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Abstract

Herbal medicine can be a valuable source of assistance for traditional medicine. There are a number of herbs that can be used in conjunction with modern medicine. Herbs can also be taken to aid recovery from serious diseases. Although one should never aim to treat diseases such as cardiovascular disease solely with herbal medicine, the value of herbs used in tandem with modern medicine cannot be ignored. Saffron has been reported to help lower cholesterol and keep cholesterol levels healthy. Animal studies have shown saffron to lower cholesterol by as much as 50%. Saffron has antioxidant properties; it is, therefore, helpful in maintaining healthy arteries and blood vessels. Saffron is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial to cardiovascular health. The people of Mediterranean countries, where saffron use is common, have lower than normal incidence of heart diseases. From saffron's cholesterol lowering benefits to its anti inflammatory properties, saffron may be one of the best supplements for cardiac health. This paper reviews the studies regarding the beneficial effects of saffron in cardiovascular health.
The Journal of Tehran University Heart Center59
TEHRAN HEART CENTER
Review Article
Cardiovascular Effects of Saffron: An Evidence-Based
Review
*Corresponding Author: Shahin Akhondzadeh, Professor of Neuroscience, Psychiatric Research Center, Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital, Tehran
University of Medical Sciences, South Kargar Street, Tehran, Iran. 13337. Tel: +98 21 88281866, Fax: +98 21 55419113. E-mail: s.akhond@neda.net.
Maryam Kamalipour, MSc, Shahin Akhondzadeh, PhD, FBPharmacolS*
Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
Abstract
Herbal medicine can be a valuable source of assistance for traditional medicine. There are a number of herbs that can be
used in conjunction with modern medicine. Herbs can also be taken to aid recovery from serious diseases. Although one should
never aim to treat diseases such as cardiovascular disease solely with herbal medicine, the value of herbs used in tandem with
modern medicine cannot be ignored. Saffron has been reported to help lower cholesterol and keep cholesterol levels healthy.
Animal studies have shown saffron to lower cholesterol by as much as 50%. Saffron has antioxidant properties; it is, therefore,
helpful in maintaining healthy arteries and blood vessels. Saffron is also known to have anti-inammatory properties, which
are benecial to cardiovascular health. The people of Mediterranean countries, where saffron use is common, have lower
than normal incidence of heart diseases. From saffron's cholesterol lowering benets to its anti inammatory properties,
saffron may be one of the best supplements for cardiac health. This paper reviews the studies regarding the benecial effects
of saffron in cardiovascular health.
Introduction
The role of alternative medicine in general and
phytotherapy in various diseases in particular has been of
extreme interest to various scientic and non-scientic
communities throughout the world. Phytotherapy is broadly
dened as the use of natural therapeutic agents derived from
plants or crude herbal drugs. Herbal medicine has a long and
respected history and holds a valuable place in the treatment
of cardiovascular diseases as well as the vast majority of
health problems. Utilizing the leaves, owers, stems, berries,
and roots of plants to both prevent and treat illness, herbal
medicine not only helps to alleviate symptoms but also helps
to treat the underlying problem, as well as strengthen the
overall functioning of a particular organ or body system.1, 2
Cardiovascular diseases are now considered a major cause
of mortality not only in the developed world but also in the
developing countries. In the age of genomics, nanotechnology,
and proteomics, cardiovascular diseases continue to remain
a major challenge to therapeutically manage; and the search
for a viable evidence-based alternative continues.
Saffron (Crocis sativus) is a spice derived from the ower
of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a species of crocus in
the family Iridaceae. The ower has three stigmas, which
are the distal ends of the plant’s carpels. Together with its
style, the stalk connecting the stigmas to the rest of the plant,
Keywords: Anti-inammatory agents, non-steriodal • Cardiovascular agents • Lipid regulating agents • Crocus sati
vus
J Teh Univ Heart Ctr 2011;6(2):59-61
This paper should be cited as: Kamalipour M, Akhondzadeh S. Cardiovascular Effects of Saffron: An Evidence-Based Review. J
Teh Univ Heart Ctr 2011;6(2):59-61.
