The dried stigma of Crocus sativus L., known as saffron, has a long history of use as a spice, medicine, and coloring agent. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.
Medicinally, saffron has a long history as part of traditional healing; modern medicine has also discovered saffron to have anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic, immunomodulating, neuroprotecting, and antioxidant-like properties, based on animal and in vitro research. A growing body of research has demonstrated that saffron extract itself, and its carotenoid constituents, may exert antidepressive effects. Saffron has been examined for its abilities to decrease symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, infertility, premenstrual syndrome, and psoriasis, although more well-designed clinical trials are needed in these fields .
The main constituents of saffron are carotenoids, glycosides, monoterpenes, aldehydes, anthocyanins, flavonoids, vitamins (especially riboflavin and thiamine), amino acids, proteins, starch, mineral matter, and gums. However, among all these components apocarotenoids such as crocetin, crocin, safranal (the bio-oxidative cleavage products of zeaxanthin) and picrocrocin are considered to be the important bioactive components.
Crocin is responsible for intense colour, safranal for odour and picrocrocin for bitter taste. It is mainly because of these components that saffron has gained importance as a therapeutic herb. Crocin (digentiobiosyl 8, 8′-diapocarotene-8, 8′-oate; C44H64O24), a diester of gentiobiose (disaccharide) and dicarboxylic acid crocetin is considered to be one of the few naturally occurring water soluble carotenoids. The flavouring property of saffron is due to the bitter glycoside, picrocrocin, 4-(β-D-glucopyranosyloxy) −2, 6, 6-trimethylcyclohex-1-ene-1-carboxaldehyde (C16H26O7).
: C. Ulbricht, et al., An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Saffron (Crocus sativus) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Journal of Dietary Supplements, 2011, 8(1), pp. 58-114 : S. I. Bukhari, M. Manzoor, and M.K. Dhar, A comprehensive review of the pharmacological potential of Crocus sativus and its bioactive apocarotenoids, Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 2018, 98, pp. 733–745
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