Chapter

Saponins Used in Traditional and Modern Medicine

Volume 404 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 1-14

Commercial Utilization of Plant-Derived Saponins: An Overview of Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Industrial Applications

  • Manuel F. BalandrinAffiliated withNPS Pharmaceuticals, Inc

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Abstract

Plant-derived triterpenoid and steroidal saponins have historically received a number of industrial and commercial applications ranging from their use as sources of raw materials for the production of steroid hormones in the pharmaceutical industry, to their use as food additives and as ingredients in photographic emulsions, fire extinguishers, denatured alcohol, and other industrial applications which take advantage of their generally non-ionic surfactant properties.1-15 The useful biological applications of saponins, generally based on their membrane-disrupting properties, range from their use as fish and snail poisons for the control of populations of “trash” fish and human disease-bearing schistosomes in various waterways, 11,13 to potentially interesting anti-cancel11,12,16 and ion channel-blocking properties.11 Other interesting biological applications for various specific saponins include their uses as antiinflammatory,11,15 hypocholesterolemic,16,17 immune-stimulating,18,19 and flavor-modifying substances1,10,11 whose properties are widely recognized and commercially utilized outside of the U.S.