Received 15 January 2011; Accepted 28 March 2011
60
The Journal of Tehran University Heart Center
these components are often dried and used in cooking as a
seasoning and coloring agent. Saffron, which has for decades
been the world’s most expensive spice by weight, is native to
Iran; it was rst cultivated in the Persian Empire.2, 3 Saffron
is characterized by a bitter taste and an iodoform- or hay-
like fragrance; these are caused by the chemicals picrocrocin
and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, which
gives food a rich golden-yellow hue. These traits make
saffron a much-sought ingredient in many foods worldwide.
Saffron also has medicinal applications.3, 4
Saffron tastes bitter and contributes a luminous yellow-
orange coloring to foods. Because of the unusual taste and
coloring it adds to foods, saffron is widely used in Persian,
Arab, Central Asian, European, Indian, Moroccan, and
Cornish cuisines. Confectionaries and liquors also often
include saffron. Medicinally, saffron has a long history as part
of traditional healing; modern medicine has also discovered
saffron as having anticarcinogenic (cancer-suppressing),
anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immuno-modulating,
and antioxidant-like properties. Saffron has also been
used as a fabric dye, particularly in China and India, and
in perfumery.1, 2 Recent studies have shown the benecial
effects of saffron in depression, premenstrual syndrome
(PMS), and Alzheimer’s Disease.3-9
Saffron and Heart Disease Protection
Antioxidants in saffron tea can reduce the risk of
cardiovascular diseases. The avonoids, especially lycopene,
found in saffron can provide added protection. A clinical trial
at the Department of Medicine and Indigenous Drug Research
Center showed positive effects of saffron on cardiovascular
diseases.10 The study involved 20 participants, including
10 with heart diseases. According to the Indian Journal of
Medical Sciences, all the participants showed improved
health, but those with cardiovascular diseases showed more
progress. In addition, saffron has been found to be the richest
source of riboavin.1, 2 Due to the presence of crocetin, it
indirectly helps to reduce cholesterol level in the blood
and severity of atherosclerosis, thus reducing the chances
of heart attacks. It may be one of the prime reasons that in
Spain, where Saffron is consumed liberally, the incidence of
cardiovascular diseases is quite low. The crocetin present in
saffron is found to increase the yield of antibiotics.11 Two
compounds of safranal are supposed to increase antibacterial
and antiviral physiological activity in the body.12
In 2005, Zheng et al. administered crocetin, the natural
carotenoid antioxidant, to rabbits to determine its effect on
the development of atherosclerosis. The authors randomly
assigned New Zealand white rabbits to three different diets
for eight weeks: a standard diet, a high lipid diet (HLD),
or a high lipid + crocetin diet. The HLD group developed
hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis, while the
crocetin-supplemented group decreased the negative health
effects of a high lipid diet.13 The results did not show a
signicant difference in the plasma lipid levels (total, low
density lipoprotein (LDL), and high density lipoprotein
(HDL) cholesterol) between the HLD and crocetin groups
but did show a signicant decrease in the aorta cholesterol
deposits, atheroma, foam cells, and atherosclerotic lesions
in the crocetin-fed group. They suggested that nuclear factor
kappa B (NF-κB) activation in the aortas is suppressed by
antioxidants such as crocetin which in turn decreases the
vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) expression.13
A 2006 study by Sheng and colleagues looked at
an alternative mechanism for crocin’s atherosclerotic
properties.14 Crocin inhibited an increase in serum
triglycerides, total-, LDL-, cholesterol compared to the
control group as seen before; however, the results also
showed a signicant increase in the fecal excretion of fat
and cholesterol in the crocin group (100 mg/kg/day).14
Further studies determined that crocin inhibited pancreatic
and gastric lipase activity, although a potential mechanism
was not offered. Since pancreatic lipase is responsible for fat
absorption by hydrolyzing fat, the inhibition of pancreatic
lipase activity resulted in low lipid absorption. With a lack
of potential pancreatic lipase inhibitors available, crocin
shows promise as a drug for treating hyperlipidemia.14
In conclusion, saffron helps reduce the risk of heart
diseases by strengthening the blood circulatory system. Rich
in minerals like thiamin and riboavin, saffron promotes a
healthy heart and prevents different cardiac problems.
