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