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Quillaja saponaria - Molina.

Common Name Soap-Bark Tree, Soapbark
Family Quillajaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards The plant is toxic if taken internally, tending to dissolve the blood corpuscles[171]. The bark, and possibly other parts of the plant, contains saponins[4]. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm, they are also destroyed by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].
Habitats Mountainous regions on the western slopes of the Andes[169, 171].
Range S. America - Chile, Peru.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Quillaja saponaria Soap-Bark Tree, Soapbark
Quillaja saponaria Soap-Bark Tree, Soapbark


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Quillaja saponaria is an evergreen Tree growing to 18 m (59ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from April to May. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

None known


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiseborrheic  Expectorant  Skin  Stimulant

Soap bark tree has a long history of medicinal use with the Andean people who used it especially as a treatment for various chest problems[254]. The saponin content of the bark helps to stimulate the production of a more fluid mucous in the airways, thus facilitating the removal of phlegm through coughing[254]. The tree is useful for treating any condition featuring congested catarrh within the chest, but it should not be used for dry irritable coughs[254]. The inner bark contains about 9% of complex saponins, known collectively as 'quillajasaponin'[238]. It also contains calcium oxalate and tannin[238]. It has been used internally as a stimulating expectorant, though it can cause irritation and inflammation of the digestive tract and so is no longer considered safe[4, 238]. The internal use of this plant needs to be carefully overseen by a professional practitioner[254]. Sap bark tree is used as a source of compounds for the pharmaceutical industry[238]. It is still used externally as a cutaneous stimulant in the treatment of skin ulcers and eruptions, dandruff etc[171, 238].


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Other Uses

Hair  Soap

The fresh or dried inner bark is a soap substitute[4, 169, 171]. It contains about 9% saponins and is a very gentle and effective cleaner[169, 171]. It is used for cleaning textiles and the skin[1, 46, 169, 171]. It can also be used as a hair tonic[169, 171]. The saponins are also used in anti-dandruff shampoos and exfoliant cleansers[238]. They are used as a foaming agent in fire extinguishers[238]. The bark also contains considerable quantities of carbonate of lime[1].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

Requires a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position[200]. Plants are hardy to about -12°c in their natural range in South America[166] but they usually require greenhouse protection in Britain[1]. They can succeed outdoors in the milder areas of this country, often as small shrubs but making a tree in the very mildest areas[166]. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts, so it is best to site the plant in a position sheltered from the early morning sun. This species is cultivated for the saponins in its bark in some warm temperate areas of the world[238].


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Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in early summer and give some protection from the cold for at least their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of fully ripe wood of the current year's growth, November in a frame[238].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Maurice Jaccard   Mon Nov 18 17:47:56 2002

We are import-export company in geneva switzerland, ans we client interested into pannama wood for cosmetic purpose, are manufacturer, could quote for us price for 1 tonne of Kilaya Thanks Maurice Jaccard for TEVA LTD Geneva

hector pinto miranda   Mon May 17 00:10:33 2004

QSM CHILE LTDA. PRODUCE SAPONINAS DE QUILLAY DE DIFERENTES PUREZAS, USOS Y PRECIOS. estaremos encantados de enviarles las especificaciones de los productos que fabricamos.

FAVOR ENVIAR CONSULTA y datos A Hector Pinto Miranda, santiago de chile, sudamèrica

   Tue Jun 29 23:25:47 2004

We would like to offer Killaja Saponaria concentrated to 30%, as well as Quinoa saponine concentrated to 70%. 1 kilo = $US 750.- CIF any airport destination in to

Chris Parsons   Wed Mar 8 2006

Dear Sir I was appalled to note that "tescos" include this substance in a drink they sell known as "cream soda" I would be most interested in your comments on this matter, bearing in mind its protoplasmic toxin proprerties Regards Chris Parsons ( non cream soda drinker )

Khaled Badran   Sun Sep 7 2008

Dear Sir, Will you guide me where to get or bye Quillaia Saponaria barks from ( Source)

   Wed Sep 3 2008

Dear Sir , we use quillaia Saponaria bark for educational and academic illustrations . We urgently need 25kg of it kaled badran est. Saudi Arabia- Riyadh E.mail tel 00966503108048 fax 0096612493624

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Subject : Quillaja saponaria  
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