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 soybeans, peas, 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 found. A 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 beetroot, oats,asparagus, 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 veins, phlebitis, 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 it. To 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.