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They work much like real soap does.

So they make a lather, and split fats into smaller bits, and split red blood cells into smaller bits as well. Based on that last, there are spurious "don't eat this plant!" warnings out there - but hey, do you use soap on your open wounds? Soap splits your red blood cells as well, but you don't see warnings against eating that, do you?
Or yes, you do see warnings against eating real soap, but that's because of its (rather mild) puke'n'purge effect. Which you can also get from drinking too much saponin-rich plant tea. "Toxic", my tiny hiney.

But right there is a pet peeve: whatever makes you think that a topical action is anything even remotely like the action of the same compound when ingested? That's as bad as suggesting that the action of a single constituent in a glass vial equals the action of the plant in real live people ... bleh for muddy thinking, sez I.

The only really saponin-rich plant I use is horse chestnut, and there I prefer the leaf over the saponin-rich seeds: I make a horse chestnut salve, and the juicy bits go into my oils faster from leaves than from denser things like seeds, barks and roots. Horse chestnut helps strengthen capillaries, so I use it in salves for varicosities and hemorrhoids.

Another warning for saponin-rich plants is the "it stuns fish, it's toxic, toxic I tell you!" thing. Fish have gills, and saponins make their gills not work anymore. So if you have gills: stay far away from saponins. Stay off the soap, too, it'll be just as bad for you. If you don't have gills, well, puke'n'purge isn't all that toxic - there's much much worse.

I'll be testing soapnuts for their washing actions any month now, too. If that tests out OK I'll switch to soapwort root (Saponaria), cos that's in my garden: it contains less saponins than the soapnuts, but shrug - I'll just use more, eh?

Oh, and saponins are glycosides, too - one of the special groups of glycosides.

Other entries: Soapnuts - Constituents - Glycosides - Fishing and saponins


lately i'm annoyed at all the things that are poisonous in my life. i had always been taught that comfrey and coltsfoot weren't REALLY toxic, that's just the silly non-believers doing their non-believing thing. thanks henriette for setting me straight!

this week it's nightshades, and now your latest article. when i read things like this, which were completely left out of my training [so far] because they weren't really "hippy" enough, to get right down to it, i...well, i zweifele.

so what about sarsaparilla - would you qualify that all the way up to saponin-rich, or merely saponin-containing? or rose water (as opposed to rose leaf tea)?

and while we're at it, i'd love to see a list of the herbs you DO use regularly. probably, if one of my favorites *isn't* on the list, it's toxic... :\

[the reference to rose water was actually on the glycoside topic. i guess i melded it all together into one big toxicity-post in my mind!]


Saponins aren't toxic. They can be very helpful in small doses, and will puke'n'purge you in large ones.
Dunno about sarsaparilla, it's not local to me, and very difficult to source either as a plant or as dried herb (not that I've tried all that hard). Which is why I don't use it.

As to the rose water: I've replied here.

I use soapwort and willow bark in a liver formula.......just those 2.....nice result. I also have soapwort in a formula for makeup does not work at all.........good luck with your clothing...

I was reading through some of these post, and there is a "it's good and bad" sence it seems. anyway, i can't find any info thats not too complicated, cuts cholesterol or lowers blood cell count? I was hoping to find out if the Saponins on the outside of quinoa is good or bad. I don't know if there is a "bottomline" about it, but if there is, please let me know? Is it toxic or healthy?

Quinoa isn't local to me either, and it's not a food I've tried, yet.
So ask somebody who's done LOADS of quinoa. Your local health food store might be a good spot to spout questions at.