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Traditional and Modern Uses of Saffron (Crocus Sativus)

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The Aromatic and Medicinal Plants sector has undergone a remarkable evolution, especially during the last decade. The global market is moving more and more towards products of natural origin. Indeed, of the 4200-existing plant in Morocco, 800 are listed as aromatic and medicinal plants. Among these plants, saffron is a source of income for many areas of Morocco. Saffron, the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus flower, is considered among the main terroir products of Morocco. Saffron has accompanied all civilizations, whether for its culinary role, for its quality of dye or its ancestral virtues rooted in folk medicine. This review highlights the main components of saffron, and the pharmacological activities that result from it and make this product a serious therapeutic hope. Then, a classification of uses of saffron was carried out according to its uses, traditional, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and perfumery without forgetting its use a spice incorporated in many dishes around the world.
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Cosmetics 2019, 6, 63; doi:10.3390/cosmetics6040063 www.mdpi.com/journal/cosmetics
Review
Traditional and Modern Uses of Saffron
(Crocus Sativus)
Ibtissam Mzabri *, Mohamed Addi and Abdelbasset Berrichi
Laboratory of Biology of Plants and Microorganisms, Faculty of Sciences, B.P. 717, Oujda 60000, Morocco;
m.addi@ump.ac.ma (M.A.); abdel20759@yahoo.fr (A.B.)
* Correspondence: i.mzabri@ump.ac.ma; Tel.: +212-619-2729-99
Received: 2 October 2019; Accepted: 21 October 2019; Published: 25 October 2019
Abstract: The Aromatic and Medicinal Plants sector has undergone a remarkable evolution,
especially during the last decade. The global market is moving more and more towards products of
natural origin. Indeed, of the 4200-existing plant in Morocco, 800 are listed as aromatic and
medicinal plants. Among these plants, saffron is a source of income for many areas of Morocco.
Saffron, the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus flower, is considered among the main terroir products
of Morocco. Saffron has accompanied all civilizations, whether for its culinary role, for its quality of
dye or its ancestral virtues rooted in folk medicine. This review highlights the main components of
saffron, and the pharmacological activities that result from it and make this product a serious
therapeutic hope. Then, a classification of uses of saffron was carried out according to its uses,
traditional, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and perfumery without forgetting its use a spice incorporated
in many dishes around the world.
Keywords: saffron; Crocus sativus; antioxidant; traditional; cosmetic; perfumery
1. Introduction
Saffron is one of the oldest spices, its history going back to the highest antiquity. The earliest
depiction dates from 1600 to 1700 BC and was found on a fresco of Minos Palace in Crete, depicting
figures plucking saffron [1]. Concerning the origin and domestication of saffron: Vavilov indicates
that its origin is the Middle East, while other authors suggest Central Asia or the islands of south-
west Greece [2]. From this primary zone, it would have spread to India, China and Middle East
countries. Found from these latter countries, the Arabs spread saffron throughout the Mediterranean
basin [3], such as in Morocco, where it was most likely introduced by the 9th century [4]. Currently,
the region of Taliouine provides bulbs and saffron, but in the recent years its culture has spread to
new parts of the country: such as Elhaouz, Oulmes, Boulmen, Chefchaouen, and Midelt [5]. In 2015,
the saffron plantation in Morocco was conducted in a surface area of around 1600 ha with an average
yield of 3.5 t, making Morocco the fourth largest saffron producer in the world [6]. The conduct of its
cultivation differs from one zone to another according to the climatic and edaphic conditions, and
cultural techniques. Its water needs are relatively average (400 to 600 mm/year). The economic impact
of saffron is important because of its high price, as it presents a strong added value. In addition to its
economic importance, its importance is also in the agronomic, environmental and social domain. This
crop mobilizes a large workforce—especially female—during the period of harvesting and pruning
saffron. The production of one kilogram of saffron requires 150,000 to 200,000 flowers and about 400
hours of work. This discussion paper will describe the current understanding of the therapeutic
properties of saffron, their relationship with the various phytochemicals commonly found in this gold
spice, and the other different uses of this spice that give it particular renown, especially in the
cosmetics field, where there are not many published reports documenting the use of this spice.
2. History and Genetic Origin
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Saffron is one of the oldest spices, its history goes back to the highest antiquity. Ancient authors,
such as Homer, Solomon, Pliny or Virgil, mention this flower in their narrative, which was then
considered as divine. The earliest depiction dates from 1600 to 1700 BC and was found on a fresco of
the Minos Palace in Crete, depicting figures plucking saffron [7]. Concerning the origin and
domestication of saffron: Vavilov indicates that its origin is the Middle East (1951), while other
authors suggest Central Asia or the islands of south-west Greece [2]. Negbi [8] proves as well that
Crocus sativus was most likely selected and domesticated in Crete during the Bronze Age. From this
primary zone, it would have spread to India, China and to the countries of the Middle East and it is
from these last countries that the Arabs spread saffron throughout the Mediterranean basin [3], as in
Morocco, where it was most likely introduced in the 9th century [9].
