Constituent Summary of extracts of Pittosporum Angustifolium (gumbi gumbi)
The major constituent of gumbi gumbi extract was found to be saponin (a sulphonated di- or tri- terpene). Saponins are natural detergents found in plants (that is, they contain water soluble and fat soluble components and dissolve in water to form a stable soapy froth).
Saponins have commercial uses in a number of applications such as in beverages such as root beer and slurpies (to provide the foamy "head"). Saponins have also found application as emulsifiers for photographic film preparations and cosmetics (such as shampoos and lipsticks) and as industrial frothers for ore separation. Saponins also have anti bacterial and anti-fungal properties1
. Saponins decrease blood lipids, lower blood glucose response, and as an antidote to acute lead poisoning2
Extracts containing saponins currently have a wide application. For example, they are used in animal livestock production facilities for ammonia and odour control as well as in gut bacteria control. Certain saponins form strong insoluble complexes with cholesterol which has application in cholesterol lowering in humans. Bile acids metabolised by bacteria in the colon form secondary bile acids, some of which are known promoters of colon cancer. The feeding of saponins to laboratory mice has shown a reduction in the formation of preneoplastic colon lesions1
. This has a potential in the prevention and treatment of colon cancer in humans. Saponins also have application as use for adjuvants in vaccines (adjuvants increase immune-stimulation, by using saponins their emulsifying properties can also be utilised).
Saponins are highly toxic to cold blooded animals and some have been identified in snake venom, starfish, and sea cucumber. Some are toxic to humans.
The term tannins is widely applied to large polyphenolic compounds that contains sufficient hydroxyl and/or carboxyl groups to form complexes with proteins and other large molecules. Tannins are classified into two groups -- notable hydrolysable tannins, and condensed tannins. The term tannin refers to the use of tannins in tanning animals hides.
Tannins are almost ubiquitous in the plant kingdom. They are astringent and bitter in taste. Their astringency causes the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth following consumption of red wine, strong tea or un-ripened fruit.
They are also predominantly responsible for the colour of the above and hydrolysable tannins have long-term antioxidant properties (the reaction of hydrolysable tannins in red wine is attributable to the "maturing" of the wine). Tannins are found in fruits, berries, smoked foods, beer and wines (more tannin is found in red wines than in white), citrus juices, condiments (such a cloves, tarragon, vanilla and cinnamon), legumes, and chocolate3
. Tannins have shown potential antiviral, antibacterial, and anti parasitic properties. They have also been studied for their effects on the treatment of cancers and their inhibitory effect on HIV.
Alkaloids are naturally occurring chemical compounds containing basic nitrogen functionality.
There are three main types of alkaloids -- true alkaloids, proto alkaloids, and pseudo alkaloids. Both true alkaloids and proto alkaloids are derived from amino acids, while pseudo alkaloids are not derived from amino acids4
Alkaloids are alkaline and they are reactive compounds that have pharmacological effects at low doses and are used as medications and recreational drugs5
. Cocaine, caffeine, nicotine, and Quinine are all examples of alkaloids. Alkaloids form water soluble salts and may exist in the free-state, as salts, or as N-oxides -- depending on pH or physiological conditions. These properties make them have enormous application as medications.
Saponins: Surprising benefits of desert plants, Cheeke, Peter R., The Linux Pauling Institute, May 1998.
Saponins from edible legumes: Chemistry, processing and health benefits, Shi J, Arunasalam K, Yeung D, Kakuda Y, Mittal G, Jiang Y; J Med Food.
2004; 7(1): 67:68.
"Alkaloids", Friedli, Georges-Louis, September 1996 - http://friedli.com/herbs/phytochem/alkaloids