Plants have the ability to synthesize almost unlimited number of substances. In many cases, these chemicals serve in plant defense mechanisms against microorganisms, insects, and herbivores. Generally, any part of the plant may contain the various active ingredients. Among the plant, active compounds are saponins, which are traditionally used as natural detergents. The name ‘saponin’ comes from the Latin word ‘sapo,’ which means ‘soap’ as saponins show the unique properties of foaming and emulsifying agents. Steroidal and triterpenoid saponins can be used in many industrial applications, from the preparation of steroid hormones in the pharmaceutical industry to utilization as food additives that exploit their non‐ionic surfactant properties. Saponins also exhibit different biological activities. This chapter has been prepared by participants of the Marie Sklodowska‐Curie Action—Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) in the framework of the proposal ‘ECOSAPONIN.’ Interactions between the participants, including chemists, physicists, technologists, microbiologists and botanists from four countries, will contribute to the development of collaborative ties and further promote research and development in the area of saponins in Europe and China. Although this chapter cannot provide a comprehensive account of the state of knowledge regarding plant saponins, we hope that it will help make saponins the focus of ongoing international cooperation.
Part of the book: Application and Characterization of Surfactants
It has long been shown that phytochemicals protect plants against viruses, bacteria, fungi and herbivores, but only relatively recently we have learnt that they are also critical in protecting humans against diseases. A significant amount of medicinal plants is consumed by humans. As food‐related products, they additionally improve human health and general well‐being. This chapter deals with plant‐derived food preservatives. Particular attention has been paid to the following berry fruits: cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), black currant (Ribes nigrum), elderberry (Sambucus nigra), cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and açaí (Euterpe oleracea), as well as the following herbs and spices: peppermint (Mentha piperita), basil (Ocimum basilicum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), nettle (Urtica dioica), cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) bark, cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) as alternative sources of natural antimicrobial and antibiofilm agents with potential use in food industry. Moreover, we present an overview of the most recent information on the positive effect of bioactive compounds of these plants on human health. This chapter is a collection of essential and valuable information for food producers willing to use plant‐derived bioactive substances for ensuring the microbiological safety of products.
Part of the book: Food Additives