At the genetic level, information on the saffron ancestors is not so unambiguous: Classical
botanical studies based on the morphological aspect suggested that C. cartwrightianus could be the
closest kin of C. sativus. C. cartwrightianus has also been used as a source of wild saffron. C. sativus
and C. cartwrightianus are morphologically nearly identical, the size being the largest difference: C.
sativus flowers are twice as large as those of C. cartwrightianus [10]. RADP analysis (random
amplification of polymorphic DNA) carried out by Caiola et al. [11] to search for putative ancestors
of C. sativus showed that C. cartwrightianus is the closest related species to C. sativus, followed by C.
thomasii. AFLP analysis (amplified DNA fragment length polymorphisms) confirmed that the
quantitative and qualitative DNA traits of both C.cartwrightianus and C. thomasii species are
compatible with those of C. sativus [12].
2. Botanical Description
The saffron plant belongs to the Iridaceae family. This herbaceous perennial plant (Figure 1A)
reaches 10 to 25 cm in height developing from its bulbs. The bulb, of sub-ovoid shape, is of variable
size and forms. It has a massive structure and is covered by many concentric spathes. Each mother
bu lb prod uces f rom api cal bu ds o ne to th ree large daughter bulbs and several small bulbs from lateral
buds [12]. Saffron has two types of roots: fibrous and thin roots at the base of the mother bulb, and
contractile roots formed at the base of the lateral buds [13] (Figure 1B). The leaves vary from five to
11 per bud (Figure 1C). They are very narrow and measure between 1.5 and 2.5 mm of dark green
color. They measure 20 to 60 cm in length with a whitish band in the inner part and a rib on the
outside.
The flowers of Crocus sativus begin to appear at the beginning of autumn, towards the end of
September of purple color composed of six tepals, three are internal, whereas the three others are
external, which meet at the long tube that arises from the upper part of the ovary (Figure 1C). At their
appearance, the flowers are protected by whitish membranous bracts. The pistil is composed of an
inferior ovary from which a thin style, 9 to 10 cm long, arises. The style ends with a single stigma
composed of three filaments of intense red color whose length exceeds that of the tepals, which are
the part of the plant interesting for the man from the point of view of culture [14].
Figure 1. Crocus sativus plant morphology: (A) saffron plant; (B) types of roots in saffron; (C) saffron
leaves; (D) saffron flower.
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3. Main Phytochemical Components of Saffron
Chemical analysis of C. sativus stigmas has shown the presence of about 150 volatile and non-
volatile compounds. Fewer than 50 constituents, however, have been identified so far [15]. The three
main biologically active compounds are (Figure 2):
1) Crocin, a carotenoid pigment responsible for the yellow-orange color of the spice;
2) Picrocrocin, bringing saffron flavor and bitter taste;
3) Safranal, a volatile compound responsible for the aroma and smell so specific to saffron.
Figure 2. The three main biologically active compounds of saffron.
Crocin (C
44
H
64
O
24
) is a rare carotenoid in nature, easily soluble in water. In comparison with
other carotenoids, crocin has a wider application as a dye in foods and medicines, mainly because of
its high solubility. Picrocrocin (C
16
H
26
O
7
) is the main factor influencing the bitter taste of saffron,
which can be crystallized by hydrolysis [16]. Safranal (C
10
H
14
O), responsible for the aroma (it accounts
for 70% of the volatile fraction), has little or no presence in fresh stigmas, its concentration depends
on the conditions of drying and preservation of saffron [17].
In addition to crocin and picrocrocin, the major compounds in saffron are anthocyanins,
flavonoids (such as kaempferol) but it is also rich in vitamins, amino acids, proteins, starch, mineral
matter and gums [15]. It also has many non-volatile active components, many of which are
carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α- and β-carotenes. The volatiles, which
have a very strong odor, are consistent of more than 34 components, which are mainly terpenes,
terpene alcohols, and their esters [18].
The quality of saffron depends on the concentration of these three main metabolites providing
the unique color and flavor of stigmas. Their contents depend on the environment and cultural
practices [19]. The chemical composition of saffron samples from many countries indicates that the
reported values strongly depend on the methods used for drying, extraction and stigma analysis
[20,21]. Many methods of analyzing saffron components have been described [22]. The quality of
saffron is thus regulated by ISO 3632 standards, aimed at standardizing the classification of saffron
worldwide; these are updated every three years.
4. Cosmetology and Perfumery Uses of Saffron
More recently, saffron has attracted a renewed interest for its use in cosmetics. Since ancient
times, saffron is used for cosmetic purposes, absorbed in infusion or even in the cutaneous
application, mixed with fat or macerated in donkey milk, for its eternal youthful properties. Cleopatra
used it in her beauty products. In traditional Iranian medicine, saffron can improve the complexion
and can be used to treat erysipelas. In traditional Greek medicine, it can refresh the skin of the face
and is used to relieve the liver of the domination of bile and to treat acne, skin diseases and wounds.
In addition, the body may look younger and brighter [23,24]. In another category, Hindu women
used saffron to make the bindi, the yellow dot on the forehead. It is, in a way, a third eye symbolizing
good fortune and conscience [25]. Nowadays, saffron tepals have been studied in several studies as
being rich in crocin and kaempferol, thus representing an important source of bioactive compounds
for potential cosmetic formulations [26–27]. Beside the antioxidant properties, saffron presents
multiple interests for cosmetic applications. The most promising activities are listed hereafter.
