The Multiple Health Benefits of Saffron

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Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. The styles and stigmas are collected and dried, then consumed as a spice.

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Saffron contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds.

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Saffron can be consumed in two forms:

  • Dried styles and stigmas as a raw spice
  • Supplement form which are dehydrated extracts of the spice

The supplement form can be found in two forms:  (See Resources below)

 Table: Active Chemical Compounds of Saffron

Saffron

 

Category

Compound

Picrocrocin

 

Safranal

 

Carotenoid

 
 

crocin (trans-crocetin di-(β-D-gentiobiosyl) ester)

 

lycopene

 

zeaxanthin

 

α- carotenes

 

β-carotenes

2,6,6-trimethyl 1,3-cyclo­hexadiene-1-carbaldehyde

 

2-hydroxy 4,4,6-trimethyl 2,5-cyclo­hexadien-1-one

 

Terpene derivatives

 
 

pinene

 

cineol

Table: Health Benefits of Saffron

Saffron

     

System

Category

Benefit

Reference

Immune System

     
 

Chemopreventive

   
   

A growing body of research has demonstrated that saffron extract itself and its main constituents, the carotenoids, possess chemopreventive properties against cancer.

[1]

Metabolism

     
 

Weight loss

   
   

Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women

[2]

Neurological

     
 

Anxiety

   
   

Induces anxiolytic-like (anxiety-reducing) benefits

[3]

 

Antioxidant

   
   

Crocin, a constituent of saffron, has been shown to be a potent neuronal antioxidant

[4]

 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

   
   

May reduce OCD through serotonergic (serotonin-neurotransmitter) system

[5]

 

Alzheimer’s

   
   

May alleviate Alzheimer’s Disease

[6]

 

Memory

   
   

May inhibit the ability of alcohol (ethanol) to impair long-term Memory (due to the crocin content)

[7]

 

Depression

   
   

May have antidepressant effects

[8]

 

Multiple Sclerosis

   
   

Saffron may be a potential treatment for diseases involving neuroinflammation, such as multiple sclerosis.

[9]

 

Stroke

   
   

Saffron has also been demonstrated to have beneficial effects in stroke victims.

[10]

 

Age Related Cognitive Decline

   
   

Saffron has promise in preventing or ameliorating some age related cognitive decline causes.

[11]

 

Excitotoxicity

   
   

Saffron and its extracts demonstrate protection against excitotoxicity

[12]

Sexual/Reproductive System

     
 

Aphrodisiac

   
   

Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) has shown beneficial aphrodisiac effects in some animal and human studies. The aim of the present study was to assess the safety and efficacy of saffron on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor-induced sexual dysfunction in women.

[13]

 

Erectile dysfunction

   
   

Saffron showed a positive effect on sexual function with increased number and duration of erectile events seen in patients with ED even only after taking it for ten days.

[14]

References:


[1] Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Jan;227(1):20-5

[2] Nutr Res. 2010 May;30(5):305-13

[3] Pitsikas N, Boultadakis A, Georgiadou G, Tarantilis PA, Sakellaridis N. Effects of the active constituents of Crocus sativus L., crocins, in an animal model of anxiety. Phytomedicine. 2008 Dec;15(12):1135-9.

[4] Papandreou MA, Kanakis CD, Polissiou MG, Efthimiopoulos S, Cordopatis P, Margarity M, Lamari FN. (2006). “Inhibitory activity on amyloid-beta aggregation and antioxidant properties of Crocus sativus stigmas extract and its crocin constituents”. J Agric Food Chem. 54 (23): 8762–8. doi:10.1021/jf061932a. PMID 17090119.

Ochiai T, Shimeno H, Mishima K, Iwasaki K, Fujiwara M, Tanaka H, Shoyama Y, Toda A, Eyanagi R, Soeda S (2007). “Protective effects of carotenoids from saffron on neuronal injury in vitro and in vivo”. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1770 (4): 578–84. doi:10.1016/j.bbagen.2006.11.012. PMID 17215084.

