Saponins are sugar compounds with foaming characteristics. The foaming property of saponins is due to the combination of the water-soluble hydrophilic sugar part and the fat-soluble hydrophobic sapogenin. Its structure is very similar to steroid hormones. Steroid hormones normally exist in human and animals by nature, and have an important function in many bodily processes. Saponins have no hormonal function, although they ensure that the body keeps balanced.
Benefits of Saponins
Saponins have plenty of health benefits. Many studies have shown its beneficial effects on bone health, cholesterol levels and immune system. Most scientific studies look into the effects of saponins from particular plant sources and results cant be applied on other saponins.
1. Cholesterol Reduction
Saponins bind with cholesterol and bile salt in the gut. Bile salts are responsible for facilitating absorption of cholesterol. However, saponins prevent its re-absorption, causing reduction of cholesterol.
2. Antioxidant and Immunity Booster
Plants naturally produce saponins to combat parasitic infections. Such ability also applies when ingested by humans, as saponins seem to support the immune system and protect the body from bacteria and viruses. Furthermore, the non-sugar part of saponins serve as an antioxidant, helping the body fight free radicals to cause heart diseases and cancer.
3. Support Bone Health
Studies have shown that saponins have a protective role on reducing bone loss.
4. Lower Cancer Risk
Studies have illustrated the anti-mutagenic and antitumor activities of saponins. Saponins appear to react with the cancer cells cholesterol-rich membranes, hence thwarting their viability and growth. Experts also found that saponins have the potential to prevent colon cancer and cause cell death on leukemia cells by stimulating mitotic arrest.
Saponins and Adaptogens
According to current studies on the biocomponents of adaptogens, plant compounds having adaptogenic abilities appear to fall into two groups the polyphenols and terpenes. Polyphenols include compounds called flavonoids, and a lot of these substances have antioxidant properties. The biggest class of secondary metabolites, the terpenes enables plants to survive in their specific niche. The triterpenes include saponins, and part of the saponins is a specific group called triterpenoids.
When Dr. Israel Brekhman investigated about adaptogens, he found out that the active compounds of most adaptogenic herbs he studied were triterpenoid saponins that had little addictive potential and low toxicity rate. Some triterpenoids saponins have been recognized as having adaptogenic properties.
Other therapeutic properties of triterpenoid saponins include hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effects. Some have a reinforcing effect on the adrenal glands, mimicking the activity of ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone). This is a very important action of reducing stress problems. Adaptogens containing triterpenoid saponins include Asian ginseng, dang shen, American ginseng, holy basic, reishi, licorice roots and jiaogulan.
Saponins and Jiaogulan
The saponins present in jiaogulan are known as gypenosides. In one Japanese study, it has been revealed that jiaogulan contains four kinds of saponins that are exactly similar to those in Panax ginseng and 17 others very similar to Panax ginseng. Jiaogulan contains 82 different kinds of saponins, whereas Panax ginseng has up to 28 saponins.
Gypenosides has been shown to have anti-cancer activities by inducing cell cycle arrest and cell death in many human cancer lines. Other beneficial effects of gypenosides include neuroprotective, anti-diabetes, antigastric ulcer, GIT and kidney protection, hepatoprotective, cholesterol lowering, cardiovascular and antioxidant effects. Harness the natural healing power of gypenosides by taking jiaogulan regularly.