Health Benefits of Quillaia

Quillaia, scientifically called as Quillaja saponaria Molina belonging to family Rosaceae, is an desert plant specially native to arid areas of Chile and Peru and also found  in southern Californian region  consisting of thick shiny and leathery leaves along with thick branches.  It is an evergreen plant which has been used as traditional medicines in treatment of cough and bronchitis. It is having acrid and astringent taste.

Quillaia is also famous as Soapbark extract and Murrilla bark extract. Other names include bios-de-pamana and pamana bark extract and Quillaia bark extract.


Preparation Of Quillaia Extracts

Quillaia extract (QE) is rich in saponins and sapogenins. It is obtained by aqueous extraction of milled inner bark and woods of pruned branches and stems. This pruning operation of branches helps in improving the quality of forest as it doesn’t require deforestation. After extraction, it is subjected to purification by using activated charcoal or by filtration to remove precipitated substances, followed by evaporation. Quillaia extracts consists of around 8-10% triterpenoid saponins, glycosides of Quillaia acid, 11% calcium oxalate, tannins, starch and sugar. There are various types of Quillaia extracts-

Quillaia extract Type 1 (unpurified extracts) – This involves treatment of Quillaia extract’s (QE) with stabilising agent like PVP (FULL FORM)and egg albumin, followed by filtrations with diatomaceous earth to remove precipitated matter obtained during storage. It is commercially available as concentrated liquids or sprays dried powders with preservatives like sodium benzoate (0.5 g/l) or ethanol and have saponins concentration 20-26%.

Quillaia extracts Type 2 – Type 1 QE is subjected to ultra-filtrations or affinity chromatography to remove non-saponin materials like tannins, polyphenols, sugars which may interfere with colour, taste and odour. Type 2 QE is lighter in colour and has 75-90 % saponins.

Highly purified QE – It is purified by ultrafiltration followed by separation by column adsorption to remove polyphenols and used as adjuants in preparation of animal vaccines.

Characteristics of Quillaia Saponins

The Quillaia saponins differ from saponins derived from other plants due to presence of fatty acid domain and aldehyde group at carbon-4 of triterpenoid ring.  It consist of both water soluble (i.e. one or more side chains of carbohydrates) as well as fat soluble structures (i.e. either steroid or triterpenoid nucleus). They have detergent as well as surface active properties and thus are excellent foaming agents and forms quite stable foams and are used in beverages, manufacturing of soaps and shampoos, mining and ore separation process in industry and making of emulsions for photographic films.

Health Benefits of Quillaia

Quillaia extracts are used for both medicinal and industrial purpose. Quillaia has been used traditionally for the treatment of various health ailments

Treatment of cough and bronchitis – As already mentioned earlier Quillaia is having expectorant activity due to presence of saponins. It leads to larger production of fluid mucous in airways that facilitates removal of phlegm from respiratory tract. Thus it is active ingredient in cough syrups and sneezing powders and also used to treat various chest diseases.Health benefits of Quillaia

Treatment of hypercholesterolemia – Saponins present in Quillaia binds with bile acids and cholesterol. Binding of Bile acids and cholesterol forms micelles which are released into intestine and leads to reabsorption of cholesterol. The saponin binds with cholesterol and hampers cholesterol re-absorption and facilitates its excretion .Thus decreasing plasma level of cholesterol .

Treatment of Giardiasis (beaver fever) – Giardiasis is a protozoan disease caused by giardia lamblia which on entering human cell membranes leads to rupture and lysing of cell membrane causes severe diarrhoea. Researches have proven that Quillaia extracts is effective in killing giardia trophozoites which are released during after sporulation of oocytes.

Treatment of rotavirus infection – Rotavirus infection is generally found in children. It causes severe diarrhoea among children’s that may be lead to dehydration and death. Soapbark extract reduces rotavirus infection by interrupting interaction between cell membrane and virus. It significantly reduces rate of diarrhoea, and thus prevents death of children from dehydration.

Used as Adjuants for vaccines – Quillaja saponin plays a very important role in enhancement of immune system. One of the Quillaja saponin extract, designated as QUILL- A, is used as adjuvant for vaccines and increases effectiveness of both injected as well as oral vaccines. In case of injected vaccines, QUILL-A forms Immuno stimulating complexes (ISCOM). ISCOM are prepared by binding protein envelope of virus with quill A. This binding facilitates the transport of vaccines across cell membranes, thus enhancing its absorption. Similarly for oral vaccines, QUILL A promotes the absorption of large constituent present in vaccines by increasing the gut wall permeability.  Quillaia saponins have also been proved effective in developing vaccines against influenza virus and HIV virus.

External uses of Quillaia extract – The Quillaia extract is used topically for the treatment of skin sores, athlete’s foot and itchy scalp due to its anti-inflammatory and emollient activity. It is also included in preparation of shampoos for treatment of dandruff, in hair tonic preparation and in douches for vaginal discharges.

Industrial Uses of Quillaia

  • The saponins derived from Quillaia extract is denoted by term “food grade “ which means that it is approved for usage in food and  beverages under  USFDA regulation 21 CFR 172.510.
  • The flavour and extract manufacturers (FEMA) have approved Quillaia as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) as flavouring agent in non-alcoholic beverages (FEMA no. 2973).
  • In soft drinks, the conc. of QE is upto 200mg/kg. 1 For dispensable frozen carbonated beverages and un-carbonated juices the conc. of QE is 500mg/kg.
  • Quillaia has also been used in making cider, cream soda, baked goods, puddings, frozen dairy products.

Precautions with Quillaia

Due to the presence of high amount of tannins it may lead to GIT disturbances, kidney and liver damage. QE also consists of calcium oxalates which decreases blood calcium levels and causes kidney stones. Other side effects include stomach pain, diarrhea, coma and convulsion , and breathing problems. Thus it  should be avoided in patients with gastric disorder and kidney diseases. Also it should be avoided during pregnancy and breast feeding.


From the above discussion, we can conclude that Quillaia is a rich source of phytochemicals with tremendous health benefits and industrial applications. It is considered as GRAS therefore it can be used in our day to day life like as soaps, shampoos, beverages, creams and dairy products.