Saponins

Paleo proponents list ‘saponins’ in legumes as one of the reasons why we shouldn’t eat them. Wow! As a herbalist, saponins are one of my favourite herbal constituents. You can’t select one single action a plant-chemical possesses and then conclude that this one action sums up the entire purpose and existence of this plant chemical as a whole. Crazy stuff!

SaponinsĀ are part of many plant’s immune systems, protecting them from insects, predictors and fungal infections. I love the fact that the presence of saponins can often be identified without any lab equipment, simply by adding water and agitating: if soapy bubbles appear, you have saponins! We used to have a wattle tree outside containing saponins and in the wet season our pavers would get a fantastic wash-down from the combination of rain with fallen saponin-containing leaves. Continue reading

Natural in-context pesticides

Some of the natural chemicals/compounds in plants were developed to deter predators and attract helpers. It’s so, so cool, how some of the deterrent chemicals that are present in plants in very small quantities (because they are more concerned with scaring off bugs), become magically therapeutic for us.

Imagine a plant responding to a plague of insect predators during a period of time. It would increase it’s ‘pesticides’. It would be equally cool if there were a symbiotic relationship between human and plant unfolding at the same point in time.

The plant can protect itself from extinction by making itself useful to us as a food crop, or by associating in some way with humans… by encouraging us to keep coming back. Plants want seeds spread after all…. and they will lure foragers to support them. Foragers are different from predators; they don’t wipe out entire crops and they tend to give something back, staying more in balance with the ecosystem as a whole. Continue reading