-flora]




Beer Additive

"To satisfy local demand, German beer makers turned Brewerytown on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia into the nation’s prime brewing center. Farmers in Pennsylvania planted barley, hops, and soapwort, or bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis), a common herb that stimulated froth. Malt houses stored bins of barley and malt, steeping tanks, and kilns. Wort masters left barrels of hops, malt, and water open in the brew house to encourage yeast to convert sugar into alcohol, the chemical change that determined flavor and alcohol content. By eliminating wild yeasts and spoilage bacteria, food processors applied pure spores to particular needs, such as pilsner beer, a pale Bohemian lager." [Snodgrass WF]

Other Uses

As its name suggests, a natural lather can be made from the leaves, stem, and roots of this herb. When boiled in water, the plant releases saponins and produces a slippery substance that has the power to lift grease and dirt. Interestingly, soapwort was once used in the wool industry for cleaning new wool, and in Britain, colonies of soapwort plants can still be found growing close to old mills. It is still used by museum conservators to lift surface dirt gently from fragile antique textiles and paintings, and can be found growing wild on poor soils throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.[GrowHerbs]

Medicinal Uses

"The plant has proved of use in the treatment of jaundice and other visceral obstructions[4], but is rarely used internally in modern herbalism due to its irritant effect on the digestive system[238]. When taken in excess, it destroys red blood cells and causes paralysis of the vasomotor centre[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity[4, 7]." [PFAF]

"One of the saponins in this plant is proving of interest in the treatment of cancer, it is cytotoxic to the Walker Carcinoma in vitro[218]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Saponaria officinalis Soapwort. Bouncingbet for coughs/bronchitis (see [302] for critics of commission E)." [PFAF]



"Saponins have been found in various parts of the plant: leaves, stems. roots, bulbs, blossom, and fruit. Studies on their distribution and content in the plant in the course of annual vegetation showed a dependence upon environmental temperature (Hein, 1959) and season (Drozdz, 1962). The latter reported that the saponin content of underground organs of Saponaria officinalis L. and Polemonium coeruleum L. diminishes during flowering and fruit-bearing and is accompanied by accumulation of saponins in the generative organs." [Liener TCPF]




"Activities (Soapwort) — Alterative (f; PNC); Analgesic (1; APA; DEM); Antiinflammatory (1; APA; PH2); Antiseptic (1; PH2); Aphrodisiac (f; MAD); Cholagogue (f; MAD); Cytotoxic (2; KOM; PH2); Depurative (f; HHB); Detergent (f; PNC); Diaphoretic (f; KOM; MAD); Diuretic (f; FAD); Emetic (1; PH2; WOI); Emmenagogue (f; FEL; PH2); Expectorant (2; APA; FAD; HHB; KOM); Hypocholesterolemic (1; PH2); Irritant (1; PH2); Laxative (f; FAD; KOM; WOI); Mucolytic (1; APA); Spermicide (1; PH2)." [HMH Duke]

"Some fractions of ginseng were haemolytic and some fractions were antihaemolytic, exhibiting protective activity against saponaria saponin haemolysis and lecithin haemolysis (Namba et al. 1973)." [EMNMPV.9]

"A ribosome-activating protein (RIP), called saporin 6, inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro (Wagner et al., 1995). Quillaiac acid contributes to diuretic activity (FNF)" [HMH Duke]

Herb: "Because of the high saponin content, the drug is antibiotic, expectorant, antiphlogistic, cholesterol-lowering and spermicidal. In high doses, it becomes irritating to the mucous membrane, cytotoxic and emetic." [PDR]

Root: "Because of the high saponin content, the Soapwort root is antibiotic, expectorant, antiphlogistic, cholesterol-lowering and spermicidal. The drug is expectorant because of its effect on the gastric mucosa. In high concentrations, it has been shown to be irritating to the mucous membranes, cytotoxic and emetic." [PDR]


"Succeeds in any moderately fertile well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade[200]. Prefers a neutral to alkaline soil[238]. Hardy to about -20°c[187]. A very ornamental plant[1], soapwort is often grown in the herb garden and is sometimes cultivated for the soap that can be obtained from the roots. There are some named forms, usually with double flowers, that have been selected for their ornamental value[187]. Plants can be very invasive when grown in good conditions[K]. Soapwort should not be grown next to a pond with amphibians or fish in it since if the plant trails into the water it can cause poisoning[238]. The flowers are slightly scented with a sweet aroma that has an undertone of clove[245]. Hybridizes with other members of this genus[200]. A good moth plant[13, 24]." [PFAF]



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