Saponins –Benefits and Uses

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    Saponins –Benefits and Uses

    The name saponin is derived from the Latin word ‘sapo’, which means the plant that consists of frothing agent when diluted in aqueous solution. Saponins comprise polycyclic aglycones. The sapogenin or the aglycone part is either a triterpene or steroid. The combination of sapogenin, hydrophobic or fat-soluble, hydrophilic or water-soluble sugar part enhances the foaming ability of saponins. Some toxic saponins are known as sapotoxin.

    Saponins are basically phyto-chemicals which are found in most of the vegetables, beans and herbs. The well known sources of saponins are Sarsparilla, Saw palmetto,Yucca and some herbs with the names that indicate foaming properties such as soapwort, soapberry, soapbark and soap root. Commercial saponins are mainly extracted from Quillaja saponaria and Yucca schidigera.

    Saponins are used on injection, for which it has a pharmacological reputation. It results in the lysis of the blood cells, haemolysis, like all detergents, and is therefore highly toxic. Saponins base are the basic of many arrow poisons. The best interesting part to be noted is that, saponins have always been toxic to cold-blooded creatures like snake and/or fish.–In the saponins of the monocotyledonous plant families (those related to the grasses) such as Liliaceae, Dioscoreaceae, and Amaryllidaceae, among the dicotyledons (the great bulk of plant families), nightshade families and in fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) in such as the foxglove (Digitalis spp.), the steroidal form is foundA prominent structural relationship is found between saponins and steroid hormones, vitamin D and cardio actives. As a result, this has added to the commercial interest for the synthesis of such medicine by saponin like, for the synthesis of the contraceptive hormones, the use of dioscin in the yams (Dioscorea spp.). The pharmacology of plants contains the contribution on important note along with their triterpenoid counterparts. As the triterpenoids do, the saponins may also be interacting with steroidal receptors in the body which is suggested by the steroidal nature. Thus there are some prominent effect on inflammatory conditions of wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) (dioscin) and sarsaparilla (sarsapogenin and smilogenin), the influence on the reproductive system of beth root (Trillium erectum) (trillarin), the effect on the female hormonal system of fenugreek comprising sapogenin diosgenin. Due to steroidal saponins with alkaloidal properties there are toxic effects profound in the members of the nightshade family (the problems with greening in potatoes is a reminder).—–The triterpenoid saponins are widely found in the plant world elsewhere but are rare in the monocotyledons due to a sort of version of vegetal of the steroidal molecule. By the tendency of the plant extract to foam in water, it is evident to be present in considerable amounts. Most of the discussed saponins in this section do not excluding these of remedies like licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and ginseng (Panax ginseng), which are of triterpenoid variety.

