Saponaceous Plants, cont'd.
(cont'd from previous page)Gypsophila struthium is used by the Spaniards for scouring instead of soap. The bruised leaves of Saponaria officinalis, a native of England, forms a lather which much resembles that of soap, and is similarly efficacious in removing grease spots. The bark of Quillaia saponaria of Central America answers the same purpose, and is used as a detergent by wool dyers. It has been imported largely into France, Belgium, etc., and sold in the shops as a cheap substitute for soap. The fruit of the Bromelia Pinguin has also been found useful as a soap substitute.
A vegetable soap was prepared some years ago in Jamaica from the leaves of the American aloe (Agave Americana), which was found as detergent as Castile soap for washing linen, and had the superior quality of mixing and forming a lather with salt water as well as fresh. Dr. Robinson, the naturalist, thus describes the process he adopted in 1767, and for which he was awarded a grant by the House of Assembly of Jamaica: The lower leaves of the Curaca or Coratoe (Agave Karatu), were pressed between heavy rollers to express the juice, which, after being strained through a hair cloth, was merely inspissated by the action of the sun, or a slow fire, and cast into balls or cakes. The only precaution deemed necessary was to prevent the mixture of any unctuous (oily) materials, which destroyed the efficacy of the soap. Another vegetable soap, which has been found excellent for washing silk, etc., may be thus obtained: To one part of the cake add one and a half part of the before-named Agave Karatu, macerated in one part of boiling water for twenty-four hours, and with the extract from this decoction mix 4 per cent. of rosin.
In Peru, the leaves of the Maguey Agave are used instead of soap; the clothes are wetted, and then beaten with a leaf that has been crushed; a thick white froth is produced, and after rinsing the clothes are quite clean. The pulpy matter contained in the hard kernel of a tree, called locally Del Jaboncillo, is also used there for the same purpose. On being mixed with water, it produces a white froth. In Brazil, soap is made from the ashes of the bassena or broom plant (Sida lanceolata), which abounds with alkali. There are also some barks and pods of native plants used for soaps in China. The soap plant (Amole) of California, Phalangium pomeridianum, is stated by Mr. Edwin Bryant to be exceedingly useful. The bulbous root, which is the saponaceous portion, resembles the onion, but possesses the quality of cleansing linen equal to any olive soap manufactured.
From a paper read before the Boston Society of Natural History, it appears that this soap plant grows all over California. The leaves make their appearance about the middle of November, or about six weeks after the rainy season has fairly set in; the plants never grow more than a foot high, and the leaves and stalk drop entirely off in May, though the bulbs remain in the ground all the summer without decaying. It is used to wash with in all parts of the country, and by those who know its virtues it is preferred to the best of soap. The method of using it is merely to strip off the husk, dip the clothes into the water, and rub the bulb on them. It makes a thick lather, and smells not unlike brown soap.
At St. Nicholas, one of the Cape Verde Islands, they make a soap from the oil of Jatropha Curcas seeds, and the ashes of the burnt papaw-tree leaf. The oil and ashes are mixed in an iron pot heated over a fire, and stirred until properly blended. When cool it is rolled up into balls about the size of a six-pound shot, looking much like our mottled soap, and producing a very good lather.—Druggists' Circular, Aug., 1871, from The Journal of Applied Science.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XLIII, 1871, was edited by William Procter, Jr. (Issues 1-4) and John M. Maisch (Issues 5-12).