Saponins Used in Traditional and Modern Medicine

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A case report describes the development of rhinitis and asthma in a patient occupationally exposed to quillaja bark dust. A year-old male with a history of asthma reported wheezing, rhinorrhea, and itchy, watery eyes after 3 months of working at a factory that manufactured saponin dust. He noticed wheezing and dyspnea after exposure to raw bark dust, but only nasal symptoms after exposure to saponin dust.

Saponins Used in Traditional and Modern Medicine by George R. Waller, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

His symptoms improved on weekends and while on vacation. In addition, he developed asthma and anaphylaxis, necessitating epinephrine and intravenous steroids after a bronchial challenge test.

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Rocha , Roner Quillaja is approved for use in the United States as a natural flavoring or substance to be used in conjunction with flavors. Maier , Roner It is likely safe when used in amounts found in food. Severe toxic effects following ingestion of large doses of the bark include liver damage, gastric pain, diarrhea, hemolysis, respiratory failure, convulsions, and coma. Roner , Roner This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs.

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Saponins Used in Traditional and Modern Medicine

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Clinical Overview. More about quillaja 1 Review Related treatment guides Herbal Supplementation. Drug Status. Monoterpenes with exocyclic or terminal methylene groups, as in camphene, pinocarvone or in linalool, can bind to SH groups of proteins and thus change their conformation. Monoterpenes with a peroxide bridge, such as ascaridole, are reactive compounds, which can alkylate proteins [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 23 ].

Bibliographic Information

However, consumption in excess of 5 cloves daily may result in heartburn, flatulence, and other gastrointestinal disturbances. The above-mentioned plants, which are commonly used in Tanzania, have the possibility of being used in drug development and some of them constitute source of food and nutrition for the local community. NewYork: Planum Press; Journals Why Publish With Us? Healing potential of Anogeissus latifolia in dermal wounds. Bielavsky, L. Possible active components of tan-shen Salvia miltiorrhiza for protection of the myocardium against ischemia-induced derangements.

Monoterpenes with phenolic hydroxyl groups such as thymol and carvacrol or with an aldehyde function such as citral, citronellal can bind to proteins Figure 1 and Figure 2 and exhibit pronounced antiseptic properties; they are active against many bacteria and fungi. A subclass of monoterpenes are the iridoid glucosides with more than structures distributed in the families Apocynaceae, Gentianaceae, Lamiaceae, Loganiaceae, Menyanthaceae, Plantaginaceae, Rubiaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Valerianaceae, and Verbenaceae [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 38 ].

Some of them, such as the gentiopicrosides, present in Gentianaceae and Menyanthaceae, exhibit an extremely bitter taste; they are used to improve digestion and to raise appetite in patients [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 24 ]. Its lactol ring can open producing a functional dialdehyde [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 24 ].

Catalpol has a reactive epoxide ring in addition. The dialdehydes polygodial and warburganal have a peppery taste and have been recognized as the active principle in Drymis aromatic , Polygonum hydropiper and Warburgia salutaris. Several medicinal plants, rich in iridoid glucosides, have been used to treat infections, rheumatism and inflammations Harpagophytum procumbens , Plantago spec. The secoiridoids in Valeriana contribute to the sedating properties of the medicinally used drug [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 24 ]. Sesquiterpene lactones such as cyanarapicrin, helenalin, lactupicrin, parthenolide , which are common in Asteraceae and a few other families Apiaceae, Magnoliaceae, Menispermaceae, Lauraceae, and ferns , can bind to SH groups of proteins via 1 or 2 exocyclic methylene groups Figure 1 and the enon configuration in the furan ring and are therefore pharmacologically active, often as anti-inflammatory agents [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 24 ].