References
1. Schmidt M, Betti G, Hensel A. Saffron in phytotherapy:
pharmacology and clinical uses. Wien Med Wochenschr
2007;157:315-319.
2. Bathaie SZ, Mousavi SZ. New applications and mechanisms of
action of saffron and its important ingredients. Crit Rev Food Sci
Nutr 2010;50:761-786.
3. Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Noorbala AA, Amini H, Fallah-
Pour H, Jamshidi AH, Khani M. Crocus sativus L. in the treatment
of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and
placebo controlled trial. Phytother Res 2005;19:148-151.
4. Noorbala AA, Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Jamshidi AH.
Hydroalcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus uoxetine
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5. Moshiri E, Basti AA, Noorbala AA, Jamshidi AH, Abbasi S,
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TEHRAN HEART CENTER
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Cardiovascular Effects of Saffron: An Evidence-Based Review
... Saffron is commonly utilized in Persian, Arab, Central Asian, European, Indian, Moroccan, and Cornish cuisines because of its unique flavor and color. Saffron is often used in confectioneries and liquors [9]. Several reviews and mini-review studies on the biological activity of saffron and its compounds have been published regarding its pharmacological qualities and potential therapeutic applications. ...
... Several reviews and mini-review studies on the biological activity of saffron and its compounds have been published regarding its pharmacological qualities and potential therapeutic applications. Parallel to this, the potential uses of saffron and its active constituents have prompted an increase in research studies, some of which have yielded some very useful and intriguing results of active saffron ingredients, particularly in the fight against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer disease [9]. In this review, we want to describe and critically evaluate prior and current findings on the biological/pharmacological actions of saffron and its active components, as well as their potential therapeutic applications. ...
... Nonetheless, information obtained from many types of experimental studies contributes to a more complete understanding of how the saffron nutritional matrix may be beneficial. 9 Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity ...
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... Hyperlipidaemia can lead to coronary heart disease (CHD), which increases the morbidity and mortality in developing and developed Review Article | Hypolipidaemic effect of saffron extract in vivo example, the results of an animal study showed that saffron improves malondialdehyde and lipid profile in diabetic rats (7). Other animal studies reported that utilisation of saffron was associated with a 50% reduction in cholesterol levels (8). In addition, as an antioxidant and antiinflammatory substance, saffron is also useful in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system (8). ...
... Other animal studies reported that utilisation of saffron was associated with a 50% reduction in cholesterol levels (8). In addition, as an antioxidant and antiinflammatory substance, saffron is also useful in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system (8). ...
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Depression is a serious disorder in today's society, with estimates of lifetime prevalence as high as 21% of the general population in some developed countries. As a therapeutic plant, saffron is considered excellent for stomach ailments and as an antispasmodic, to help digestion and to increase appetite. It is also used for depression in Persian traditional medicine. Our objective was to assess the efficacy of the stigmas of Crocus sativus (saffron) in the treatment of mild to moderate depression in a 6-week double-blind, placebo-controlled and randomized trial. Forty adult outpatients who met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition for major depression based on the structured clinical interview for DSM IV participated in the trial. Patients had a baseline Hamilton rating scale for depression score of at least 18. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, single-centre and randomized trial, patients were randomly assigned to receive a capsule of saffron 30 mg[sol ]day (BD) (Group 1) or a capsule of placebo (BD) (Group 2) for a 6-week study. At 6 weeks, Crocus sativus produced a significantly better outcome on the Hamilton depression rating scale than the placebo (d.f. = 1, F = 18.89, p < 0.001). There were no significant differences in the two groups in terms of the observed side effects. The results of this study indicate the efficacy of Crocus sativus in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. A large-scale trial is justified. Copyright