Natural Products

Sources, uses and interesting facts about natural products

User Tools

Site Tools




Bitter compounds


Essential Oils



Herbal drugs and extracts





Support the wiki

You can support the wiki via flattr:


Der Naturstoffblog (german)

The author



Impressum & data privacy


Saponins are the glycosides of steroids, alkaloids and triterpenes. In german popular literature saponins are also known as “Seifenstoffe” (detergents). This is due to the property of saponins, which form a foam in water and stabilize oily emulsions. They are also able to dissolve blood cells (hemolytic activity). The saponins include the cardiac glycosides and ginsenosides.

Unlike many other natural products saponins are often highly concentrated in plants and reach levels of up to 30%. They are also found in about 75% of the plants.

Chemical properties

The steroid saponins are highly soluble in aqueous alcohol solutions, but slightly soluble in organic solvents such as ether or chloroform. The saponins are mostly glycosilated by well known sugars such as glucose, galactose, xylose and other sugars.

Example glycyrrhizin


Glycyrrhizin is a glycosylated triterpen and thus carries a 30-C backbone. It occurs in the root of the licorice root, as well as in the grapefruit as well as in other plants. To manufacture the components of licorice licorice root extract and concentrated. Addition of syrup, gelatin and flour transfer the extract in lozenges, gum confectionery and other sweets.


Glycyrrhizin is the glycosylated form of the aglycone glycyrrhizic acid. It is bound to two molecules of D-gluconic acid. One sugar has an alpha, the other a beta glycosidic link to the aglycone. Unlike other saponins glycyrrhizin has only a weakly hemolytic activity. It is similar to the steviol glycosides a sweetener that gives licorice its peculiar taste. The sweetening power is 50 times higher than the sweetness of sucrose. The aglycone itself carries no sweetness.


The licorice root drug is used especially as a mucolytic drug for cough and bronchial diseases. It also has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects on gastritis and gastric ulcers. In this case, a daily dose of 200 to 600 mg of glycyrrhizin is recommended (this corresponds to 5 - 15 g of the drug).

In addition to the sweetening and mucolytic effect further effects on humans are discussed. It is known to its mineralocorticoid effect which occurs at a very high dosage of the licorice root drug. After cleavage of the glycoside, the aglycone glycyrrhetinic acid is released by bacteria in the gut. This inhibits an enzyme which is required for deactivation of cortisol. The rising cortisol concentration leads to disruption of the mineral and water balance in the body which is regulated by aldosterone. Physiologically, this produces high blood pressure or water retention, in the worst case it comes to kidney failure.

Current research focuses on the antiviral effect of licorice root. In addition to the effect on hepatitis C, which has now been investigated more thoroughly, also an effect on HI and SARS viruses can be seen. However, the extent to which it contributes to a positive influence in the body, is not further explored.

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) is native to western Asia and the Mediterranean. The frost-sensitive plants need sunlight and is perennial. As herbal drug (Liquiritiae radix) the peeled or unpeeled roots of the plant are harvested in the fall are used. It contains in addition to glycyrrhizin flavonoids and other glycosides.

saponins.txt · Last modified: 10.12.2014 by naturalproductswiki