Quillaja

Scientific Name(s): Quillaja saponaria Molina. Family: Rosaceae

Common Name(s): Quillaja , soapbark , soap tree , murillo bark , Panama bark , China bark 1

Uses

Reports show that quillaja can depress cardiac and respiratory activity and induce localized irritation and sneezing.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosage recommendations for quillaja bark. It is a cardiac and respiratory depressant and is not indicated for internal use.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Quillaja is not considered safe for human use. The ingestion of the quillaja bark results in liver damage, gastric pain, diarrhea, hemolysis, respiratory failure, convulsions, and coma.

Toxicology

Quillaja saponin is highly toxic.

Botany

Quillaja is a large evergreen tree with shiny thick leaves. The generic name is derived from the Chilean word quillean, to wash, from the use made of the bark. Although it is native to Chile and Peru, it is now widely cultivated in southern California. The inner bark is separated from the cork and collected for commercial use. It has an acrid, astringent taste. 2

History

Quillaja has been used in traditional medicine to relieve cough and bronchitis, and topically to relieve scalp itchiness and dandruff. 1 , 3 The bark has been used by South Americans to aid in washing clothes. 3 Quillaja extracts are approved for food use and are used as foaming agents in some carbonated beverages and cocktail mixes. They are typically used in concentrations of about 0.01%. 1

Chemistry

Quillaja contains about 10% saponins. 2 These consist primarily of glycosides of quillaic acid (quillaja sapogenin, hydroxygypsogenin). 1 , 2 Quillaja saponin has been shown to be a mixture of acetylated triterpenoid oligoglycosides. 2 In addition, the bark contains tannin, calcium oxalate and numerous additional components. 1

A highly purified saponin, designated QS-21, has been used as an adjuvant to enhance the activity of viral vaccines. 4 This saponin has been found to be a combination of two structural isomers. 5

Uses and Pharmacology

The saponins derived from quillaja or its powdered bark can induce localized irritation and are also strong sneeze inducers. 1 Although the saponin is too irritating to the stomach and too strongly hemolytic to be ingested, it nevertheless has been shown to possess expectorant effects. The saponin depresses cardiac and respiratory activity. 1

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of quillaja. As noted above, a number of saponins have been derived from quillaja that serve as adjuvants when coadministered with certain vaccines. These saponins have been shown to boost antibody levels by 100-fold or more when used in the mouse. 6

Dosage

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosage recommendations for quillaja bark. It is a cardiac and respiratory depressant and is not indicated for internal use.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Quillaja is not considered safe for human use. The ingestion of the quillaja bark results in liver damage, gastric pain, diarrhea, hemolysis, respiratory failure, convulsions, and coma.

Toxicology

The effects of chronic low-low ingestion of quillaja are not well-defined. However, a short-term study in rats and long-term study in mice indicate that quillaja saponins are nontoxic. 1

Quillaja saponin (sapotoxin) is reported to be highly toxic. 3 Severe toxic effects following the ingestion of large doses of the bark include liver damage, gastric pain, diarrhea, hemolysis, respiratory failure, convulsions and coma. 1 Digitalis may stabilize cardiac involvement. 3

Bibliography

1. Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics . New York, NY: J. Wiley and Sons, 1980.
2. Evans WC. Trease and Evans' Pharmacognosy , 13th ed. London: Balliere Tindall, 1989.
3. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985.
4. Kensil CR, et al. J Am Vet Med Assoc . 1991;199:1423.
5. Soltysik S, et al. Ann N Y Acad Sci . 1993;690:392.
6. Kensil CR, et al. J Immunol . 1991;146:431.

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