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4.1. Anti-UV Agent
Prolonged exposure to the sun is extremely harmful because it puts the skin in contact with UV
rays, known to cause serious lesions. Saffron is known to have anti-sun effects that can protect the
skin from harmful UV rays. Studies show that saffron lotion may be a better sunscreen than
homosalate (an organic compound used in some sunscreens). Thus, saffron can be used as a natural
UV absorbing agent [28–29]. In addition to the antisolar and moisturizing properties of saffron, the
prevention of skin cancers by saffron because of its antioxidant properties is important as well [30,31].
4.2. Redness of Dark Spots
Saffron is known to reduce the pigment called melanin. Thus, it is very effective as a lightening
agent for the skin. The formulation containing C. sativus extract caused significant depigmentation
and anti-rhythmic effect on human skin [32]. Melanocytes produce melanin in skin as a mixture of
two pigments eumelanin and phaeomelanin, which are (brown black) and (red yellow) respectively
[33]. Melanogenesis is accomplished by a series of oxidative reactions controlled by various enzymes.
Tyrosinase is the main catalyst for this phenomenon [34]. Antioxidant activity is mainly exhibited by
monoterpenoids, crocin, quercetin, kaempferol, and by other phenolic components of C. sativus. The
mode of action of these compounds to reduce skin melanin is by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase
[35].
4.3. Anti-Aging Effect and Diseases of the Skin
In traditional herbal cosmetics uses, saffron can be soaked with a few basil leaves to treat
blemishes such as acne. A mixture of soaked saffron strands and virgin coconut oil, or olive oil, and
a bit of raw milk is an effective way to exfoliate and improve blood circulation face skin. Saffron is
known to reduce a skin condition called erythema, characterized by inflammation, redness or rash.
Saffron is rich in antioxidants expected to inhibit the expression of markers of inflammation such as
tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin. An application of the formulation containing 3% C.
sativus extract to human skin may be useful in the management of melanoma. Similar effects have
been reported by Moshiri et al. who found that clinical trials on the anti-pruritic and skin-promoting
effects on saffron's effects on skin care both confirmed that saffron was more effective than placebo
[36].
4.4. Perfumery
Once dried, the spice releases a pleasant aroma described by Aristophanes as a "sensual smell"
(Clouds 51) admired by the Greeks [37]. It is from safranal, which is the main odoriferous compound
of saffron that we obtain the note "saffron". In ancient Greece (around 2000 to 146 BC), saffron was a
royal dye and was used as a perfume in salons, courts, theaters and bathrooms. Later, its use spread
among ordinary people [38,39]. Additionally, during the Parthian Dynasty, they used saffron among
the ingredients of a royal scent, which included a refreshing oil facial for kings and ritual leaders [40].
Today, we find this woody, sweet note and harmonious in the composition of different perfumes
both feminine and masculine, with an original and exotic potential.
4.5. Saffron as Natural Pigments in Cosmetics
Historically, plant pigments such as curcumin, beet anthocyanins, carotenoids from peppers,
chlorophyll from green leaves and saffron, have been used to color food and cosmetics, for centuries.
Nowadays, many commercially used cosmetics are made with the synthetic colorants, which can
cause side effects due to prolonged use. However, the current trend matches towards healthy natural
ingredients incorporated within these cosmetic products. In cosmetics, saffron has been used at low
levels due to its high cost. It has been used as a substitute for turmeric where light exposure would
cause fading of turmeric. It also used as a substitute for tartrazine [41].
5. Pharmacological Study of Saffron
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Since ancient times, plants have been used in every civilization, worldwide, as a source of
traditional medicine. For more than 3000 years, saffron has been considered a panacea, according to
Ayurvedic, Mongolian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek and Arabic medicines. Some therapeutic properties
attributed to saffron are listed below.
5.1. Antidepressant
The use of saffron as an antidepressant has a long tradition, ranging from antiquity to modern
times. Depression is one of the five most prevalent diseases worldwide. It affects about 11.6% of the
world's population [42]. It is predicted that by 2020 this will be the second leading cause of overall
disability. Similar to standard antidepressants, saffron can exert its antidepressant effect by
modulating the level of certain chemicals in the brain, including serotonin. Serotonin, or 5-
hydroxytryptamine, is a mood-elevating neurotransmitter synthesized from tryptophan [43].
Although not appearing as a medicinal herb used traditionally, crocus petals are significantly less
expensive than stigmas, prompting researchers to examine their potential in treating depression.
Thus, a trial comparing the efficacy of petals and stigmas suggests that they are equally effective in
the treatment of mild to moderate depression [44,45].
5.2. Treating Sexual Dysfunction
Saffron, as well as other spices, have always enjoyed a reputation as an aphrodisiac in different
Egyptian, Greek, Roman and other civilizations. Traditionally, Muslims, Phoenicians and Chinese
use saffron as a sexual stimulant [46]. The aphrodisiac activities of the aqueous extract of stigmas of
C. sativus and its constituents, safranal, and crocin, were evaluated. It appears that saffron can,
without risk, effectively combat certain fluoxetine-induced sexual disorders in women such as
excitement, lubrication, or pain [47]. Saffron has shown a positive effect on sexual function with an
increase in the number and duration of erections in patients with erectile dysfunction–even after
treatment for only 10 days [48].
