Reetha is a herb used in India and other South Asian counties for its rich value medicinal value. The scientific name of Reetha is Sapindusmukorossi, and it is a species of tree in the family Sapindaceae. It is a native of Western Coastal Maharashtra - Konkan, and Goa. It is a deciduous tree that also grows in the lower foothills and mid-hills of the Himalayas. This tree's value is most dependent on the fruit it bears, which is used for pharmacological and cleansing purposes. It is of great value to the ancient Indian science of medicine, Ayurveda, as it helps cure health problems and also is important in the upkeep of a healthy body. Thus, Reetha is highly valued for its innumerable therapeutic and detoxifying properties, which have been in use for several thousands of years.
Reetha in Different Cultures
The versatile Ayurvedic herb Reetha goes by several vernacular names such as Aretha in Hindi, Kunkudukayachettu in Telegu, Antuvalakayi in Kannada, Rithha in Bengali, Pannankotttai in Tamil, andCavakkay in Malayalam. It is called Arishtak in Ayurveda. It is identified as Soapberry or Soapnet in English. There are many other names for this popular herb is known as, like Funaake in Farsi, Rakhtbeejin in Sanskrit, etc.
Historical uses of Reetha
In the past, herbs like Tulsi, and Ashwagandha were the substitutes for the medicines we get in the market today. They were predominantly used to treat health conditions and diseases. Ritha was mainly used as a hair supplement as it has magical effects on the scalp. Another very important use of Reetha is to treat snake bites as it is known to draw the snake poison or without.
The chemical components in Reetha include saponins, genin, oleanolic acid, sopindic acid, and salidroside A & B, which exhibit a host of health benefits.
Other than having exceptional cleansing qualities that are used for a healthier scalp, skin, and clothing, Reetha has many purely medicinal values. It was used to treat migraine, eczema, and respiratory problems. The roots and bark are expectorant and demulcent in nature, and the fruit with a bitter and astringent quality works as an anthelmintic, which helps lower cholesterol.
Benefits of using Reetha in Ayurvedic Treatment
Reetha plant is beneficial in balancing KaphaDoshas, which in turn controls and balances cholesterol. Reetha helps control intestinal worms, known as Krimi in Ayurveda. Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic healing system using soapnuts for thousands of years, for everything from solving skin problems to helping people quit smoking.
Soapnuts are used to treat eczema and psoriasis, and they have a natural anti-venom property that can remove poison from snake and scorpion bites.
Some research has shown that soapnuts have anti-cancer properties that can prevent cancer-causing tumor cells growth.
Smokers have also used soap nuts to help reduce tobacco cravings, and they have also been known to relieve migraines.
Treating diseases/health problems using Reetha
We will be dealing with the uses of Reetha in the treatment of different diseases from both Scientific and Ayurvedic points of view –
• INTESTINAL WORMS
The growth of Krimi is a reaction to low Agni. Taking Reetha helps to destroy the ideal environment for these worms as Reetha is Tikta and has Tikshna properties. Thus Ayurveda for years used Reetha as a de-wormer for humans as well as animals.
• ASTHMA AND OTHER RESPIRATORY PROBLEMS
Ritha helps to decrease the uneasiness and breathlessness related to different respiratory problems. Ayurveda holds Vata and Kapha as the main doshas which cause asthma and COPD. The vitiated Vata combines with the deranged KaphaDosha in the lungs obstructing the respiratory passage. This results in breathlessness. Reetha helps SwasRoga by balancing the Tridosha and removes the excess mucus from the lungs due to itsUshna nature.
• ECZEMA AND OTHER SKIN INFLAMMATORY PROBLEMS
Reetha is used to treat eczema ‘psoriasis, itchy and sensitive skin. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that cure boils and itching lesions. Its Kushta healing properties help with various skin disorders, cleansing the broken skin, and helping repair it.
• OBESITY AND FLATULENCE
Weak digestive fire increases Ama's accumulation, causing an imbalance in Medu dhatu and thus resulting in obesity. Reetha helps by improving metabolism and clears the blockage in the circulatory system. Reethabalances and manages weight due to its Ushna and Tikshna properties.
Low Pitta dosha and aggravated Vata dosha cause a low digestive fire, thus consequently impairing digestion, leading to excessive gas formation. Reethaimproves Agni due to Ushna potency and removes excess gas because it has Vata balancing property.
• ANTI-INFLAMMATORY EFFECTS
The strong anti-inflammatory property of Reetha helps alleviate joint and muscle pain and lessens edema. Reetha also treats dental disorders and helps to keep the teeth clean and strong. The anti-oxidant qualities inhibit the growth of pathogens like E. coli and salmonella, thus keeping the immune system strong.
• SCALP AND HAIR PROBLEMS
The natural surfactant saponin in the Reetha plant is the reason behind its foaming properties and soapy texture, thus the name Soapberries. It helps clear dirt, dust, and oil in the hair. Reetha nourishes the scalp as it contains essential vitamins and saponins, which enhance the luster and shine of the mane. Reetha helps to reduce the dryness in the scalp, and the rich nutrients strengthen the hair from within the root. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of reetha fruit assist in treating scalp infections and ward off dandruff and lice.
• SNAKE BITES
This exceptional herb's strong anti-venom property is beneficial in the extraction of snake and scorpion venom from victims.
