Saturday, January 1, 2011


Okay, so we know all about saponins - from yesterday's post - so let's take a look at sapogenins and how they differ.

If you'll recall from yesterday, a saponin contains two parts - the glycone, which is the sugar part, and the aglycone, which is the non-sugar part. When a saponin undergoes hydrolysis, the aglycone is now called a a sapogenin. (Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction in which a molecule is cleaved into two parts by the addition of a water molecule - "hydro" is water, "lysis" is splitting").

There are two main types of sapogenins - steroidal and triterpenoidal. (You might recall that saponins are triterpenoid glycosides. When we take away the glycoside or sugar part through hydrolysis, we're left with the triterpenoid part.)

Steroidal sapogenins are used in commercial production of sex hormones - for instance, progesterone is often derived from diosgenin from fenugreek.

Triterpenoidal sapogenins are of great interest to us as bath and body formulators because we find them in quite a few of our ingredients. Liquorice root contains glycyrrhizinc acid, which can behave as an expectorant and flavouring ingredient, as well as a strong anti-inflammatory. Quillaia bark can behave as an emulsifier. And gingseng contains ginsenosides, which are good anti-oxidants and are showing promise for anti-tumour growth.

For the most part, triterpenoidal sapogenins are good anti-inflammatories and may be good anti-oxidants.

So there you have it...a crash course in terpenes, saponins, and sapogenins. So what's the point? First, it just shows how amazing some of our botanical ingredients can be. Two, I thought it was interesting, especially the bits about natural emulsifiers and surfactants. And three, we can never know too much about the ingredient we're using.

As a note, I do not know how to make emulsifiers or surfactants from any of the plants I've named, so please don't ask how to make an emulsifier out of Quillaia bark because I don't know. I just wanted to share some interesting chemistry with you as we get ready to ring in the new year!


Anonymous said...

awesome! thank you for putting all that together.
I was doing my little research on sapogenins... got stuck..
thanks to you, now it makes sense and easy to understand/remember.
thanks again

Anonymous said...

Fantastic bit of information. I was also trying to do some research into sapogenins.
Thanks for making it easy to understand!!!