5.3. Antioxidant
Carotenoids, which include crocin and crocetin, play an important role in health by acting as
natural antioxidants. They protect cells and tissues from the detrimental effects of free radicals and
reactive oxygen species (ROS). Crocin is the most studied active ingredient with regard to the
antioxidant properties of saffron. However, it does not act alone—but thanks to work in synergy with
other components such as safranal, dimethylcrocetin and flavonoids [49]. Other studies focused on
the negative effects of oxidative stress on our brain, since it is the organ most exposed to oxidation,
due to the high phospholipid content of neuronal membranes and the existing link with development
of neurodegenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer's disease, whose treatment with saffron can
prevent the aggregation and deposition of amyloid β peptide in the human brain and can, therefore,
be useful in Alzheimer's disease [50].
5.4. Anticarcinogenic
Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Epidemiological evidence indicates that there
is a correlation between a diet rich in antioxidants and a lower incidence of morbidity and mortality.
Among the natural remedies, saffron and its ingredients (especially its carotenoids) have anti-tumor
and anti-carcinogenic activities while not exerting any cytotoxic effect on healthy cells. A wide variety
of natural substances has been identified as having the ability to induce apoptosis in various tumor
cells. Among the many biological properties reported with saffron, those anti-carcinogens are of great
interest and are extensively studied by experiments both in vitro and in vivo [51,52]. Abdullayev et
al. found that naturally occurring saffron extract—in combination with two synthetic compounds—
sodium selenite or sodium arsenite, may have a synergistic effect with saffron and may, therefore,
have an important role in cancer chemo prevention [53]. Likewise, Botsoglou [54] demonstrated that
the inhibitory effects of saffron against different malignant cells was dose dependent as well. Saffron
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pretreatment for five consecutive days prior to the administration of anti-tumor drugs, including
cisplatin, significantly inhibited anti-tumor drug induced cellular DNA damage [55].
5.5. Antispasmodic and Digestive Tonic
Virtues have been attributed to saffron concerning the gastrointestinal and genital system, in
particular, those of stimulating the stomach, reducing appetite, treating hemorrhoids, treating anus
prolapse, limiting intestinal fermentations, helping with the treatment of amenorrhea, or to stimulate
menstruation—and not to mention its abortifacient power [56]. Safranal normalized gastric volume
and pH, reduced the surface of gastric ulcer and produced gastric protection. In addition, it was able
to improve the histological changes induced by indomethacin and the biochemical alterations of
tissues. [57].
5.6. Anti-Inflammatory and Analgesic Effect
There is great interest in natural compounds such as dietary supplements and herbal remedies
used for centuries to reduce pain and inflammation [58]. Extracts and tinctures of saffron have been
used to treat fever, wounds, lower back pain, abscesses, and gingivitis as well as pain related to the
eruption of the first teeth in infants [56]. Aqueous and alcoholic extracts of stigmas and saffron petals
have an antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activity for both acute and chronic pain [59].
5.7. Effect on Cholesterol Levels
Nibbling is one of the dietary habits that are difficult to control, predisposing to weight gain
and, consequently, obesity and subsequent metabolic complications (dyslipidemia, non-insulin-
dependent diabetes, circulatory disorders, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, etc.). It mainly
affects the female population and is frequently associated with stress. Due to the presence of crocetin,
saffron indirectly helps to lower cholesterol levels in the blood and thus the severity of
atherosclerosis, reducing the risk of a heart attack [60]. The hypolipidemic effect of crocin is attributed
to the inhibition of pancreatic lipase, thus limiting the absorption of fats and cholesterol [61]. Previous
studies have concluded that saffron has shown anti-obesity and anorectic effects in obese rat models.
This thanks to its effect on the reduction of caloric intake by blocking the digestion of dietary fats via
the inhibition of pancreatic lipase; the feeling of satiety due to the increased level of neurotransmitters
without forgetting its role in the improvement of glucose and lipid metabolism, [62]. In addition,
crocin has shown a significant decrease in the rate of body weight gain, total fat deposition, and
regulates the weight ratio of body fat to the epididymis [63].
5.8. Effect on Blood Glucose and Insulin Resistance
The use of high-dose crocetin (40 mg/kg) counteracts the development of insulin resistance by
avoiding compensatory hyperinsulinemia; in fact, it limits dyslipidemia by maintaining the values of
free fatty acids, triglycerides and LDL-c (Low Density Lipoprotein) in norms and avoids
hypertension induced by a diet supplemented with fructose [59].
5.9. Healing of Second-Degree Burns
A study that aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of saffron extract cream in the treatment of
heat-induced burns compared its results with those of silver sulfadiazine (SSD) in rats. The wound
size of the saffron group was significantly smaller than that of the other groups. A histological
comparison showed that saffron significantly increased the re-epithelialization of burn wounds
compared with other treatments [64].
5.10. Effects on the Eyes
Saffron has been used traditionally by different nations for various eye diseases such as corneal
disease, sore eyes, cataracts and purulent eye infection [65,66]. The kohl pencil was used in Egyptian
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antiquity. It is still used today to make eyes black. In fact, oriental women used it to protect
themselves from attacks related to the sun, the wind, the sand and possibly ocular infections as well.
Kohl was, in fact, a very fine powder obtained by grinding cloves, rosewood, saffron, and antimony
[62]. Current investigations show that saffron extract can reduce eye diseases such as cataracts [67],
retinal degeneration [68], light-mediated photoreceptor cell death [69], and improves blood
circulation and retinal function [70].
