Quinoa: a great source of saponins

Agriculture is important business in the world. It provides basic necessities of life like food, feed and fiber. The agriculture resources become scarce for crop production. Some crops have potential to produce saponins. The most important saponins producing crop is quinoa.

Saponins are bio-active and natural products

It is pseudo cereal crop with higher yield potential under stress condition. It has a unique tolerance mechanism to all stresses. Quinoa seeds have high potential of proteins under stress or non-stress conditions. The quinoa is important crop for industrial perspective. Due to stress tolerance and industrial perspective, it is necessary to spread knowledge among farmers about quinoa crop.


Saponins are bio-active and natural products. It is found in both cultivated and wild type plants. Almost hundred types of angiosperm family of plants have ability to produce saponins. Saponins are found in flowers, leaves, roots and seeds. It is a natural soap agent.

It is derived from a “soapwort” plant which belongs to family caryophyllaceous. Saponins have two different groups. The first one is steroidal saponins. It is less broadly dispersed in nature and contains 27 carbons with 5 methyl groups T.

his group of saponins is used in production of   corticosteroids sex hormones. The second type includes Triterpenoidal saponins. It is 30 carbon compound group has a penta cyclic structure with 8 methyl groups.

Types of saponins in quinoa crop

The common saponins are founded in quinoa are triterpene. It is in all plant parts. Has bitter taste and non-nutritional character of grains with toxic effects. Saponins are produced in outer seed hull’s cell called papillose. Quinoa crop are of two types based on saponin’s contents. The sweet fresh quinoa contains less than 0.11 percent saponins. And sometimes it is absent in sweet quinoa.

Bitter type quinoa contains more than 0.11 percent saponins. The sweet quinoa seeds contain saponins 0.2-0.4 gram per kilogram on the basis of dry matter weight. And bitter quinoa genotypes have ability to produce saponins 4.7-11.3 g per kilogram dry matter.

Quinoa is a great source of saponins as compared to soybean and oat. The environmental conditions and varieties are also effecting on sapnonin’s concentration. The agronomic practices have greater influenced on saponin’s content in quinoa.

The use of organic fertilizers and minimum tillage cultivation increase the saponin’s content in quinoa. The minimum saponin’s content 0.308 percent was available at the branching phase and the maximum 0.609 percent at blooming phase. The saponin contents of quinoa has inversely proportion to irrigation.

If irrigation rate is higher than saponin’s content is lower by approximately nine percent. In saline and drought stress conditions saponin’s content of quinoa decreased.

Extraction of quinoa’s saponins

The saponins are extracted by quinoa followed by three processes. The methods include dry, wet and combined method.

  • Wet/Moist process

Wet or moist method is effective and usually used by local farmers. In this method seeds are washed with water followed by friction to separate outer layer of seeds. The mechanical equipment’s are also available in market. Moist method is not suitable due to water pollution and high ability of quinoa seeds germination.

In other method seeds are soaking in water for twenty minutes at seventy degrees centigrade. It is feasible and mostly adopted method that reduced saponin’s content 0.04 to 0.25 percent.

  • Dry process

This method includes scarification & rough de hulling processes. In this process seeds are moistened and dirt. Inert matter is removed. Then exposed to air drying. In the other method heated quinoa seeds are placed on holed stone. It has fifty centimeter diameter and rubbed with the feet or small stone.

The cultivars having high saponins needed more abrasion. This process is not highly recommended to greater losses. This is costly method than moist method. The dry process is also decreases nutritional contents of quinoa seeds. But alpha amylase activity is higher followed by dry process due to milling practice.

  • Combined process:

In this method quinoa seeds are burnished and then washed. The previous polishing of seeds decreased the saponin’s concentration in water. It is recommended and suitable method. The main advantage of this method is lowering water pollution. It is also cheap method because low expenses of drying process.

Industrial importance of quinoa saponins

Saponins are raw material industrial products. Due to foaming character, it is used in soap, shampoos, cleansing agent, beer production. Saponins are used as antifire agent in extinguishers. Quinoa saponins are also used in antifungal products. Quinoa saponins have moluscicidal character and used in alkali reactions.

Effect of saponins on human health

Quinoa is highly nutritious food for humans. Saponins are beneficial for human health and used in pharmaceutical companies. It is used in anti-microbial, anti-viral medicines, vaccines as adjuvants also lowers the high blood pressure by lowering cholesterol.

The absorption capacity of nutritional contents is also higher by using saponins. This improves antibodies responses in human body. Anti-inflammatory medicines use Quinoa. If farmers will grow quinoa crop, then they will get outstanding profit as compared to other oil seed crops globally.

Awareness campaign about production of quinoa crop

Quinoa is highly stress tolerance crop. It bears salinity and drought stress. The insect ‘s pest and diseases attacks are also lower in quinoa crop. It is mostly important crop for industrial use. The seeds are high nutritious with higher profit. In Pakistan, mostly farmers are unknown about quinoa crop and its production technology.

The extension officers should arrange seminars, trainings and farmer’s meetings to spread knowledge about quinoa crop.  Because it is a time to change cropping pattern. To grow innovative crops to maintain sustainable and profitable agriculture in Pakistan.

Iqra Ghafoor

M.Sc. (Hons.) Agriculture/Agronomy MNS University of Agriculture Multan, Pakistan

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