Scientific Name(S): Quillaja saponaria Molina. Family: Rosaceae
Common Name(S): Quillaia, soapbark, soap tree, murillo bark, quillaja, Panama bark, China bark
Botany: Quillaia 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.
History: Quillaia has been used in traditional medicine to relieve cough and bronchitis, and topically to relieve scalp itchiness and dandruff. The bark has been used by South Americans to aid in washing clothes. Quillaia 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 %.
Uses of Quillaia
Reports show that quillaia can depress cardiac and respiratory activity and induce localized irritation and sneezing.
Side Effects of Quillaia
The ingestion of the quillaia bark results in liver damage, gastric pain, diarrhea, hemolysis, respiratory failure, convulsions, and coma.
Toxicology: The effects of chronic low-low ingestion of quillaia are not well-defined. However, a short-term study in rats and long-term study in mice indicate that quillaia saponins are nontoxic.
Quillaia saponin (sapotoxin) is reported to be highly toxic. Severe toxic effects following the ingestion of large doses of the bark include liver damage, gastric pain, diarrhea, hemolysis, respiratory failure, convulsions and coma. Digitalis may stabilize cardiac involvement.
Summary: Quillaia extracts are widely used to induce foaming in beverages. The saponins are responsible for this effect. However, quillaia saponins are generally considered to be highly toxic in high doses. Consequently, the traditional medical uses of quillaia have focused on its external application. Purified quillaia saponins have been shown to enhance the activity of certain vaccines in animals.
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