6. Other Uses of Saffron
6.1. Culinary Use
From antiquity to the present day, and all over the world, most of the saffron produced was, and
is still used, in cooking. Its aroma is described by chefs and saffron specialists as resembling honey,
but with metallic notes [71]. Saffron is used in India, Iran, Spain and other countries as a condiment
for rice. In Spanish cuisine, it is used in many dishes such as Paella Valenciana, a specialty made from
rice, and zarzuela, made from fish. Saffron is also used in French bouillabaisse, a spicy fish soup,
Italian Milanese risotto and saffron cake. Iranians use saffron in their national dish—chelow kabab.
Indian cuisine uses saffron in its biryanis, traditional dishes made from rice. It is also used in some
candies such as gulabjaman and kulfi [72]. In Morocco, saffron is used in tea instead of mint, but also
as a spice in the preparation of various traditional dishes including koftas (meatballs and tomatoes)
or mrouzia (a sweet-salty dish made from mutton or dill). Saffron is also a central ingredient in the
blend of chermoula herbs that perfume many Moroccan dishes [73].
6.2. Coloring Power
The harmful effect of synthetic food dyes has led to their banning in some countries and the
return to natural dyes. The use of saffron as much as an alternative dye is advantageous in the field
of agro-food thanks to the high solubility of crocine in water [74]. Thus, the powerful dyeing power
of saf fron— whi ch coul d also be u sed in cos met ic—ha s be en use d fo r a l ong ti me t o colo r bu tter, past a,
cheeses, and oleomargarines. The golden yellow color of saffron is used in painting, textiles. The
saffron solutions remain largely stable in alkaline and acidic medium. This property is due to crocin
pKa (acid dissociation constant), dicarboxylic acids, esters, and nitrogen compounds. Saffron buffers
solutions reduce the oxidation of cellulose. Saffron continues to dye the clothes of Buddhist monks,
silk, wool, and Oriental carpets. Natural dyes have better biodegradability and compatibility with
the environment, lower toxicity and less allergenic than some of the synthetic dyes.
7. Safety and Toxicity Considerations
Saffron is used as a food additive for several centuries. The intraperitoneal LD 50 (Lethal Dose,
50%) values of the stigma and saffron petal are 1.6 and 6 g/kg, respectively, in mice [75]. Nevertheless,
it is not toxic when administered orally with an LD 50 greater than 5 g/kg. Although ingestion of less
than 1.5 g of saffron is not toxic to humans, it is considered toxic when ingested in doses greater than
5 g and can be fatal if it is taken at about 20 g/day. Slight toxicity with saffron causes dizziness, nausea,
vomiting and diarrhea, whereas more severe toxicity may cause numbness, tingling in the hands and
feet and yellowish skin and eyes due to precipitation of yellow pigments on the skin and the
conjunctiva. Spontaneous bleeding can also be a symptom [76].
8. Conclusion
Saffron is the most valuable medicinal food product because of its importance in the sustainable
development of the production areas of this spice. In this context, the traditional production of saffron
in Morocco has many strengths and undeniable comparative advantages favoring its commercial
development and its insertion into the networks of organic farming, fair trade and solidarity tourism.
The dried stigmas of the plant Crocus sativus (Iridaceae) are used in saffron as a well-known spice
that has other significance in the pharmaceutical industries, textile dyes, and especially cosmetics;
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nowadays, the latter is ubiquitous and based on the incorporation of healthy and natural ingredients.
Recently, information on the pharmacological activity of this plant has given it a prominent place in
the Codex, where several pharmaceutical preparations were containing the famous stigmas. More
recently, saffron has attracted a renewal interest for its use in cosmetic. Beside the well described and
widespread antioxidant properties, saffron presents multiple interests for cosmetic applications such
as anti-solar, anti-pigmentation and anti-aging activities, and could also be used as a pigment or in
perfumes. However, its delicate cultivation, its low yield linked to mainly manual picking and
pruning, and the numerous falsifications of which it is the victim, generate a reduced use not
accessible to any consumer because of an excessive price.
Author Contributions: conceptualization, I.M. and M.A.; I.M.; writing—original draft preparation, M.A.;
writing—review and editing, A.B.; supervision,
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest
Funding: This research received no external funding
Acknowledgments: We thank Dr. C. Hano for his support to this work.
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... Some authors indicate that saffron originated in the Middle East, while other authors mention Central Asia or the islands of southwestern Greece. 8 From this region, its use spread to India, China, and the Middle Eastern countries. Among the latter countries, the Arabic region is credited with the saffron distribution throughout the Mediterranean basin, including Morocco. ...
... It was established as a high-value secondary crop in the Old World from India to Britain. [8][9][10] Countries with traditional cultivation are Azerbaijan, France, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Spain, China, Israel, Japan, and Mexico. At present, the cultivation range has expanded and includes many regions around the world (section 2.2) 1.7 Plant part and form: The flower is formed by a perianth of six tepals (often erroneously called petals in the scientific literature) which contain anthocyanin pigments. ...
... It is frequently used to add color and flavor to rice dishes: Examples include the paella in Spain, risotto Milanese, a common dish in Italy, the Iranian national dish, chelow kabab, or biryanis, traditional dishes made with rice in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. 8,30 Safranlı zerde is a saffron-containing Turkish rice pudding served as a dessert, while saffron ice cream is popular in Iran, and in India, desserts/sweets such as gulabjaman and kulfi, along with the popular tea known as kahwa are also made with saffron. 30 In Morocco, saffron is used in tea instead of mint. ...
