by: Joe Hing Kwok Chu
Saponin is any glucosides that occur in plants and are characterized by the property of producing a soapy lather. A moisture absolving amorphous saponin mixture can be used as a foaming and emulsifying agent and detergent. When it is digested, it yields a sugar and a sapogenin aglycone. Most glucosides are toxic and can speed up hemoglobin degradation but the saponin of ginseng (ren shen) is relatively safe.
Sapogenin is the nonsugar portion of a saponin. It is usually obtained by hydrolysis, and it has either a complex terpenoid or a steroid structure that forms a practicable starting point in the synthesis of steroid hormones.
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