Saponins are naturally occurring compounds found in a vast number of plant species. Some of the more recognizable plants containing saponins include: quinoa, oats, soy, yucca, quillaja, soapwort, and soap berries. The saponin content in soap berries can vary from 10 – 11.5 % depending on the species. EcoLogical Surfactants’ environmentally-friendly and proprietary process, concentrates these saponins using only water and fractionation technology.

Saponins are classified as glucosides, where hydrophobic alcohols consisting of a polycyclic agylcone called a sapogenin and a sugar side chain, joined by an ether bond.  The carbohydrate moiety consists of pentoses, hexoses, or uronic acids. The presence of both polar (sugar) and nonpolar (steroid or triterpene) groups provide saponins with strong surface-active properties. Their physiochemical and biological properties feature structural diversity, which have led to a number of traditional and industrial applications. Many saponins are added to shampoos, liquid detergents, toothpastes, and beverages as both an emulsifier and as a long-lasting foaming agent. In addition, some pharmacological effects, such as molluscicidal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, antidermatophytic, antitussives and cytotoxic activities have been demonstrated in botanical saponins.

Most of the naturally occurring saponins are triterpenoidal saponins, and triterpensaponin hederagenin has been identified as the major saponin found in soap berries. The following saccharides and glycosides form a glycosidic linkage to hederagenin: D-glucose, D-galactose, D-fructose, D-xylose, L-arabinose, L-rhamnose, L-fucose, D-chinovos (6-desoxy-D-glucose) and the uronic acids D- glucuronic acid and D-galacturon acid. When they come in contact with water, they provide surface activity and form soap-like foaming solutions. These saponins provide the functionality of surfactants, the ability to: wet, emulsify, solubilize, foam, disperse, clean, and condition.

Saponins & Surfactants -  Mother Nature’s Gift

Surfactants help reduce the surface or interfacial tension in liquids or between liquids and solids. All surfactants have a hydrophobic (a fat loving tail), and a hydrophilic (a water loving head).  In water, the surfactant’s tail attaches to dirt and grime, while the hydrophilic head is in contact with the liquid (helping to “wash away” dirt, oil, & odor from clothes or body). Due to the unique physical structure of surfactants, they can be tested for an HLB number.  The HLB number provides product developers with an idea of the surfactants Hydrophilic Lipophilic Balance (HLB), and tells them how it can successfully be used in formulations.

ELS’s Berry Saponin ConcentrateTM has an HLB value of 14-15. This makes them perfect candidates for detergent and cleansing type formulations, oil in water emulsification, and can be used in combination with lower HLB ingredients to create synergistic properties for numerous formulation challenges.

saponinsThe Soap berrie’s saponins are a gift from Mother Earth. They provide an ecologically sound solution to chemically manufactured surfactants: while also being truly sustainable. In the world today, most of the “synthetic” and so called “natural” surfactants are made from monoculture plants like corn, coconut, and palm; crude oils; animal fats; or petrochemicals. Those made from monoculture vegetable oils are often grown using unsustainable farming methods such as: genetic modification; toxic pesticides; petroleum-based fertilizers; deforestation of tropical lands; and competition with global food supply.
It is a shame manufacturers are allowed to get away with marketing these surfactants as “natural”, or “plant” based. Unfortunately, “natural surfactants” (made from either monoculture plants or petrochemical feedstock) require significant chemical processing before they can be turned into “plant based surfactants”.

As a society we are facing severe environmental issues; from dwindling natural resources and climate changes, to pollution of our planet and people. Natural surfactants derived from soap berries provide a truly “green alternative” to hazardous chemically processed “plant based” surfactants used by marketing wizards. By utilizing wild-harvested soap berries, ELS helps to support hundreds of Nepalese families. By extracting oil from the seeds we can help offset the need for other oilseed resources and garner carbon credits. Finally, by our commitment to the reforestation of the Himalayan foothills with Sapindus mukorossi trees, we strive to leave a minimal CO2 foot print on the planet.

Together we can help make our environment cleaner and improve lives by replacing chemicals with truly natural and organically produced surfactants and saponins.