What Are the Health Benefits of Saponin?
The name saponin comes from the Latin word sapo which translates to soap. Saponins are phytochemicals that when coming into contact with water, bubble and foam making soap. Many plants have saponins and some are better cleansers than others, but some are receiving attention for their use medically than for cleaning.
Saponins have been used for centuries by many indigenous people for soap and the poison for arrows. Saponins are highly toxic to snakes, fish, and other cold blooded creatures. Saponin is botanically diverse and examples of it are found naturally in several plant families. There are concerns over its medical use due to its potential toxicity. As research continues there is more and more evidence that saponins will live up to their history as being a versatile and useful phytochemical.
Commercial interest in saponin is a result of its structural relationship to steroid hormones, vitamin D and cardio actives. Further research is being done to determine its use as a contraceptive hormone. The topical use of saponins has been widely ignored by modern medicine. The saponins found in food like beetroot, asparagus, oat, spinach and legumes are known to aid digestion by allowing for better absorption of minerals, improving overall digestion.
Saponins tend to have different effects based on their botanical origin. Figwort and Bupleurum are anti-inflammatory while silver birch and corn silk are diuretic. The saponins found in horse chestnut and lime flowers have also been used to treat vascular disorders such as varicose veins. Ginseng , jujube, and dang gui all contain saponins and have long been used in Eastern medicine as harmonizing tonics that are believed to balance energy, metabolism, and mood. It also holds promise in the areas of Blood cholesterol levels, bone health, cancer, and charging the immune system.
Another note worthy application of this diverse phytochemical is actually its ability to make soap. For people with skin problems, allergies, or are that are just chemically sensitive, the saponin found in soapnut berries is especially beneficial because it is hypo-allergenic. In fact it is recommended that people with eczema use soapnut berries as an alternative to normal laundry detergent, which tends to be harsh and irritating.
Saponin is already in widespread use in the form of foods, and has numerous non-medical applications.