Saffron

Scientific Name/Common Name: Crocus sativus / Saffron

Part(s) Used: Dried stigmas

Constituents/Active Ingredients: approximately 0.4-1.4% essential oil; yellow flavonoids derived from the diterpene, crocetin; bitter substances including: picrocrocin and safranal (the compound that imparts the characteristic aroma of saffron; beta carotene; gamma-carotene; cineole; crocose. The stigmas also contain: 8.5-16% water; 6-13% fixed oil; oleanolic-acid derivaties; oleic acid; 4.3-4.8% fiber; 12.6-13.6% protein; 12-13% starch; lauric acid; lycopene; manganese; 2.2-2.4% nitrogen; thiamin; xanthophylls; and zeaxanthin.

Overview: Saffron, the dried stigmas of Crocus sativus, is a popular spice used around the world and also used traditionally as a medicine. Saffron is used in folk medicine for various purposes. Saffron is a component of the gastrointestinal remedy, Swedish Bitters, and is listed in the German Commission E Monographs as a sedative to calm the nerves and as a spasmolytic for alleviating cramps. The stigmas contain high concentrations of colorful antioxidant flavonoids, largely carotenoids including a water-soluble yellow pigment called crocetin. Some studies show that saffron’s crocin content helps to improve ocular blood flow and retinal function. Crocin was found to significantly increase blood flow in the retina and facilitate retinal recovery. Increased blood flow due to vasodilation presumably improves oxygenation and nutrient supply of retinal structures and could be useful for treating ischemic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Saffron has also been investigated for its benefits in mood disorders like depression as well as supporting cognitive health.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: For digestive complaints, cramps; as an antioxidant.

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Croci stigma – Saffron (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 167-169.

Xuan B, Zhou YH, Li N, Min ZD, Chiou GC. 1999. Effects of crocin analogs on ocular blood flow and retinal function. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 1999 Apr; 15(2): 143-52.

Shahmansouri N, et al.. A randomized, double-blind, clinical trial comparing the efficacy and safety of Crocus sativus L. with fluoxetine for improving mild to moderate depression in post percutaneous coronary intervention patients. J Affect Disord. 2014 Feb;155:216-22.

Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.