Soap. It is a simple thing we take for granted. Have you ever looked at the list of ingredients in your soap? How did hunter-gatherers of the prehistoric southwest make soap?

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Indigenous people of the Americas were very clean. In fact, when Cortez landed in Central America and came in contact with the Aztecs, the natives followed them around with incense burners. The Spaniards thought it was a sign of respect and reverence. It was actually because the Spanish stank to holy hell.  The natives couldn’t stand it. Native Americans bathed every day, the Spanish did so once every few months!

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So what kind of emollient did these fine, clean people use to keep their hair and skin spic and span? In the American Southwest there were two very good soap plants available: California Lilac (Greenbark Ceanothus) and Yucca Root.  The dried leaves of the Lilac quickly produce soap when rubbing them between your hands with water. There is no need to rinse off the residue, just slough off the leaves and rub your hands dry. They are clean. Yucca root takes a bit of simple prep. You chop the root into chunks then smash it between rocks to create a mash. Add water to the mash and rub it between your hands and the liquid will be soap that also does not need to rinsed from the skin. Under perfect conditions the liquid will even produce suds!

The video below is a short demonstration of how to create yucca root soap.

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One thought

  1. Great article. They used it fo shampoo as well and that’s why thEy had the beautiful thick black hair. It also didn’t go grey until they were very old!

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