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The goal of this bulletin is to provide timely information on issues of adulteration regarding saffron (Crocus sativus L., Iridaceae) and its extracts to the international herbal industry and extended natural products community in general by presenting data on the occurrence of adulteration, the market situation, and potential consequences for the consumer and the industry.
... Each saffron flower has three stigmas, and produces nearly 5 mg dry weight. Between 150,000 and 200,000 saffron flowers and more than 400 h of labor are required to yield 1 kg of saffron stigmas (Mzabri et al., 2019). ...
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ADDITIONAL INDEX WORDS. controlled environment, Crocus sativus, indoor culture, soilless culture SUMMARY. Hydroponics is a promising method for cultivation of saffron (Crocus sativus). In this study, saffron corms were sprouted using a gradual decrease in air temperature, and they were cultivated hydroponically in either perlite or volcanic rock for 24 weeks. A nutrient solution was supplied using either an ebb-and-flow system or continuous immersion. First blooming was observed 29 days after transplantation. Among flowering traits, only the stigma length was significantly influenced by the type of hydroponic system. Saffron plants displayed better growth parameters, a higher photosynthetic rate and stomatal conductance (g S), as well as daughter corm (cormlet) production under the continuous immersion system, in comparison with the ebb-and-flow system. Small corms (22-25 mm diameter) did not bloom, and the emergence of flowers increased with corm size. Plant growth and photosynthetic parameters, as well as cormlet production, significantly increased with corm size. We obtained the highest stigma yield [number of flowers (1.9), stigma length (39.4 mm), stigma fresh (42.8 mg), and dry weight (5.3 mg)] and cormlet yield [number of cormlets (5.7), average corm diameter (25 mm), and fresh weight (6.4 g)] using mother corms sized $32 mm diameter grown hydroponically in the volcanic rock-based continuous immersion system.
... Various health-promoting properties have been accredited to it and its main metabolites, crocin, crocetin, picrocrocin, and safranal, namely anticancer, anti-Alzheimer's, anti-Parkinson's, improved memory and learning abilities, treatment of anxiety disorders and schizophrenia, anti-nociceptive, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, macular degeneration protection, anticoagulant, skin anti-aging, skin lightening, antisolar, and moisturizing properties [9,13,15,16,19,[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33]. ...
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Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. In addition to its culinary utilization, this spice is used for medicinal purposes such as in pain management. In this study, the analgesic activity of Crocus sativus stigma extract (CSSE) was evaluated in rodents and its possible physiological mechanism was elucidated. The anti-nociceptive effect of CSSE was evaluated using three animal models (hot plate, writhing, and formalin tests). The analgesic pathways involved were assessed using various analgesia-mediating receptors antagonists. The oral administration of CSSE, up to 2000 mg/kg, caused no death or changes in the behavior or in the hematological and biochemical blood parameters of treated animals nor in the histological architecture of the animals' livers and kidneys. CSSE showed a central, dose-dependent, anti-nociceptive effect in response to thermal stimuli; and a peripheral analgesic effect in the test of contortions induced by acetic acid. The dual (central and peripheral) analgesic effect was confirmed by the formalin test. The anti-nociceptive activity of CSSE was totally or partially reversed by the co-administration of receptor antagonists, naloxone, atropine, haloperidol, yohimbine, and glibenclamide. CSSE influenced signal processing, by the modulation of the opioidergic, adrenergic, and muscarinic systems at the peripheral and central levels; and by regulation of the dopaminergic system and control of the opening of the ATP-sensitive K+ channels at the spinal level. The obtained data point to a multimodal mechanism of action for CSSE: An anti-inflammatory effect and a modulation, through different physiological pathways, of the electrical signal generated by the nociceptors. Further clinical trials are required to endorse the potential utilization of Moroccan saffron as a natural painkiller.
... The stem of this plant grows after a short period of corm cultivation and in the next stage, the flower emerges. Generally, after blooming the flower, plant leaves lengthen and surround it [1]. As can be seen in Fig. 1, a quality crocus sativus plant has six purple or violet tepals. ...
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The aim of this study was the preparation of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) using saffron tepal extract (STE), one of the most abundant by-products of the saffron industry, and evaluation of their antimicrobial activity and efficiency in the removal of foodborne pathogenic biofilms. Synthesized AgNPs were characterized by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). According to FE-SEM images, the size of AgNPs was about 20–30 nm with a spherical morphology. XRD spectra revealed some characteristic peaks for AgNPs indicating face-centered cubic lattice and a crystalline structure. FTIR spectra approved functional interactions between saffron secondary metabolites and AgNPs. Microbial strains showed little or no susceptibility to STE, but green synthesized AgNPs showed effective antimicrobial activity against foodborne pathogens. The minimum inhibitory concentration values of AgNPs ranged from 320 to 1280 mg/L which were more effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The highest Zone of inhibition (16 mm) at 2560 mg/L of AgNPs was recorded for Candida albicans. The AgNPs successfully prevented the biofilm formation of investigated pathogens. Bio-preparation of AgNPs from STE proved to have a high potential for antimicrobial applications. Graphical Abstract
... Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a perennial, geophyte plant that flowers in autumn. The flower stigmas are used for medicinal purposes, as a spice in cooking, as a dye in industry, as a perfume, and for cosmetic purposes (Leone et al. 2018;Mzabri et al. 2019;Shokrpour 2019). In addition to saffron stigma, which has antioxidant and antimicrobial virtues due to its apocartenoids and flavonoids, Belyagoubi et al (2021) reports that the remaining parts of the saffron flower are also rich in flavonoids, tannins, and anthocyanins, which can be used as excellent sources of bioactive molecules in agricultural, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. ...
