Natural Remedies: Growing Soap Plants

The Natural Remedies column shares information on growing soap plants that are useful as a soap with little processing, including: amole, buffalo gourd, soaproot and yucca.


| August/September 1997


The Natural Remedies column shares information on growing soap plants and how to find nature's most common soaps. (See the chart of natural soap plants in the image gallery.)

Soap plants are quite a bit different from the "old-fashioned" soap that grandma used to make on the farm—those hard bars of soap that we associate with the pioneer days. Most of those soaps were made from a combination of animal fats (pig, cow, etc.) and lye (processed from wood ashes in the old days). Though making soap is a valuable skill, it's not what we're talking about here. We're speaking here of growing soap plants, plants that are useful as a soap immediately, generally with very little processing.

Throughout most of the United States, one can find many soap plants occurring naturally in the wild. Most of these, not surprisingly, were used by some of the greatest medicinal plant utilizers in history, the Native Americans. In fact, there are dozens of plants that contain saponins, though not in volumes that make the plants especially useful as soap. Here is a list of our favorites.

Amole Soap Plant

Amole (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) is a fairly widespread member of the lily family with a tennis ball-sized bulb. The long, linear leaves measure a foot or longer, and they are wavy on their margins. When you dig down—sometimes up to a foot deep in hard soil—you'll find the bulb, which is entirely covered in layers of brown fibers. I have seen useful brushes and whisk brooms made from a cluster of these fibers that have been gathered and securely wrapped on one end with some cordage.

For the soap, you remove the brown fiber until you have the white bulb. It is formed in layers, just like an onion, and you'll find it sticky and soapy to handle. I have heard that some Indians ate these bulbs when roasted, but I always found that it was too much like eating soap! Perhaps I baked it wrong.

Take a few layers of the white bulbs, add water, and agitate between your hands. A rich lather results, which you can use to take a bath, wash your hair, or wash your clothes.

Fritz
4/15/2007 7:46:02 PM

Hey all, Is there a way to preserve yucca soap in bar form? It would be a lot more convenient to make a lot and not have to go hunting for it on a daily basis. thanks, Fritz






mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE



Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265