    The useful topical effects that all saponins have, have been widely neglected in modern pharmacology. The most noticeable effect is on the respiratory system, by reflex stimulation of the stomach wall brought about by a stimulating expectoration. There is an emetic effect when saponins are taken in bulk: elimination on the portions of the stomach gets promoted due to their detergent action. Intake of sub-emetic dosages, sublimates the emetic action to a reflex-stimulating expectoration. It is well known ipecacuanha or ipecac, and lobelia (Lobelia inflata). One example of an emetic-expectorant with a saponin constituent is squill (Urginea maritima). Others not excluding the common daisy (Bellis perennis), cowslip (Primula vera), mullein flowers (Verbascum thapsus), the violet family (Viola spp.), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and snakeroot scientifically also known as Polygala senega.–Other saponins actually aid the absorption of important minerals and cause lesser irritating effect on digestive system. The saponins of beetrootoatsasparagus, and spinach and of many other legumes are likeable of having a utility action here.–Saponins are now becoming popular for having extraordinary systemic effects. Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa), and the Chinese remedies Akebia trifoliata and Bupleurum chinense are those saponins which appears to be anti-inflammatory; but others, such as those of silver birch (Betula pendula) and corn silk (Zea mays), are noticeably diuretic. To carry on the treatment of vascular disorders, there are interesting prospectus group of saponins as well, these do not exclude the varicose veinsphlebitis, thrombotic conditions, arteritis and arteriosclerosis even in the vascular remedy horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), saponins have been highlighted. In their traditional applications, lime flowers (Tilia spp.) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) overlaps. This might not turn out to be a less wide property.–Though it was formerly discarded in the West as was considered to be figment of imagination of the oriental but later it was recognized to be worthy in many cases. The contents of a triterpenoid saponin is widely implicated in Aralia manshurica, Chai Hu (Bupleurum chinense), Dang Gui (Angelica sinensis), ginseng, or in Chinese Ren Shen (Panax ginseng), Hu Mu (Aralia chinensis), jujube, or in Chinese Da Zao (Zizyphus jujuba), licorice, or in Chinese Gan Cao (Glycyrrhiza uralensis), Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Yuan Zhi (Polygala tenuifolia), Wu Wei Zi (Schizandra chinensis).–Those were known as harmonizing tonics or ‘king’ remedies which are used in Chinese and other Eastern medicine. There is no note which can establish the fact that saponin comprises complex interaction along with hormonal receptor sites which can provide a unique balanced series of relation with energy economy, metabolism and mood. The noticeable ‘amphoteric’ properties (appears to be indicated for contradictory symptoms in some particular areas) have been the wall of separation between the acceptance of saponin and conventional pharmacologist. It would be rational to accept the contribution of saponin to pharmacology. Thus to put the features in nut shell saponin is now an important part of conventional pharmacology.—A different form of treatment is suggested from the adaptogenic remedies. Saponin can be applied as part of a broader program to maintain homoeostasis and equilibrium, in order to rectify specific faults. It allows us to perform the treatment of illness, before it turns out to be a serious problem.–Recent studies have illustrated saponins’ effects which have been beneficial on the control of blood cholesterol levels, bone health, cancer, and building up of the immune system. Saponins are found to have numerous health benefits.—Saponin is not only as synergist but it is also a combination of aromatic aldehyde which is a natural product, this provides a control of the colonization as well as the growth of animal pathogens, such as arachnids, insects, fungi and non-aquatic mollusks and plants. This is used during, before and after the processing of agricultural plants.–Saponin is used in treating pathogenic organisms present in agricultural crops as this colonizes the area of plant parts and tissues by controlling the level of toxic metabolites that are present in consumable products which derived from plant materials; this reduces the risk on health associated with the consumption of itTo kill nematodes, employment of saponin is also being provided.–Saponin stromatolytic solution is being used for treating malaria. The utility of saponin is not only restricted to the comtemporary pramatalogy but it is also valued for its eco friendliness.—-Sapindus Mukorossi (botanical name for soapnuts) are safe economical way for cleaning. Theses are the dried fruits obtained from a species of trees native to India and the lower forests of Nepal namely, Rittha tree. The saponin containing on its shell releases when it is brought into contact with water. It is a renowned substitute for washing soap and is also used for the preparation of quality shampoos, liquid detergents, used for washing woolen and silk garments. Sapindus Mukorossi is effective conventional detergent, which preserves the color of the valuable laundry better than any chemical detergents. Warm water will dissolve more saponin. Just by putting 6-8 shell-halves in the cloth bag and using them instead of chemical detergent will give an economic and quality wash of costly and woolen clothes; each shells can be used for more than single wash but the temperature of water is factor dependable for the number of washes per shell bag. The remaining can be discarded when they become soggy and dark brown.-By boiling a few soap nut shells for 5 to 10 minutes in a container of water, liquid soap can be made and can be used when cooled and even be refrigerated. This liquid soap solution can be used for washing pet’s fur and skin as this removes parasites leaving the pet clean, soft and protected from any further infestations. This is an effective and economical household cleaner that cleans inside and outside of the house including kitchen and bathrooms, as well as the car.
    In India, it is used as a jewelry polish, by soaking jewelry into the liquid soap.–Without using chemicals this liquid can be used to spray on plants. Sapindus Mukorossi can be used as natural pesticide, as it produces saponins to repel insects. The most important advantage of using (Sapindus Mukorossi) saponin is that it is a completely renewable, biodegradable material which can be put on to the compost heap once it gets spent. Saponin or Sapindus Mukorossi is allergy free and is especially beneficial for babies and children who have a sensitive skin. People suffering from allergies and those who are suffering from dermatitis will be benefited if they use the liquid soap solution prepared from saponin.

    Among its benefits, saponin can also cure eczema. In addition, it is a very good detergent and is economical when compared to other normal chemical detergents, as it saves money for the fabric softener. It supports the local economy of the regions where it is being harvested. Many rural families worldwide often depend on the harvest of soap nuts (saponin) as it adds to their income. Saponin occurs in some ferns (species of Polypodium and Cyclamen) although they are predominant in angiosperms. They have been seeing occurring in some snake venom and marine animals as well. The anti-microbial and antibacterial properties of saponins have made them an important part and particle of human existence.


