What is Castile Soap?

 

Hola todo el mundo! That’s “hello everyone,” in Spanish…….we think? LOL. “But why?” we hear you ask. Because the subject of our little post today is Castile Soap and Spain has everything to do with Castile Soap.

At the time of writing, February 2017, organic and natural soap is Phil’s obsession and you may have found yourself asking the same question he did. What is castile soap? Well, it turns out that it is quiet simple to answer that question. Read on Organic Warriors, read on! And all shall be revealed to you……..

 

A Geography Lesson.

The first step to understanding what Castile Soap is requires a quick geography lesson because Castile Soap is named after the Spanish region of Castile. For those that do not know, Spain is a magnificent country in Europe. They were raping and pillaging other lands WAY before France, England, Germany or the U.S. ever did!

Just look from Mexico to Central and South America. Today they ALL speak Spanish except Brazil. They all speak Spanish because of Spain’s influence. The United States would have been speaking Spanish, or French, if it were not for some rebellious types that left England for the New World. Canada was obviously far too cold for the sun loving, warm blooded Conquistadors of Spain so they left that to be squabbled over by the French and the English. Oh Canada!…… (It’s a Commonwealth thing……you wouldn’t understand. 🙂 )

Brazil speak Portuguese and we can only guess that Portugal, being Spain’s neighbour, saw what Spain were doing and thought to themselves “These neighbours of ours are on to something here! We want a piece of the pie before it is all gone,” and sent raiding parties out to the new lands as well. To say Brazil comprises a large chunk of South America would be an understatement!

Spain gave us such famous people as;

  • Queen Isabella (1451 – 1504) – was the Queen of Castile and Leon. She kicked butt by re-organising the government and brought the crime rate down to record lows. She was also the person who financed Christopher Columbus’ expeditions to the Americas when everyone else thought he was a looney. We thought it pertinent to mention her as she was the Queen of Castile at one point.
  • Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) – If you haven’t heard of Pablo Picasso you’ve been living under a rock. He was a very famous painter and sculptor.
  • Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989) – You will have seen this mans paintings whether you know him or not. They’re mind bending, amazing works of art.
  • Rafa Nadal – One of the greatest tennis players of all time.
  • Penelope Cruz Sánchez – The most famous internationally know Spanish actress of our time.

 

Here is a world map of the seven continents of the planet. Europe is highlighted in the lime green colour just above Africa (orange) and left of Asia (maroon.) Spain is on the bottom far left side of the lime green Europe map. It sits very close to Africa.

 

 

In the map highlight of Spain to the left you can see how close it is to Morocco. It is almost touching. It is also relatively close to Algeria across the Mediterranean sea. France is the white border above it and Portugal is the little sliver of white to the left of Spain.

 

Within Spain there was/is an area known as Castile. As with all human endeavours of state and country, land and power, the actual geographical location of “Castile,” has changed many, many times throughout the power struggles of Spain’s history.

For the purposes of this article Wikipedia provides sufficient insight into the Castile region of Spain for us:

“Castile (/kæˈstl/; Spanish: Castilla [kasˈtiʎa]) is a vaguely defined historical region of Spain. There are different conceptions and definitions of Castile, and since it lacks modern day official recognition, it has no clearly defined borders.”

 

Here are some maps showing the historical changes of the Castile region over time;

Castile 1200
Castile 1400

Castile 1833 until the early 1980s

Did We Say A Quick Geography Lesson?

That seemed to escalate into something a lot more than we had originally planned. Our apologies if your head is hurting. Shall we push on? Very good. So now you know that Castile Soap is named after the region in Spain, however the origins of its invention are somewhat less clear.

The Humble Olive Tree – The basis of so much good stuff!

Basically, Castile Soap USED to mean soap that was made from saponified olive oil only. Saponification is merely the label given to the chemical reaction between fats and an alkali to make soap. The fats can be either plant based or animal based.  Plant based fats are oils. Some examples of those oils include olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and the whole gamut of plant based oils. Animal fats are called tallow among other labels. The alkali will be lye, a mixture of water and sodium hydroxide to make a bar of soap, or water and potassium hydroxide to make liquid soap.

Since parts of Spain are renowned for growing some of the best olives in the world it was only natural that they should be able to make excellent olive oil soap. Modern day use of the term “Castile Soap” has evolved to mean a soap made only from vegetable oils. That’s an important point. Castile Soap means no animal fats are utilised in it’s production. But the term has expanded from only olive oil to any vegetable oil or combinations of those oils.

It seems that the Spaniards were not the actual inventors of Castile Soap but they garnered a reputation throughout all of Europe for making a superior product. There are many articles pointing to the fact that olive oil soap was invented in and around the Aleppo area of Syria and for this reason it is also known as Aleppo Soap. This is contentious because the fact is we don’t know for sure.

It is also believed that the Crusaders brought Aleppo soap back to Europe and from there it’s production spread throughout the whole Mediterranean region including Spain. This is also contentious as there is documented evidence that the Romans knew about soap and the soap making process long before then. So it’s all a bit of a mystery and don’t we love a good mystery?

 

Short But Sweet.

So there you have it. A brief history and description of what Castile Soap is. In short, Castile Soap was perfected by some genius in the Castile region of Spain. Hence the name. The term “Castile Soap,” previously described a soap made out of only olive oil but these days it has extended to mean soap made from any plant based oils.

We hope that answers the question sufficiently,

Peace,

Phil and Nashua.

Founders of The Organic Warriors.

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