Ultrasonic Extraction of Quillaja Saponins

  • Saponin extracts of the Quillaja saponaria Molina tree are the main source of saponins for industrial applications.
  • Ultrasonic extraction of Quillaja saponins yields in high quality saponins.
  • Ultrasonic extraction is a highly efficient method to produce high yields of Quillaja saponin extract in a short time.

Quillaja Saponin Extract

Quillaja saponin extract (synonyms: quillaia extracts, bois de Panama, Panama bark extracts, quillai extracts, Quillay bark extracts, soapbark extracts) is a substance extracted from the Quillaja Saponaria Molina (Q. saponaria) tree. The Quillaja extract is composed of over 100 triterpenoid saponins. The main saponins present are glycosides of quillaic acid. Other major components are polyphenols and tannins as well as small amounts of salts and sugars. Quillaja extract is produced obtained by aqueous extraction of the milled inner bark or wood of pruned stems and branches of Quillaja saponaria tree. Since Quillaja saponin extracts contain both, surfactants and phenolic compounds, they are extraordinarily interesting for the formulation of sensitive functional food ingredients and their protection against oxidation.
The use of saponins as natural emulsifiers is rising significantly due to the increasing demand for healthy, natural products without synthetic additives. Quillaja saponins are great emulsifiers for O/W emulsions and nanoemulsions and have shown very good effects in various formulations such as beverages and oil blends. A common application of Quillaja saponin extract is the emulsification of CBD oils, translucent beverages and foamed food products. Quillaja saponins can be used alone or in combination with other emulsifying agents.
Q-Naturale® is a food additive based on Quillaja bark saponins, which is approved by the FDA as an effective emulsifier for food and beverages. Besides emulsifying agent, Quillaja saponins are used in pharmaceutical formulations for its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic, antitumor, hepatoprotective, and immunoadjuvant properties.

Advantages of Ultrasonic Quillaja Saponin Extraction

  • Superior yield
  • High-speed extraction – within minutes
  • High quality extracts – mild, non-thermal
  • Green solvent (i.e. water)
  • Cost-effective
  • Easy and safe operation
  • Low investment and operational costs
  • 24/7 operation under heavy-duty
  • Green, eco-friendly method
2kW batch sonication setup for the extraction of herbal extracts

120L Ultrasonic Batch Extraction of Botanicals with UIP2000hdT and Agitator

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Case Study of Ultrasonic Extraction of Saponins from Quillaja

Ultrasonic extraction of Quillaja saponins (soapbark)
In order to prepare a high-quality Quillaja extract, which offers the desired functionalities as food and pharma additive, the active phytochemicals, namely saponins, must be isolated. The Quillaja saponin is a triterpene saponin isolated from the bark of the soap tree. Ultrasonic cavitation promotes extraction by improving the contact between solids and liquid and increasing the mass transfer.
Cares et al. demonstrate in their study clearly that ultrasonically assisted extraction (UAE) can enhance the extraction process of bioactive principles from Quillaja Saponaria Molina. They used Quillaja wood and bark chips and extracted the saponins in water using sonication, so that the final product only incorporates natural ingredients and raw materials and could be used in food manufacturing processes. As a non-thermal extraction method, the extraction temperature during ultrasonication was constantly held at 20ºC (68ºF). The extractions yields increased significantly with the sonication period from 10 to 30 minutes. The yields of 20 minutes at 20ºC in the ultrasound-assisted extraction were comparable to those achieved by the conventional method 3 hours extraction at 60ºC.

Ultrasonic devices are used to prepare long-term stable o/w emulsions using Quillaja saponin extract to stabilize the emulsion physically and chemically. Click here to read more about ultrasonic emulsification!

High-Performance Ultrasonic Extractors

Hielscher Ultrasonics is specialized in manufacturing high-performance ultrasonic processors for the production of high-quality extracts from botanicals.
Hielscher’s broad product portfolio ranges from small, powerful lab ultrasonicators to robust bench-top and fully industrial systems, which deliver high intensity ultrasound for the efficient extraction and isolation of bioactive components (e.g. quercetin, caffeine, curcumin, terpenes etc.). All ultrasonic devices from 200W to 16,000W feature a coloured display for digital control, an integrated SD card for automatic data recording, browser remote control and many more user-friendly features. The sonotrodes and flow cells (the parts, which are in contact with the medium) can be autoclaved and are easy to clean. All our ultrasonicators are built for 24/7 operation, require low maintenance and are easy and safe to operate.
A digital colour display allows for a user-friendly control of the ultrasonic equipment. Our systems are capable to deliver from low up to very high amplitudes. For the extraction of chemical compounds such as astaxanthin, we offer special ultrasonic sonotrodes (also known as ultrasonic probes or horns) that are optimized for the sensitive isolation of high-quality active substances. The robustness of Hielscher’s ultrasonic equipment allows for 24/7 operation at heavy duty and in demanding environments.
The precise control of the ultrasonic process parameters ensures reproducibility and process standardization. Hielscher’s industrial-scale automated ultrasonic extraction systems are designed for high production capacities of superior quality extracts, whilst at the same time reducing labor, cost, and energy.
The table below gives you an indication of the approximate processing capacity of our ultrasonicators:

