Snowberry: Wilderness Shampoo

Snowberry (Image by Wikipedia)

Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, is a beautiful bush in the honeysuckle family found in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and across the United States and Canada. It is distinctive for its white-colored berries, so if you have seen it, I bet you recognize it.

(Image by Washington State University)

The berries are not edible for us humans but animals do eat them. And they contain saponins, which are compounds very much like soap! I actually know a Portland woman who regularly washes her hair with it. She told me she mashes the berries in her hands, applies them to her hair, and then combs them out and rinses.

The Bella Coola people of British Columbia are reported to have used a tea of the branches as a gonorrhea cure. Hey, it never hurts to know these things.

Know someone in need of a natural bath? Pass this post along.

Explore many more wild plants on the Search Plants! page.

14 thoughts on “Snowberry: Wilderness Shampoo

  1. Yucca is another very well known plant that is full of saponins and makes a great lather. Highly utilized for shampoo, cordage, food, and primitive containers!

  2. alot plants have saponins. even the soprannos a famous tv series which i never seen sound similiar. wha about. becky google”snowberries first nation” i already sent u the right link so if you have the mood u find hilerious information.

    i was wrong with being vegan. after entering durianrider is see people thrive on vegan diet. its summer yeah maybe thats the point.

    u need to reeat lot and a lot of calorie from vegan diet. so durianrider suggest going vegan for 30bannaas and dates as daily staple and train a lot.

    im sure he tells new things. after the match with richard the paleo guy he somehow more clear.

    dear becky hope ure good. youre doing the best job. i think sometimes your knowledge could be more long and storytelling. what d gabriel coussens said. maybe it isnt the right time.

    im oversea.
    far out. in another civilisation. i know plain enter the border cross the timespace me not only by internet

  3. Soap plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum, is an even better wild shampoo. It is also loaded with saponin, which renders out if you cook the snot out of the bulbs. I’ve never eaten them, but the California Indians did. Does this plant live up your way? Looks like a scraggly lily that has delicate white flowers when in bloom.

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  5. V. interesting, Becky. I’ve been meaning to look this one up for AGES, as people around here seem to have planted it quite commonly as an ornamental plant in their gardens (Wikipedia even thinks it ‘is naturalized in parts of Britain’). As kids, we found the berries made good missiles, and Niko’s ‘boom-woosh’ game of stomping on them made it over here too!

    You say they’re ‘not edible for us humans’, but following the US Forest Service reference from Wikipedia I read that the ‘…fruit was eaten fresh but was not favored by Native Americans in Washington and Oregon. The fruits were also dried for winter use.’ They also used it as soap/shampoo as you note, and further:

    the fruits and leaves [were] mashed and applied to cuts or skin sores as a poultice and to soothe sore, runny eyes. Tea from the bark was used as a remedy for tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases. A brew made from the entire plant was used as a physic tonic. Arrowshafts and pipestems were made from the stems [51]. (link)

    Seems PFAF’s Ken Fern has also tried eating them:

    Fruit – raw or cooked[2, 105, 161]. An insipid flavour, it is best if cooked[177]. The fruit is rather boring[K]. (link)

    (!) …as well as noting that the saponins which make it useful for soap also render it potentially toxic (to humans) if eaten in large doses. Might be worth a nibble though!


    • Indeed the saponins are why I consider it not edible. Interesting point about cooking being a different story.

  6. Thank you so much for this post becky. from my heart thank you* i will try it out soon, im grown up with this berries. we called them “knallerbsen” in german, what is maybe translatetet in in english or comic language as boom-woosh berries or eplosion berries. because they make this sound puting on the concrete and stepping on them

    all the best

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