Forms of Reetha in Ayurveda with Recommended Dosage
Reetha is mainly found in the form of powder. They are rarely found in the form of tablets, and even if in that form, they have to be broken down in powder for consumption or other usages because it is a very strong herb, which should not be taken in excess because of its Ushna potency. The ideal dosage of Reetha powder is ½ to 1 teaspoon as per requirement. It would help if you always talked to your physician before consuming more than this amount.
Types of Ayurvedic Care with Reetha
Reetha powder is used daily at home to strengthen the immunity system and detox the body and skin. When added to rose water and massaged gently over the skin, it cleanses the skin.
Amla and Shikakai powder mixed with water to form a paste can be applied to hair for silky, dandruff, and lice-free hair and scalp. This paste needs to be kept in the hair for 5-6 hours and then thoroughly washed with water 1-2 times a week for the proper results.
Reetha powder added to 2-3 glasses of water, then boiled and strained, should be applied to the skin to get rid of itching. Reetha is also used for beauty enhancement purposes by mixing it with clay and water to apply on the face. You can rinse off with cool water to get an oil-free, clean face. This mixture also helps fight pimples and remove deeply embedded dirt.
Reetha powder, when mixed with warm water to form a paste, can be applied to joints and muscles to get rid of the pain. Reetha helps to manage bone and joint pain due to arthritis. Reetha creates an aura o heat that soothes the affected areas.
Other Uses of Reetha
You can clean your entire house with soapnuts. Just a couple of mashed berries mixed with water will create a powerful, natural solution that can clean glass, cabinets, kitchen surfaces, and dishes. They are odorless, so if you want a fragrance, add a few drops of essential oils. Soapnut liquid soap solution is also great for cleaning electronics, polishing jewelry, or even washing your car. The basic recipe for soapnut cleaning solution is two to three berries for each cup of water. You mash the berries and add them to water before boiling for about half an hour, so they release the saponins. Once the water is cool, strain it through a muslin cloth and add essential oils, if you prefer. You can store the solution in a jar or put it in a spray bottle.
Liquid soapnut solution isn’t just great for human hair; it can also be used to shampoo your pets. A soapnut detergent works well for washing pet beds and cleaning toys. Because insects can’t withstand the insecticide properties of Reetha, you can spray your pet with the solution to repel fleas and ticks.
Side Effects of Reetha
Reetha has strong bleaching properties, which can cause irritation and redness in hypersensitive skin. If any itching in the skin and hair occurs, usage of Reetha products should be stopped immediately. Reetha contains insecticidal properties and may irritate the eyes and cause swollen eyelids. The most important side effect of Reetha is its abortion-inducing properties. Thus pregnant women should never use Reetha.
Precautions to be taken while using Reetha
Ayurvedic experts advise taking reetha in the recommended dosage, and for a limited duration, the as high dosage can lead to a burning sensation in the body and the gut due to its high heat potency. Experts have asked to avoid Reetha if the body produces excess sweat or bile as it may aggravate the condition due to its heat-producing properties. Breastfeeding women should avoid Reetha, and if used, should be under medical supervision due to its high heat potency orUshnaVirya. Pregnant women should not consume Reetha as it can induce abortion because of its excessive heat.
FAQs about Reetha
Q1. Where can I find Reetha?
A: Reetha is readily available in the market both in pure forms and as cleansers like shampoo and soaps. Reetha is also available as a pure whole fruit from which you can extract products according to your wish. Break the Reetha fruits and crush them to ooze the pulp. Boil it with hot water and strain to use it readily.
Q2. Is Reetha vegetarian?
A: Reetha is a plant-based product. It is vegan in nature as the extract or pulp in use, or the powder, both are outcomes of crushing a fruit. It is safe to be used by all.
Q3. Can Reetha be consumed while we are on medication?
A: Reetha can be used while intaking other Ayurvedic medicines. It is also safe to use with Homeopathic medicines as it doesn't include any chemicals that can hamper the consequences of that. Reetha can also be used with Vitamin and Omega 3 supplements and doesnot hinder their outcome. There are Foreign and Allopathic medicines that Reetha can mingle with, and thus it should strictly be taken under medical supervision. As Reetha is a strong herb, the higher dosage should also be taken only under physicians' consult.
Q4. Can Reetha reduce hair fall?
A: Scientifically, Reetha alone has not proved to reduce hair fall. It has foaming agents, which, if used regularly, rinse and cleanse the scalp providing a fresh feeling.
But Ayurveda believes that Reetha can help control hair fall as it reduces dandruff. It is also believed to catalyze hair growth because of its Tridosha balancing properties.
Q5. Can Reetha stop greying hair?
A: It is believed that the herbal preparation of Reetha with Amla and Shikakai can help control the greying of hair with its other benefits. Amla is a coloring agent, thus also darkens the hair. The Pitta balancing agents of these three elements together can promote the hair to retain its original shade. It is also scientifically proven that these three medicinal plants could do wonders for the hair. Thus, even in high-brand shampoos that are mixed in laboratories, these ingredients are mixed for special benefits for the hair.
Q6. Can Reetha cause Acidity but is good for the Liver?
A: Yes, Reetha can definitely cause acidity because of its Ushna or hot potency. But Reetha in the proper dosage may also be good for the liver as it contains certain compounds that protect the liver cells against damage and stops fat accumulation.
Q7. Can Reetha worsen wounds?
A: No, Reetha will definitely never worsen your wound as it has cleansing properties that will clean your wound properly. It also has anti-bacterial properties, which will accelerate your healing process by fighting the germs in the wound. It also stops secondary infections due to its Tikshna property.
If your wound does not seem to heal or is worsening, please contact a doctor soon.