The adjuvant of the FML-vaccine against murine and canine visceral leishmaniasis, the Riedel de Haen saponin mixture, was fractionated by ion exchange chromatography on DEAE-cellulose to afford one TLC homogeneous Quillaja saponaria Molina QS21 saponin fraction (18.0%), a mixture of two deacylsaponins (19.4%), sucrose (39.9%), sucrose and glucose (19.7%), rutin (0.8%) and quercetin (2.2%), that were identified by comparison of 1H and 13C NMR spectroscopy. The QS21 shows the typical aldehyde group in C-23 (65% equatorial) and a normonoterpene moiety acylated in C-28. The deacylsaponins show the aldehyde group but do not have the normonoterpene moiety. Balb/c mice were vaccinated with 150 μg of FML antigen of Leishmania donovani and 100 μg of each obtained fraction and further challenged by infection with 108 amastigotes of Leishmania chagasi. The safety analysis and the effect on humoral and cellular immune responses and in clinical signs showed that the QS21 saponin and the deacylsaponins are the most active adjuvant compounds of the Riedel the Haen saponin mixture. Both induced the highest and non-significantly different increases in DTH, CD4+ T lymphocytes in spleen, IFN-γ in vitro, body weight gain and the most pronounced reduction of parasite burden in liver (95% for QS21 and 86% for deacylsaponins; p > 0.05). While the QS21 showed mild toxicity, significant adjuvant effect on the anti-FML humoral response before and after infection, and decrease in liver relative weight, the deacylsaponins showed no toxicity, less haemolysis and antibody and DTH responses increased mainly after infection, still inducing a stronger Leishmania-specific in vitro splenocyte proliferation. Our results confirm in the Riedel de Haen saponin extract the presence of deacylsaponins normonoterpene-deprivated which are non-toxic and capable of inducing a specific and strong immunoprotective response in vaccination against murine visceral leishmaniasis.