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Improving flower yield through lengthening flowering duration is a primary breeding objective in saffron (Crocus sativus L.). Asexual reproduction in saffron limits biodiversity and conventional breeding. Hence, eliciting flowering-related gene expression by plant growth regulators is one way to achieve this aim. The phytohormones methyl jasmonate (MeJA) and 6-benzyl amino purine (BAP) signals are received by the MADs-box gene family. In this study, to elucidate the role of phytohormones on flower development, plant were treated with BAP (0 and 5 mg L⁻¹), and methyl jasmonate (MeJA) (0, 20, and 100 mM) at three developmental stages of the saffron life cycle. Then, the expression of the SHORT VEGETATIVE PHASE (CsSVP) gene as a MADS-box gene family was assessed in the saffron corm. The activities of antioxidant enzymes, soluble sugar, starch content, and soluble protein content were also measured in corm, leaf, and root tissues. The application of MeJA and BAP treatments resulted in down-regulation of CsSVP expression in the corm during dormancy. At the dormancy stage, catalase, peroxidase activity decreased, and ascorbate peroxidase activity increased following MeJA treatment. In contrast, an increment in catalase and peroxidase activity and reduction of ascorbate peroxidase activity were observed after treatment with MeJA during the flowering stage. This change in enzyme activity is most likely due to flowering, which demands the re-allocation of resources. As flowering is a process heavily influenced by the environment, plants treated with MeJA, which may mimic environmental stress, showed changes in antioxidant enzyme activity. Overall, these results suggested that MeJA and BAP treatments play a significant role in the vegetative-to-reproductive phase change in saffron.
... Also, a positive effect on the redness of the skin is caused by an increased blood flow (known as erythema) in addition to insomnia and anti-atherosclerotic (buildup of fats), which is the result of crocin and crocetin (Huang et al., 2015;Mzabri et al., 2019;Pandita, 2021;Vuolo et al., 2019). ...
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This study investigated the microbial decontamination of saffron using the low- pressure cold plasma (LPCP) technology. Therefore, other quality characteristics of saffron that create the color, taste, and aroma have also been studied. The highest microbial log reduction was observed at 110 W for 30 min. Total viable count (TVC), coliforms, molds, and yeasts log reduction were equal to 3.52, 4.62, 2.38, and 4.12 log CFU (colony-forming units)/g, respectively. The lowest decimal reduction times (D-values) were observed at 110 W, which were 9.01, 3.29, 4.17, and 8.93 min for TVC, coliforms, molds, and yeasts. LPCP treatment caused a significant increase in the product's color parameters (L*, a*, b*, ΔE, chroma, and hue angle). The results indicated that the LPCP darkened the treated stigma's color. Also, it reduced picrocrocin, safranal, and crocin in treated samples compared to the untreated control sample (p < .05). However, after examining these metabolites and comparing them with saffron-related ISO standards, all treated and control samples were good.
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The aim of the present study was to valorize Crocus sativus petals, the main waste deriving from saffron stigma harvesting, as source of bioactive molecules to be used in health field. Three different dry extracts were prepared by eco-friendly methods (maceration and ultrasound bath assisted maceration) using saffron petals as raw material and ethanol 70% either ethanol 96% as extraction solvents. A preliminary evaluation of the antioxidant activity (measured by ABTS*⁺, DPPH* and FRAP) highlighted that the most suitable extraction solvent is represented by ethanol 70%. By in vitro studies on keratinocytes emerged that the extract obtained by maceration (rich in gallic and chlorogenic acids) stimulates their growth in a safe concentration range (0.02-0.4 mg/mL) suggesting a potential application in skin diseases such as superficial wounds. Due to the low manageability, the extract was firstly supported on corn starch powder particles and then formulated as starch gel. The obtained formulation showed both suitable rheological properties and spreadability necessary for an easy and pain free application on damaged skin. Moreover, in vitro microbiological studies of starch gel demonstrated antimicrobial activity toward S. epidermidis and self-preserving capacity.
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The worldwide prevalence of obesity is approximately tripled between 1975 and 2016 according to World Health Organization; therefore, obesity is now considered a global pandemic that needs academic and clinical focus. In search of antiobesity agents, Crocus sativus, known widely as saffron, has been praised for its beneficial effects. Several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been conducted to investigate the weight lowering effect of saffron. Following PRISMA guidelines, several medical databases were comprehensively searched for RCTs with a population consisting of obese individuals. A random‐effects meta‐analysis was used to pool estimates across studies, and standardized mean difference (SMD) was used to synthesize quantitative results. Twenty‐five RCTs met the inclusion criteria. Meta‐analysis showed a nonsignificant decrease for weight (−0.32 kg; CI: −3.15, 2.51; p = 0.82), BMI (−0.06 kg/m2;CI:‐1.04,0.93; p = .91), waist circumference (−1.23 cm; CI: −4.14, 1.68; p = .41), and hip circumference (−0.38 cm; CI: −5.99, 5.23; p = .89) and a significant decrease of waist‐to‐hip ratio (SMD = −0.41; CI: −0.73, −0.09; p = .01; I2 = 0%). The mean difference in fasting blood sugar showed a significant reduction in patients with metabolic syndrome (SMD = −0.30; 95% CI: −0.63, 0.03; p = .07; I2 = 0.37%) but a nonsignificant change in the HbA1C level (WMD = 0.05; 95% CI: 0.32, 0.41; p = .79). Despite bearing several limitations, mainly as a result of heterogeneity among included studies, the available evidence indicates saffron supplementation shows promising effects on some cardiometabolic factors among overweight to obese patients; however, further investigations and high‐quality evidence are required for more generalizable and comprehensive results.
