What you need to know to become a quillaja expert?

Marlene Forrai

2 minutes | 15. January 2019
Degree of technical knowledge

Quillaja – A big tree with a big impact (part 1)

Do you know that Quillaja is already a part of your daily life? Might be surprising to you, as this plant-based ingredient is not as well-known in comparison to herbs and spices used in kitchens worldwide. Even when going deeper into the phytogenic conversation – the group of saponins, where Quillaja belongs to, often stands in the shadows of other substance groups like essential oils. Quite inexplicable, when having a closer look at Quillaja’s broad spectrum of efficacy for humans and animals. A good reason to bring this important substance out of the dark.

Therefore, we will take you on a journey. Our destination? Chile, Latin America – the place where the up to 30 meters high and 100 years old Quillaja trees are native. The power of the phytogenic universe is tremendous, but often natural resources are limited. This is also the case with Quillaja trees. They only occur naturally in the wild and can hardly be cultured. Therefore, the forestry process is strictly regulated to be sustainable: The Chilean government gives out individual licenses to harvesters to ensure that only a certain number of trees will be cut down and processed. Usually only branches of trees are cut, not the entire tree. What else do you need to know to become a Quillaja expert?

Bark of quillaja tree is is a source of saponius© Delacon
Bark of quillaja© Delacon

Quillaja saponaria in portrait

Quillaja saponaria Molina, also known as the soap bark tree, is a hardwood tree and the only genus within the family of Quillajaceae belonging to the order of Fabales. It is an evergreen tree with white flowers and a dry fruit, solely inhabiting arid areas of South America. Active substances are mainly extracted out of the plant’s bark (but also the wood is used) by boiling Quillaja chips and subsequent evaporation to increase the concentration.

The word “quillay” is derived from the native Mapuche word “quillean” and means “to wash” – a strong reference to the distinctive foaming charactericstics of saponins. Therefore, Quillaja has been used since ancient times as soap, detergent and in traditional medicines to relieve cough and bronchitis1. In human food, Quillaja is widely used for example in water-based non-alcoholic drinks like soda, sport and electrolyte drinks, in candies and in cosmetics like lipsticks and shampoos.

More than just an ingredient for Delacon

Having the power to make an important contribution to animal nutrition and health, Quillaja saponins are a valued ingredient in some of our main products – among more than 100 other ingredients of the phytogenic universe.

Since 2014, Delacon co-owns a Quillaja production site in Chile called Fitotek. The strong partnership with Paolo Tamargo (CEO & co-owner) helps us to ensure the regular supply of Quillaja saponins in a standardized quality.

CEO and co-owner of Fitotek Paolo Tamargo (right)Fitotek CEO & co-owner Paolo Tamargo (right) and his harvester Don Manuel (left) © Delacon

What are the active ingredients of Quillaja and how to differentiate Quillaja from Yucca?