The Secrets of the Garden
History and Nature in Bellavista

Soap tree

The soap tree, or chumico (Sapindus saponaria), is a tree with a long cultural history in the Americas, used as a natural soap by the indigenous people for cleaning fabrics.

Icterus galbula hembra

The practice of using it as soap continued until recent times, so it is common to find these trees in coffee plantations, riverbanks, backyards, and home gardens. The pulp of its fruits contains saponins, which are natural substances with detergent properties. When the fruits are squeezed, a foam is formed that cleans up the dirt.

In traditional medicine, it is used to treat a wide variety of conditions. The seeds, which are toxic, have been used as a fishing rod and as an insecticide. Because of their hardness, color, and brightness, the seeds are also used in handicrafts to make necklaces, bracelets, rosaries, and in traditional games (such as marbles).