Agave sisal (biochemistry)

Homeland – presumably Yucatan. Naturalized in the Antilles. Widely cultivated: Mexico, Bahamas and Antilles, South America (mainly Brazil), India, Indochina, Malacca, Indonesia, Philippines, Tropical Africa (Tanzania, Kenya), Australia, New Guinea, Fiji Islands, Hawaii.

Perennial plant with a short stem, forming a dense rosette of large fleshy leaves, living 10 years or more. Leaves 10-12 cm wide and 1.5 to 2.5 m long, directed upwards. From a long-existing rosette of hard leaves, the plant suddenly throws up to 2 m into the air (in other species – even up to 6 m) a flower arrow. Rapid flowering begins, then fruiting, after which the plant dies.

An industrially important fibrous plant; The fiber extracted from the leaves is called sisal.

Agave leaves are rich in steroidal saponins, the main of which is hecogenin, which is 12-oxothigogenin.

Agave steroids are used for the synthesis of hormonal products.

Steroid saponins are also found in some other types of agave cultivated in the Mediterranean, India, Sri Lanka, and Central America.


The agave peduncle is very juicy, the core of its lower part is rich in sugars and is used by the population for various purposes (food for bees, obtaining citric acid, 4-5 l juice-pulque for 2-3 months, etc.) – As a by-product from all fibrous agaves get a hard wax (leaf coating).

As folk remedies, the leaves of A. cantala Roxb. Magei (cultivated in South and Southeast Asia, Brazil, Hawaii and Haiti) are used in the treatment of cancer.

The plant contains steroidal saponins



Most of the genins of these saponins are based on a steroidal structure that has a spiroketal group due to the oxidation of the side chain of 8 carbon atoms and the 16-OP group and the closure of E and F through C 17 .

Some sapogenins may be of the furostane type, without the P ring.





Saponins are natural substances that are glycosides, in which steroids or triterpenes can be aglycones (sapogenins). They are united by similar physical and chemical properties, among which the most characteristic is the ability of their aqueous solutions, when shaken, to foam strongly like soap, forming a stable, long-lasting foam.

In addition to surface activity, most saponins combine hemolytic activity and toxicity to cold-blooded animals.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *