Quillaia (biochemistry)

saponaria Mol.



It grows wild in Chile, Peru and Bolivia; cultivated in India.

Evergreen tree up to 18 m tall, with alternate, elliptical, oval leaves. Flowers in short racemes, white, five-membered. The fruit is a brown dry 5-part leaflet.

Raw material – Cortex Quillajae, is a dried inner bark of the trunk in the form of plates up to 1 m long, 10-15 cm wide and 3-10 mm thick; they are light, unevenly striped on the outside, in places with remnants of brown cork; the inside is smooth. The fracture is splintery, layered, shiny crystals are visible. There is no smell, the taste is irritating, the dust irritates the mucous membranes and causes prolonged sneezing.

The bark contains saponins in the amount of 9-10%, the hemolytic index of which is very high (2500-6000). The main quillaic saponin consists of quillaic acid sapogenin and a sugary part – galactose and glucuronic acid. Quillaic acid is a derivative of oleanolic acid – it contains a hydroxyl group at C 16 and an aldehyde group at C 24 . Only unsplit saponin has a sharp taste and irritant effect on the mucous membranes. The structure of the aglycones of other saponins has not yet been elucidated.

Quillaia bark is used as an aqueous extract or alcoholic tincture as an expectorant. Quillaia saponins are used as emulsifiers, also in the preparation of toothpastes, medicinal head cleansers, etc.

The plant contains triterpene saponins



Aglycones (sapogenins) in this group of saponins are triterpenes – pentacyclic (mostly) terpenoids with the total formula C 30 H 48 .

There are three main types of triterpene sapogenins: B-amirin, a-amirin, and lupeol.


A large number of sapogenins are derivatives of oleanolic acid. With functional groups, in addition to hydroxyl at C 3 and carboxyl at C 28 , there can also be hydroxyl, aldehyde, carbonyl, ether and lactone groups.

In the carbohydrate chain, there can be from 1 to 10 various monosaccharides (glucose, galactose, xylose, glucuronic and galacturonic acids, arabinoea, etc.). The saponins of some plants of the Araliaceae family may have two independent carbohydrate chains at C 3 and C 28 .


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.

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