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Reetha: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction

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

reetha benefits

Did you know?

  • Reetha contains saponins, which have natural foaming and cleansing properties. source: ncbi
  • Reetha has been used traditionally in India for centuries for its medicinal properties. source: ncbi

Nutritional Value

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 componentContent (g/100 g) (approx.)
Oil (seed kernel oil)3.9 
Protein33.4
Sugar10.8
Soluble fibre3.8
Insoluble fibre2.2
Polysaccharides18.1
Table 1: Nutritional value of Reetha seed kernel4

      

Also Read: Mehendi: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More!

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

Also Read: Castor Oil – Uses, Benefits, Precautions & More!

Based on my observations, when you mix reetha with shikakai, the mixture has multiple health benefits. Together they act as antifungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antipyrogenic agents. Additionally, they will exhibit cleansing properties that will be highly beneficial for hair health.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

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.

According to Ayurveda, the reetha powder obtained from a reliable source might help in various skin infections like psoriasis, eczema, and pimples as it has Tridosha (Pitta, Vatta and Kapha) properties. Further, reetha decoction might have wound-healing properties and may stop secondary infections.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

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.

Also Read: Shikakai – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More!

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.

Side Effects

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.

Also Read: How to Stop Receding Hairline: Research-Based Prevention Strategies

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 asSapindus 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.

What are the other names of Reetha?

The common names of Reetha aresoapnut, soapberry, aritha, washnut, dodan, and dodani.1

Can Reetha be used for dental problems?

Powdered seeds may be used in the management of dental caries.1 It is not advisable to self-medicate and consult a dentist if you face any dental problems. Self-medicating might worsen the situation.

Can I use Reetha to treat wounds?

Reetha seed oil may have the potential for skin wound healing as it showed wound healing benefits in animal studies. The beneficial property of skin wound healing may be  due its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.5 In case of any skin wound, consult a doctor. Self-medicating might worsen the situation.

References

1. Upadhyay A, Singh DK. Pharmacological effects of Sapindus mukorossi. Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de Sao Paulo [Internet]. 2012 Sep [cited 2022 Mar 17];54(5):273–80. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22983291/

2. Chaudhary SK, Mandal AB, Bhar R, Gopi M, Kannan A, Jadhav SE, et al. Effect of graded levels of soapnut (Sapindus mukorossi) shell powder on reproductive performance in broiler breeders. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2022 Mar 17];32(1):118. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6325405/

3. (PDF) Sapindus mukorossi (areetha): An overview [Internet]. [cited 2022 Mar 17]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267698560_Sapindus_mukorossi_areetha_An_overview

4. Chavan RS, Rathod VK. Evaluation of nutritional and medicinal potential of defatted Sapindus mukorossi seed kernel. Preparative biochemistry & biotechnology [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Mar 21];52(1):56–61. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33881946/

5. Chen CC, Nien CJ, Chen LG, Huang KY, Chang WJ, Huang HM. Effects of Sapindus mukorossi Seed Oil on Skin Wound Healing: In Vivo and in Vitro Testing. International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2019 May 2 [cited 2022 Mar 21];20(10). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567820/

6. Lodha G. Formulation and Evaluation of Polyherbal Shampoo to Promote Hair Growth and Provide Antidandruff Action. Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics [Internet]. 2019 Aug 30 [cited 2022 Mar 21];9(4-A):296–300. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335843667_Formulation_and_Evaluation_of_Polyherbal_Shampoo_to_Promote_Hair_Growth_and_Provide_Antidandruff_Action

 7. Du M, Huang S, Zhang J, Wang J, Hu L, Jiang J. Toxicolological Test of Saponins from Sapindus mukorossi Gaerth. Open Journal of Forestry [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2022 Mar 21];05(07):749–53. Available from: https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=60418

8. Sapindus mukorossi Chinese Soapberry, Soap Berry, Chinese Soapberry, Soapnut Tree PFAF Plant Database [Internet]. [cited 2022 Mar 21]. Available from: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Sapindus+mukorossi

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