Soapbark, Quillaja saponaria, named by Molina (444), in 1782, in his "History of Chili," is the bark of a South American tree, having similar qualities to other soap weeds or barks, derived from various plants and trees, and used by the natives of different countries as a substitute for soap, or rather as a material for purposes similar to those of soap. Among the first contributions to the literature of saponaria is that of Henry, Jr., and Boutron Charlard, Amer. Jour. of Pharm., 1841, xii, p. 209, in which the now well-known acrid, frothing qualities of the drug are mentioned, the statement being that the name originated from the Chilean term quilloan, meaning, to wash. In the American Medical Intelligencer, Sept. 15, 1840, Dr. Ruschenberger, of the United States Navy (Am. Jour. Phar., 1841, p. 211), contributes an article on this bark, which, according to his observations in Chili, 1827, was used principally for cleansing purposes. Dr. Ruschenberger returned from Chili in 1829 with specimens of the bark, stating that as late as 1833 the extract had not been used in Valparaiso, although in 1835 Dr. J. Stiles, of Valparaiso, is authority for the statement that at that (1835) date the extract had been made in that city, and was being used experimentally. The natives of South America employ an infusion of the drug as a wash, which led Dr. Ruschenberger to say, "From what I have seen of the effects of this cold infusion, I should be disposed to give it a fair trial as an injection in leucorrhea,. with the expectation of very favorable results." The nature of quillaia, so nearly resembling the qualities of senega, led to the expectation that it would parallel that drug in its remedial qualities in the direction of coughs and pulmonary affections. It has not, however, become a favorite other than as a producer of suds and as a frother for syrups, in which direction the extract has been employed in the making of the popular American beverage, the so-called soda-water, which use the Government has now wisely prohibited.
The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.