The chances are good that most Islanders have never heard of soap nuts, but for sufferers of eczema, the berries could be just what they need to relieve their symptoms.
In fact, Cynthia Livingston, owner of Down To Earth Organics in Charlottetown, credits the berries and their properties with encouraging her to begin her own business.
She was participating in the recent eco-economy expo in Charlottetown hosted by students in UPEI’s environmental studies program.
“My main product is soap nuts which are an organic natural laundry detergent and are great for people with eczema and psoriasis … that is why we started to use it in our home. My son was born three years ago and he had eczema so we wanted to find something that would help him.”
The product also helped her husband, who had eczema.
Livingston said that after some research she found soap nuts and within a week of using it, her husband’s skin problem had “gone away.”
The name soap nut is a bit of a misnomer because they are actually berries that grow on trees in Southeast Asia.
They are picked, pits removed, dried and shipped to dealers worldwide. Livingston buys her berries from a supplier in Saskatchewan.
They are mainly used in soap, but can be boiled down and used in multipurpose cleaners for cleaning pets, jewelry or even the leaves on houseplants.
“They have been used in Asian countries for hundreds of years and in the western world they have become more popular in recent years mostly due to the environmental movement,” she said.
Livingston sells five main products containing the nuts — a soap nut bath bar, an all-natural stain stick, Nature’s Aid skin gel and a scrubbie pad that would replace an SOS pad and organic laundry
detergent containing soap nuts. Livingston does not manufacture the products herself but brings them in from various suppliers.
Even if she did want to do her own manufacturing, the soap nuts could not grow in the P.E.I. climate and would have to be imported.
All her manufacturers are Canadian.
She has three main target groups for her products — people who want to eliminate chemicals from their home, parents who are trying to help their family with skin problems and budget-conscious consumers who don’t want to pay for many unnecessary chemicals in their household cleaners.
She said the detergent can do a load of laundry for 11 cents.
Her wewbsite is www.downtoearthorganics.ca