    Benefits of Saponins Part 2

    Saponins are a class of chemical compounds, one of many secondary metabolites found in natural sources, with saponins found in particular abundance in various plant species.  Any of numerous glycosides that occur in many plants (soapbark, soapwort, or sarsaparilla) that are characterized by their properties of foaming in water solution and producing hemolysis when solutions are injected into the bloodstream and that on hydrolysis yield a triterpenoid or steroid sapogenin and one or more sugars (glucose, galactose, xylose).–Saponins-group of chemicals with detergent-like properties that plants produce to help them resist microbial pathogen such as fungi and certain bacteria and viruses.

    Source of saponins

    Saponins are found in a number of plants.  In the animal kingdom saponins are found in most sea cucumbers and starfish.

    Expectorant properties

    Respitory System Properties
    Urginea maritima
    Bellis perennis
    Primula vera
    Verbascum thapsus
    Glycyrrhiza glabra
    Polygala senega

    Absorption Properties
    Asparagus                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Spinach

    Systemic Effect Properties
    Scrophularia nodosa- Figwort
    Akebia trifoliate- Chocolate Vine
    Betula pendula- Silver Birch
    Zea mays –Corn

    Vascular Disorder Properties
    Aesculus hippocastanum – Horse Chestnut

    Soapy  Detergent Properties (anti-microbe properties)
    Tilia spp- Lime Tree
    Achillea millefolium-Yarrow
    Yucca-Yucca or Cassava
    Saponaria spp- SoapWort
    Agave  spp
    Rittha Tree (India and Nepal)

    Cardiac Properties

    Foxglove                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hawthorn

    Uses:  liquid soap, jewelry polish, detergent, exzema/dermatitis cure, pesticide/insecticide, pet shampoo, human shampoo, household cleaner (inside/outside), laundry detergent, surfactant, wetting agent, nutrient uptake, spreader/sticker, anti-microbe, adjuvant (make other solutions work better), treat malaria, lower blood cholesterol, hypertension aid, kill nematodes, bone health, cancer fighter, support immune system (build it up), parasite remover (tick, flea), automobile cleaner


    One research use of the saponin class of natural products involves their complexation with cholesterol to form pores in cell membrane bilayers, e.g., in red cell (erythrocyte) membranes, where complexation leads to red cell lysis (hemolysis) on intravenous injection.  In addition, the amphipathic nature of the class gives them activity as surfactants that can be used to enhance penetration of macromolecules such as proteins through cell membranes. Saponins have also been used as adjuvants in vaccines.
    Saponins from the Gypsophila paniculata (Baby’s Breath) plant have been shown to very significantly augment the cytotoxicity of immunotoxins and other targeted toxins directed against human cancer cells.  The research groups of Professor Hendrik Fuchs (Charité University, Berlin, Germany) and Dr David Flavell (Southampton General Hospital, United Kingdom) are working together toward the development of Gypsophila saponins for use in combination with immunotoxins or other targeted toxins for patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.

    Medical uses/Health Benefits

    Recent studies have found benefits:  Control blood cholesterol levelsbone health, cancer, and building up the immune system.
    There is tremendous, commercially driven promotion of saponins as dietary supplements and nutriceuticals.  There is evidence of the presence of saponins in traditional medicine preparations, where oral administrations might be expected to lead to hydrolysis of glycoside from terpenoid (and obviation of any toxicity associated with the intact molecule).  But as is often the case with wide-ranging commercial therapeutic claims for natural products: the claims for organismal/human benefit are often based on very preliminary biochemical or cell biological studies;  and mention is generally omitted of the possibilities of individual chemical sensitivity, or to the general toxicity of specific agents,) and high toxicity of selected casesWhile such statements require constant review (and despite the myriad web claims to the contrary), it appears that there are very limited  (United States and Europe) agency-approved roles for saponins in human therapy.    Their use as adjuvants in the production of vaccines, toxicity associated with sterol complexation remains a major issue for attention.  Therapeutic benefit is a result of careful administration of an appropriate dose.  Great care needs to be exercised in evaluating or acting on specific claims of therapeutic benefit from ingesting saponin-type and other natural products.

