What Are Plant Saponins?


Saponins are a type of natural steroid occurring in several plant families. They may perform a diverse array of functions depending upon plant species, age and environment.

Innerplant Protection

Certain saponins are excreted via the plant tissue, released after plant injury or decay. They are exuded from roots into the ecosystem, but if placed by humans in concentrated form within the soil, plant health is severely affected.

Diverse Forms, Diverse Functions

Scientists have classified types of saponins as relating to plant-insect, plant-plant and plant-microbe interactions. Some saponins have been found to affect plant development, act in immune functions or as an insecticide.

Human Health

Some saponins derived from desert plants growing wild have a history of being used as food and medicine for natives for centuries. Some studies have shown that these edible saponins can bind with cholesterol and certain pathogens in humans resulting in lower cholesterol and better health.

Antifungal Properties

Agricultural studies particularly on the oat root, alfalfa and tomato have found that saponins can form antifungal compounds. Many pharmaceutical companies are researching practical applications of how saponins can be mass-produced to protect farm products.

Antipest Properties

Studies show spraying saponins concentrated at 0.1 to 0.2 percent on leaves have reduced beetles, mites, aphids and various pests by significant amounts.


  • Further information on plant saponins
  • Principles and Practices in Plant Ecology: Allelochemical Interactions; Inderjit, K. M. M. Dakshini, Chester L. Foy; 1999; Page 451ff.
Keywords: plant research, antifungal, antibacterial, plant steroids, plant health, organic foods, plant development, natural foods, antipest

About this Author

Daryn Edelman, a professional writer/lecturer in spirituality, mysticism, business ethics, culture and politics since 1999. He has written scripts for "The Chabad Telethon" and diverse articles featured in "Farbregen Magazine" and Chabad.com. He graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and the University of Liverpool with a Master of Arts in English.