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Saffron, a Crocus sativus L. derivative, has been recognized for its medical benefits since ancient times. Besides being an active flavoring and coloring agent in several food items, saffron has primarily been known for its pharmacological properties. Its major metabolites like crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal have been studied in vivo and in vitro as active pharmaceutical agents for inflammation, depression, microbial infections, and cancer-like diseases. These phytochemicals are well known for targeting the etiology of various diseases, making them an essential plant derivative in modern times. Moreover, research has shown saffron with several toxicological consequences as well. Numerous experimental and clinical studies have been conducted to determine the toxicity and safety of saffron. Saffron extract, safranal, and crocin have little or no acute toxicity. Organ toxicity has been detected at high dosages during sub-acute exposure. The teratogenic effects of saffron and its components have been particularly noted at high concentrations. This review provides a comprehensive outlook on the pharmacological attributes of saffron and its derivatives, besides highlighting their associated toxicity.
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In recent years, growing attention has been given to traditional medicine. In traditional medicine a large number of plants have been used to cure neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other memory related disorders. Crocus sativus (C. sativus), Nigella sativa (N. sativa), Coriandrum sativum (C. sativum), Ferula assafoetida (F. assafoetida), Thymus vulgaris (T. vulgaris), Zataria multiflora (Z. multiflora) and Curcuma longa (C. longa) were used traditionally for dietary, food additive, spice and various medicinal purposes. The Major components of these herbs are carotenoids, monoterpenes and poly phenol compounds which enhanced the neural functions. These medicinal plants increased anti-oxidant, decreased oxidant levels and inhibited acetylcholinesterase activity in the neural system. Furthermore, neuroprotective of plants occur via reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, IL-1β, TNF-α and total nitrite generation. Therefore, the effects of the above mentioned medicinal and their active constituents improved neurodegenerative diseases which indicate their therapeutic potential in disorders associated with neuro-inflammation and neurotransmitter deficiency such as AD and depression.
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Crocins, the red soluble apocarotenoids of saffron, accumulate in the flowers of Crocus species in a developmental and tissue-specific manner. In Crocus sieberi, crocins accumulate in stigmas but also in a distinct yellow tepal sector, which we demonstrate contains chromoplast converted from amyloplasts. Secondary metabolites were analysed by LC-DAD-HRMS, revealing the progressive accumulation of crocetin and crocins in the yellow sector, which were also localized in situ by Raman microspectroscopy. To understand the underlying mechanisms of crocin biosynthesis, we sequenced the C. sieberi tepal transcriptome of two differentially pigmented sectors (yellow and white) at two developmental stages (6 and 8) by Illumina sequencing. A total of 154 million high-quality reads were generated and assembled into 248,099 transcripts. Differentially expressed gene analysis resulted in the identification of several potential candidate genes involved in crocin metabolism and regulation. The results provide a first profile of the molecular events related to the dynamics of crocetin and crocin accumulation during tepal development, and present new information concerning apocarotenoid biosynthesis regulators and their accumulation in Crocus. Further, reveals genes that were previously unknown to affect crocin formation, which could be used to improve crocin accumulation in Crocus plants and the commercial quality of saffron spice.
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Saffron is the dried stigmata of the flowers of saffron (Crocus sativus L., Iridaceae). Saffron has various pharmacological effects and is regarded as a potent drug. Thus research on the biological activities of saffron and its active constituents may have clinical and public health applications. To evaluate the basic and clinical pharmacology of saffron and its active constituents, the English papers in the data bases EMBASE, SCOPUS, MEDLINE, SCIENCE DIRECT, CHEMICAL ABSTRACTS, English and Persian papers in the data base SID and proceedings of the Iranian physiology and pharmacology congresses and Iranian congresses concerning saffron were retrieved by using keywords comprising Crocus sativus, anti-tumor, anti-oxidant, anti-genotoxic, memory, neuroprotective, analgesic, anticonvulsant, opioid dependence, antidepressant, cardiovascular, lipids, respiratory, gastric ulcer, immune system, ocular, antimicrobial and toxicity and their Persian equivalents from 1975 until November 2008. The investigations demonstrate that saffron and its active constituents have anti-tumor, anti-oxidant, anti-genotoxic, memory and learning enhancing, neuroprotective, analgesic and anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, opioid abstinence syndrome alleviating, antidepressant, hypotensive, hypolipidemic, insulin resistance reducing, tissues oxygenation enhancing, bronchodilator, antitussive, gastric ulcer preventive, Immune-stimulator, retina protective and antibacterial effects. In view of the existing deficiencies in the conducted researches, further clinical trials, pharmacokinetic and toxicological studies concerning saffron are recommended.