    Saponins have historically been understood to be plant-derived, but they have also been isolated from marine organisms.  Saponins are indeed found in many plants, and derive their name from the soapwort plant (Genus Saponaria, Family Caryophyllaceae), the root of which was used historically as a soap.  Saponins are also found in the botanical family Sapindaceae, with its defining genus Sapindus (soapberry or soapnut), and in the closely related families Aceraceae (maples) and Hippocastanaceae (horse chestnuts). It is also found heavily in Gynostemma pentaphyllum (GenusGynostemma, Family Cucurbitaceae) in a form called gypenosides, and ginseng or red ginseng (Genus Panax, Family Araliaceae) in a form called ginsenosides. Within these families, this class of chemical compounds are found in various parts of the plant: leaves, stems, roots, bulbs, blossom and fruit.  Commercial formulations of plant-derived saponins – e.g., from the soap bark (or soapbark) tree, Quillaja saponaria, and from other sources—are available via controlled manufacturing processes, which make them of use as chemical and biomedical reagents.
    Chenopodium quinoa plant has a long history of use in South America and is not harmful to humans.  Toxic saponins are known as sapotoxins.  Saponin digitalis of the Foxglove plant is used in heart medicines.

    What are Saponins?

    Natural detergents found in a variety of plant species, especially desert plants but also herbs (soapwort, soaproot, soapbark, soapberry).  Commercial saponins are mainly extracted from desert plants Quillaja saponaria and Yucca schidigera.  Quillaja bark has been used in Chile as shampoo for centuries.  Yucca is native to the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of California, Baja California and Southern Nevada and Western Arizona.  Because of their surfactant properties, saponins are also used industrially, in mining and ore separation, emulsions for photographic films and cosmetic products like lipstick and shampoo where their anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties are important in addition to their emollient effects.  Their properties are extracted using cold-press methods.
    Yucca root has high levels of saponin and Native Americans used it for years to make soap and shampoo.  Native Americans washed their hair with Yucca to fight dandruff and hair loss.  They also used the flowers and fruit for food.  The black seeds were dried and ground into flour.  Leaf fibers were used to weave cloth, make rope and to make sandals.  Yucca has been used to treat headaches, bleeding, gonorrhea, arthritis and rheumatism and many other ailments throughout history. The soapy characteristics of saponins make them ideal for use as spray adjuvants (they make sprays work better).  They also make sprays stick or spread better on leaf surfaces.  They also allow nutrients to be absorbed better.  Another important thing they do is to distribute water more evenly on hard-to-wet substrates.  For these reasons saponins are often used in fertilizers, potting soils and pesticides.

    Yucca wetting agents improve the effectiveness:
    • pesticides
    • increase nutrient uptake
    • distribute water more evenly
    • biodegradeable
    • organic
    • renewable

    Saponins when mixed with water reduce the surface tension of water, allowing the formation of small stable bubbles.  As a consequence of their surface-active properties, saponins are excellent foaming agents (very stable).  Today, saponins are used in the manufacture of fire extinguisher foam, toothpaste, shampoos, liquid soaps, and cosmetics and to increase the foaming qualities of beer and soft drinks.  Saponins come in powdered or liquid form and can be found in fertilizers (amendments) and soilless potting mixes and certain pesticides (insecticides), kitty litter, detergents, beverages, lipsticks, herbal skin balms, and many other things.

