C. quinoa (Willd) is a species within the plant family Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot or Pigweed Family). There are approximately 1300 species of chenopods worldwide, ranging from annual herbs to trees. Spinach, beets, sugar beets, chard and epazoteare members of Chenopodiaceae with a high economic value. Seeds from C. quinoa are used as a cereal crop, yet because of this plant’s grass-like appearance it is classified botanically as a “pseudocereal.” Seeds of C. quinoa, commonly referred to as quinoa, have a long history in South America as a dietary supplement.
The plants have been cultivated in the Andean highlands since 3,000 B.C. (Tapia 1982). In the Quechua language of the Incas, quinoa is “chisiya mama” or “mother grain.” In Spanish, it is quinoa, trigo inca, or arroz del Altiplano. Nutrition from quinoa is based on its amino acid composition, high content of calcium, phosphorus, iron, and low sodium content. Cheniopodium quinoa has a bitter-tasting coating on each seed that protects it from being eaten by birds in the field. This is where saponin is contained and must be removed before the grain is cooked and eaten.
Chemically, saponins include a range of related compounds. The saponins of Chenopodium quinoa that are the technical grade active ingredient (TGAI) of THI ‘s product line, are the major saponin constituents in the extract of C. quinoa seeds, which primarily include approximately equimolar amounts of the triterpene bidesmosidic glycosides of oleanolic acid, hederagenin, and phytolaccagenic acid.