Zheng YQ, Liu JX, Wang JN, Xu L. (2006). “Effects of crocin on reperfusion-induced oxidative/nitrative injury to cerebral microvessels after global cerebral ischemia”. Brain Res. 1138: 86–94. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2006.12.064. PMID 17274961.

[5] Georgiadou G, Tarantilis PA, Pitsikas N. Effects of the active constituents of Crocus sativus L., crocins, in an animal model of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Neurosci Lett. 2012 Oct 18;528(1):27-30.

[6] A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2010 Oct;35(5):581-8

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Jan;207(4): 637-43

Akhondzadeh, S., et al. A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 207(4):637-643, 2010.

[7] Abe, K., et al. Effects of saffron extract and its constituent crocin on learning behaviour and long-term potentiation. Phytotherapy Research. 14(3):149-152, 2000. Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.

Sugiara, M., et al. Crocin (crocetin di-gentiobiose ester) prevents the inhibitory effect of ethanol on long-term potentiation in the dentate gyrus in vivo. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 271(2):703-707, 1994.

Sugiura, M., et al. The effects of ethanol and crocin on the induction of long-term potentiation in the CA1 region of rat hippocampal slices. Jpn J Pharmacol. 67(4):395-397, 1995.

[8] Antidepressant properties of bioactive fractions from the extract of Crocus sativus L. J Nat Med. 2010 Jan;64(1):24-30

Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression Phytother Res. 2005 Feb;19(2):148-51

Akhondzadeh Basti, A., E. Moshiri, A.A. Noorbala, et al. 2007. Comparison of petal of Crocus sativus L. and fluoxetine in the treatment of depressed outpatients: a pilot double-blind randomized trial. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 31(2):439-42.

Akhondzadeh, S., N. Tahmacebi-Pour, A.A. Noorbala, et al. 2005. Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytotherapy Research 19(2):148-51.

Akhondzadeh, S., H. Fallah-Pour, K. Afkham, et al. 2004. Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a pilot double-blind randomized trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 4:12.

Moshiri, E., A.A. Basti, A.A. Noorbala, et al. 2006. Crocus sativus L. (petal) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine 13(9-10):607-11.

Noorbala, A.A., S. Akhondzadeh, N. Tahmacebi-Pour, et al. 2005. Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 97(2):281-4.

Hausenblas HA, Saha D, Dubyak PJ, Anton SD (November 2013). “Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials”. Journal of Integrative Medicine 11 (6): 377–83. doi:10.3736/jintegrmed2013056. PMID 24299602.

Lopresti AL, Drummond PD (2014). “Saffron (Crocus sativus) for depression: a systematic review of clinical studies and examination of underlying antidepressant mechanisms of action”. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. doi:10.1002/hup.2434.

[10] Zheng YQ, Liu JX, Wang JN, Xu L. Effects of crocin on reperfusion-induced oxidative/nitrative injury to cerebral microvessels after global cerebral ischemia. Brain Res. 2007 Mar 23;1138:86-94.

Hosseinzadeh H, Sadeghnia HR, Ghaeni FA, Motamedshariaty VS, Mohajeri SA. Effects of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and its active constituent, crocin, on recognition and spatial memory after chronic cerebral hypoperfusion in rats. Phytother Res. 2012 Mar;26(3):381-6.

[11] Akhondzadeh S, Shafiee Sabet M, Harirchian MH, et al. A 22-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Jan;207(4):637-43.

Farokhnia M, Shafiee Sabet M, Iranpour N, et al. Comparing the efficacy and safety of Crocus sativus L. with memantine in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease: a double-blind randomized clinical trial. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2014 Jul;29(4):351-9.

[12] Berger F, Hensel A, Nieber K. Saffron extract and trans-crocetin inhibit glutamatergic synaptic transmission in rat cortical brain slices. Neuroscience. 2011 Apr 28;180:238-47.

[13] Hum Psychopharmacol. 2013 Jan;28(1):54-60

[14] Phytomedicine. 2009 Aug;16(8):690-3


Resources:

Saffron (Crocus sativus) (stigmas)

Satiereal® Saffron (Crocus sativus L.)


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