    Biological activity of saponins

    Saponins have hemolytic, expectorative, anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating activity. Beyond that, saponins demonstrate antimicrobial properties particularly against fungi and additionally against bacteria and protozoa. Yucca and quillaja saponins have both current and potential applications in animal and human nutrition.  Yucca extracts are extensively used for ammonia and odor control in pig and poultry-raising facilities and in dog and cat foods.  Yucca saponins, and perhaps other components of yucca as well, have ammonia-binding activity.  When added to the diet, yucca saponins pass through the digestive tract unabsorbed and are excreted in the feces.  In the excreta, the yucca components bind to ammonia and certain other odiferous compounds and prevent them from being released into the air.  In recent studies in England, feeding of yucca extract to dogs and cats was shown to reduce fecal odor and reduce emission of volatile compounds contributing to fecal odor.  Many pet foods and “kitty litter” products now contain yucca extract to reduce these noxious odors. Other plants containing saponins include Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger), Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum), Asparagus fern (Asparagus officinalis), and Daisies (Bellis perennis).  Saponins are natural detergents found in many plants, especially certain desert plants. Saponins are also present in small amounts in some foods  The two major commercial sources of saponins are Yucca schidigera, which grows in the arid desert area of Baja California, and Quillaja saponaria (soapbark tree), which is found in arid areas of Chile.  Saponins have detergent or surfactant properties because they contain both water-soluble and fat-soluble components.   They consist of a fat-soluble nucleus, having either a steroid or triterpenoid structurewith one or more side chains of water-soluble carbohydrates (sugars). Yucca saponins have a steroid nucleus (steroidal saponins), while the quillaja saponins have a triterpenoid nucleus.  As a consequence of their surface-active properties, saponins are excellent foaming agents, forming very stable foams.  Yucca and quillaja extracts are used in beverages, such as beer, root beer and slurpies, to provide the foamy “head.”  Because of their surfactant properties, they are used industrially in mining and ore separation, in preparation of emulsions for photographic films, and extensively in cosmetics, such as lipstick and shampoo.  Quillaja bark has been used as a shampoo in Chile for hundreds of years, and Native Americans used yucca to make soap.  The antifungal and antibacterial properties of saponins are important in cosmetic applications, in addition to their emollient effects.
    Although there are reports of the development of synthetic saponins as drugs for treating high blood cholesterol, yucca and quillaja extracts are natural phytochemicals currently used in foods and beverages and as herbal products. Interestingly, recent research by scientists in Canada and Africa has suggested that the very low serum cholesterol levels of Masai tribes people in East Africa, who consume a diet very high in animal products, cholesterol, and saturated fat, are likely due to the consumption of saponin-rich herbs.

    The binding of bile acids by saponins has other important implications.  Bile acids excreted in the bile are called primary bile acids. They are metabolized by bacteria in the colon, producing secondary bile acids.  Some of the secondary bile acids are promoters of colon cancer.  By binding to primary bile acids, saponins reduce the formation of the secondary bile acids.  Research at the University of Toronto has shown that feeding saponins to laboratory animals reduced the number of preneoplastic colon lesions in mice. The Canadian researchers also found that saponins had a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on growth of human carcinoma cells in culture.  Major current interest in quillaja saponins concerns their effects on the immune system.  Specially purified quillaja saponin fractions designated as  (Quil A) are used as adjuvants for vaccines.   Adjuvants are substances that increase the effectiveness of what they are mixed with.  Quillaja saponins increase the effectiveness of both injected and oral vaccines.  In the case of injected vaccines,  (Quil A) is used to prepare immunostimulating complexes (ISCOM).  ISCOM’s are prepared by attaching a portion of the protein envelope of a virus to (Quil A).  The association of the viral protein with saponin facilitates its transport across cell membranes.  Quillaja saponin-based ISCOM’s are presently being evaluated in development of experimental vaccines against HIV,.  Besides having adjuvant activity, quillaja saponins have a direct stimulatory effect on the immune system.   Example, pretreatment of mice with quillaja saponins enhances their resistance to a disease challenge. Saponins enhance the effectiveness of oral vaccines by improving their absorption as a result of increasing gut mucosal permeability, which facilitates absorption of large molecules contained in vaccines.

    The desert plants Yucca schidigera and Quillaja saponaria are rich storehouses of phytochemicals with many useful and important functions in human and animal nutrition.  In many respects, we have just scratched the surface in our understanding of the many biological effects of steroidal and triterpenoid saponins and their potentials for improving human health.

    Benefits of Saponins

    Saponins can safely be used:

    wetting agent

    help with nutrient uptake

    help sprays (pesticide) to spread and stick better to plant parts (use less)



    promote beneficial microbial activity in the soil

    surfactant (reduces surface tension) better penetration

    bio-enhancer-added to products to make them work better

    manage excess salts (fertilizer build-up) in soil

    improve H2O penetration

    move spray solution into soil solution

    mildew cure  (fungus)ü

    miticide  (soapy quality suffocates mites)

    minimize wash-off (plant leaves)

    spray binder

    flushing of plants  [cleaner than molasses (saponins in blue agave)]

    triggers plants defensive response to anaerobic fungi

    biochemical inhibitors

    boosts potency of other products (adjuvant)

    Organic Products:  all containing saponins
    a. Yuccah  Liquid Concentrate
    b. Blue Agave
    c. Top Film
    d. Saponyn
    e. Yucca Ag Aid 50
    f. Yucca Extract
    g. NaturalWet (from Yucca 10%)
    h. Pest Out
    i. BioEnhancer
    j. Mildew Cure

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