Some carry additional epoxide functions which make them more reactive. As discussed above, alkylated proteins can change their conformation and are no longer able to properly interact with substrates, ligands or other protein. Sesquiterpene lactones also bind glutathione via SH groups and can deplete its content in the liver and disturb the regulation of reactive oxygen species ROS in cells. As a consequence, sesquiterpenes lactones exhibit a broad range of biological activities, including cytotoxic, antibiotic, anthelminthic, anti-inflammatory, phytotoxic, insecticidal and antifungal properties [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 24 ].

Several plants with sesquiterpene lactones have been used in traditional medicine or phytotherapy Achillea , Arnica , Matricaria , Parthenium because they exhibit anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 67 ]. The sesquiterpene artemisin with a reactive peroxide bridge from Artemisia annua has recently been developed into a potent antimalaria drug artesunate , which is active against the dangerous Plasmodium falciparum [ 95 ].


Several diterpenes are quite toxic, such as phorbol esters present in Euphorbiaceae and Thymelaeaceae , which can be divided into those with a tigliane moiety and others with a daphnane or ingenane moiety [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 23 ]. The phorbol moiety carries one or two long chained esters so that the phorbol esters resemble diacyl glycerol a substrate of protein kinase C PKC. Phorbol esters activate PKC and therefore cause severe inflammation; they are regarded as tumour promoters [ 11 , 12 , 13 ]. Plants with phorbol esters are strong purgatives; they induce drastic diarrhoea already after 5—10 min after ingestion.

They are also potent skin irritants and lead to painful inflammation especially of mucosal tissue and of the eye. Croton flavens is an ingredient of Welensali tea which has been consumed in Curacao. A high incidence of oesophagus cancer has been recorded caused by welensalifactor F1. Some plants with phorbol esters such as Daphne mezereum have been used in traditional medicine as laxative and blister forming drug [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 38 ]. Another group of toxic diterpenes includes andromedotoxin synonyms: acetylandromedol, grayanotoxin-I, rhodotoxin and atractyloside.

The neurotoxic andromedotoxin and related compounds are common in Ericaceae, especially in the genera Gaultheria , Kalmia , Ledum , Pieris , and Rhododendron [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 38 ]. The toxins can be transferred to honey by bees rendering it toxic. This causes bradycardia, hypotension and even death [ 11 , 12 , 13 , 38 ]. Atractyloside from Atractylis gummifera Asteraceae is a specific inhibitor of ADP transport across mitochondrial membranes and thus blocks energy supply of cells and organisms [ 38 ]. Some triterpenes and steroids show structural similarity with hormones e.

A prominent example of bioactive steroids are the phytoecdysones, which have been isolated from ferns Polypodium vulgare , Pteridium aquilinium and several gymnosperms and angiosperms Achyranthes , Ajuga , Podocarpus , Rhaponticum , Silene , Vitex [ 38 ].

Table of contents

Biochemical Systematics and Ecology, from a review of Saponins Used in Traditional and Modern Medicine and Saponins Used in Food and Agriculture. Commercial Utilization of Plant-Derived Saponins: An Overview of Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Industrial Applications. Manuel F. Balandrin. Pages

They mimic the insect moulting hormone ecdysone, stressing the role of terpenes for antiherbivore defense. In addition, mammalian steroidal sex hormones can be produced by plants, examples for estrogen producing plants are Phaseolus vulgaris , Phoenix dactylifera , Punica granatum , Salix spec.

Among steroidal glycosides, the cucurbitacins occurring in members of the Cucurbitaceae and a few other families express substantial cytotoxic activities; they inhibit tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Cucurbitacins have been used to treat nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Cucurbitacins are highly cytotoxic as some of them may partially block mitosis in metaphase by inhibiting microtubule formation. Drugs with cucurbitacins have been used to treat malaria, as emetic or anesthetic now obsolete , and in traditional medicine as diuretic, abortifacient and importantly as drastic laxative.

Cucurbitacins irritate intestinal mucosa and cause release of water into the gut lumen. This in turn activates gut peristaltic and promotes diarrhoea.