The lovely plant you see above has special magic powers. Its INCI name is Saponaria Officinalis. If you're a language buff, you probably know that Saponaria is from the Latin 'sapo' which means soap.
The common name for this plant is soaproot (or soapwort).
The reason for this name is quite simple: the leaves and roots of the soaproot plant have built-in soapiness qualities due to their natural content of saponins (up to 20% while the plant is flowering).
We're going to extract the soapiness from soaproot today.
By making a decoction.
De-what-tion?Unlike an infusion – which is made by pouring boiling water over the dried flowers or leaves of a plant and letting it steep for a period of time, a decoction is used to extract the water-soluble actives from woody parts of plants (like twigs or roots).
In short, a decoction is a kind of 'long-term' infusion that involves simmering on a stovetop. It's easy as making a cup of tea, but requires a bit more equipment and time.
Shall we get started?
Here's what you need to make your soaproot decoction:
Tools and Ingredients
- Dried soaproot (soapwort)
- Large tea filters (the size used to make an entire pot of tea)
- Demineralised water
- Broad spectrum preservative (absolutely mandatory!)
- Coffee filters (or clean cheesecloth)
- Container for your deconcoction
- Saucepan with well-fitting lid (no aluminium!)
- PH-test strips (optional for some, but I cannot do without)
- Be sure ALL of your equipment is clean/sterile
- Measure out 500ml of water
- Weigh out 25 gr of soaproot, split into 2 tea filters and staple shut
- Pop bags into saucepan
- Add water
- Add preservative accordingly (the amount, type, and when to add depends on the preservative you use)
- Pop lid on
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat immediately
- Let simmer 20-30 minutes
- Strain the mixture through a coffee filter
- Rejoice (don't skip this part – it's important)
Tip: Expect to loose some of the liquid during the simmering time. To minimize this, don't be tempted to lift the lid to check on your decoction.
Although the herbs will soak up some of the water, lifting the saucepan lid is the fastest way to loose product.
Just to Show You: This batch started out with 500ml of water and ended up with just over 400ml. (I did 2 lid lifts to photograph – that was enough to loose about 10ml).
Here's the mixture just before the final few drops ran through the filter. The final yield here was about 410 ml.
Tip: Don't trust your memory when it comes to making infusions, extracts, decoctions or any other product you plan to use over a period of time. Always add a label with date.
Finally, I did a pH check – this decoction has a skin-friendly pH of 5.7.
Impressions for the Eye and NoseSight: It does bear mentioning that we are talking about a liquid made from dried roots and twigs, so, the color is what it is – a little reminiscent of weak tea. If the mere sight of using a brown liquid as a cleanser doesn't appeal to you, you may want to use this as only part of a formula, or consider packaging it in an opaque bottle.
Scent: The best way I can describe this scent is 'down-home-earthy-clean' – a little like the old fashioned unscented soap your great grandmother used to use. Some folks love this kind of scent, while others would probably be more inclined to want to mask it. It's all down to personal preference.
What We're Going to Make with This BrewPlans include trying this as a face wash, shampoo and body wash. I promise to update.
Next DeconcoctionWe're not done looking at plants with surfactant properties quite yet. Our next decoction will be with soapnuts. Stay tuned for more plant-soapiness fun!
Credits: Photo of saponaria officinalis by pastilletes/Joan Simon, Barcelona, España - courtesy of Wikipedia