Batch VolumeFlow RateRecommended Devices
1 to 500mL10 to 200mL/minUP100H
10 to 2000mL20 to 400mL/minUP200Ht, UP400St
0.1 to 20L0.2 to 4L/minUIP2000hdT
10 to 100L2 to 10L/minUIP4000hdT
n.a.10 to 100L/minUIP16000
n.a.largercluster of UIP16000

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UIP4000hdT 4kW powerful ultrasonic processor for extraction


Facts Worth Knowing

About the Quillaja Tree and its Saponins

The Quillaja Saponaria Molina tree, also known as South American soaptree, grows naturally and extensively in Chile. The Quillaja Saponaria tree (family Rosaceae) is a large evergreen with a thick bark, native to several South American countries, particularly Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
Quillaja saponin extract contains mainly saponins but also polyphenols, tannins, as well as salts and sugars in small quantities. The Quillaja saponins are molecules built from a triterpenic nucleus with two sugar chains. These sugar chains give saponins a hydrophilic property (= dissolvable in water), whilst the triterpenic nucleus is hydrophobic (= water-repellant). For these, it is an amphotic tenside, which makes saponins a non-ionic tensoactive, allowing for the reduction of surface tension, the solubilization of hydrophobic products in aqueous solutions as well as the formation of micro-/nano-emulsions.
In the Quillaja tree, the bark contains with approx. 5% the highest amount of saponins, whilst the wood has a content of approx. 2% of saponins.
Since saponins are natural substances with good foaming and emulsifying properties, they are frequently used as foaming agents in the food, beverages and beer industry, as surfactant in cosmetics, as additives in agrochemicals and animal feed, and as adjuvants in vaccines.
The production of the quillaja extracts is done with an aqueous extraction; no other solvents are used in its production. The final product, either a crude or purified extract, in liquid or powder formulation only incorporates natural ingredients and raw materials, authorized for their use in food manufacturing processes. (Cares et al. 2009)

What are Saponins?

The word saponin is derived from the Latin word sapo, which means soap. Saponins are phytochemicals, found mainly but not exclusively in plants, which exhibit foaming characteristics, and consist of polycyclic aglycones attached to one or more sugar side chains. The aglycone part, which is also called a sapogenin, is either a steroid (C27) or a triterpene (C30). The foaming ability of saponins is caused by the combination of a hydrophobic (fat soluble) sapogenin and a hydrophilic (water soluble) sugar part. [Majinda, 2012: p. 515] Plant materials with a high saponin amounts have traditionally been used as emulsifying agents. Prominent examples for plants rich in saponins are soapbark (Quillaja saponaria; Rosaceae), soapwort (Saponaria officinalis; Caryophyllaceae), and shikakai powder (Gleditsia sinensis; Leguminosae). Saponins are amphipathic glycosides with a high molecular weight, which have structurally one or more hydrophilic glycoside moieties that are combined with a lipophilic triterpene derivative. Especially in the pharmaceutical industry, saponins have attracted much attention due to their range of biological properties including their ability to stimulate an immune response, making them prime candidates for adjuvants.

All You Need to Know About Ultrasonic Extraction

Ultrasound-assisted extraction (UAE), also sono-extraction, is a highly efficient, green extraction method to isolate bioactive substances such as proteins, vitamins, polyphenols, natural pigments, lipids etc. from plant matrices. Ultrasonic extraction is based on the working principle of acoustic cavitation.
When intense ultrasound waves are applied to liquid systems, acoustic cavitation occurs, which is the phenomenon of the generation, growth and eventual collapse of vacuum bubbles (see pic. below). During the propagation of the ultrasound waves, the vacuum bubbles oscillate and grow until they reach a point when they cannot absorb further energy. At the peak of bubble growth they collapse violently, which causes locally thermal, mechanical, and chemical effects. The mechanical effects include high pressures of up to 1000atm, turbulences, and intense shear forces. Those forces disrupt cell walls and promote mass transfer between the cell interior and the solvent releasing bioactive compounds into the surrounding liquid (i.e. solvent).

Ultrasonic / acoustic cavitation creates highly intense forces which opens the cell walls known as lysis (Click to enlarge!)

Ultrasonic extraction is based on acoustic cavitation and its hydrodynamic shear forces

Ultrasonic solid-liquid extraction of compounds from botanicals and cell tissue has been well researched. The application of highly intense ultrasonic waves promotes extraction processes significantly. Besides process intensification – which results in higher yields and shorter extraction time – thermal degradation and loss of temperature-sensitive constituents is prevented since ultrasonication is non-thermal treatment. Furthermore, ultrasonic extraction has low investment and operational costs, reduces the use of solvents and/or allows for the use of greener solvents, which makes it an economical and environmental-friendly extraction technique. Outperforming conventional extraction methods, ultrasonically-assisted extraction (UAE) has been adopted from the food industry to produce bioactives with economical gains.

Ultrasonic disruptors are used for extractions from phyto sources (e.g. plants, algae, fungi)

Ultrasonic extraction from plant cells: the microscopic transverse section (TS) shows the mechanism of actions during ultrasonic extraction from cells (magnification 2000x) [resource: Vilkhu et al. 2011]

Hielscher Ultrasonics manufactures high-performance ultrasonicators for extraction of phytochemicals from botanicals.

High-power ultrasonic processors from lab to pilot and industrial scale.

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