Side Effects of Saponins

Written by evelyn bourne
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Side Effects of Saponins
(Photo credit: Karin Kesselring)

Saponins are phytochemicals (chemicals produced by plants) which are harvested from various plants such as the yucca, quillaia, soybeans, peas and herbs such as soapwort and soapberry. They are used in dietary supplements.

What Are Saponins?

Saponins are chemical compounds that come from natural plant sources, which produce a soapy lather when they are shaken in liquids.


Saponins bind with cholesterol and other pathogens, which blocks them from being absorbed by the body and carries them through the body's digestive system allowing them to be eliminated. In this way, these phytochemicals reduce cholesterol levels, and by eliminating the other harmful pathogens from the body they relieve stress on the body's immune system, allowing it to operate more efficiently.

Side Effects

Because saponins are phytochemicals that come from natural plant sources such as soy, alfalfa, yucca and many other vegetables and herbs, there are no reported side effects from their use in dietary supplements.

In the article "Vegemania: Scientists Tout the Health Benefits of Saponins," Manuel F. Balandrin, a chemist at NPS Pharmaceuticals in Salt Lake City, says, "Because the human digestive system has evolved to handle plants, it's almost impossible to overdose on saponins by eating vegetables.”


Dr. R. Malinow, of the Oregon Regional Primate Center, demonstrated the cholseterol-lowering properties of saponins and published the results of this research in the December 1997 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Other studies have shown that saponins in the diet can provide the following benefits for humans:

• Lowering cholesterol levels

• Reduced cancer risk

• Boosts the immune system

• Reduction in bone loss

• Antioxidant

• Relieves skin allergies and eczema

Future Potential

There are some ongoing scientific studies that will continue to look at the many healthful benefits of saponins including its antioxidant and potential cancer-fighting properties. But for now, saponins are widely accepted as being a safe, beneficial supplement.

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