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Saffron (Crocus sativus)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • 1,3-cyclohexadiene-1-carboxaldehyde, 2,2,2-trimethyl-2-cyclohexene-1,4-dione (4-oxoisophorone), 2,4,4-trimethyl-3-carboxaldehyde-5-hydroxy-2,5-cyclohexadien-1-one, 2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexane-1,4-dione, 2(3H)-furanone, 2(5H)-furanone, 4,5,6,7-tetrahydro-7,7-dimethyl-5-oxo-3H-isobenzofuranone, 4-hydroxy-2,6,6-trimethyl-1-cyclohexene-1-carboxaldehyde (HTCC), African saffron, American saffron, beta-cyclocitral, beta-ionone, bitter-crocin, caffeic acid, cake saffron, carotenoids, chlorogenic acid, cinnamic acid, cis-crocin-3, cis/trans-crocins, colchicinoids, crocetin, crocetin digentiobiose ester, crocin, crocin-1, crocin-2, crocin-3, crocin-4, crocus, Crocus albiflorus, Crocus antalyensis, Colchicum brachyphyllum, Cro s 2 profilin, Crocus cancellatus, Crocus goulimyi, Crocus kotschyanus, Crocus napolitanus, Crocus pallasii subsp. haussknechtii, Crocus sativus L. (Iridaceae), Crocus sativus lectin (CSL), Crocus sativus Linnaeus, Crocus sativus var. cartwrightianus, Crocus speciosus, Crocus vernus, Crocus vernus Hill (Iridaceae), Crocus vernus ssp. vernus, crocusatins, deglycosylated picrocrocin (safranal), dimethylcrocetin, dimethyl-crocetin, ferulic acid, gallic acid, glucosyl esters of crocetin, Greek saffron, hay saffron, HTCC-diglycosil-kaempferol trans-crocin-4, hydroxy-beta-ionone, Iranian saffron, Iridaceae (family), isophorone, Jordanian meadow saffron, Kashmiri saffron, linoleic acid, meadow saffron, monoterpenes, nonadecanol, phenolic acids, picrocrocein, picrocrocin, red Greek saffron, safflower tea, saffron crocus, saffron tea, safranal, tannic acid, trans-crocetin di-(beta-D-gentibiosyl) ester, trans-crocetin (beta-D-glucosyl)-(beta-D-gentibiosyl), trans-crocetin di-(beta-D-glucosyl) ester, trans-crocin-2, trans-crocin-3, trans-crocin 4, vanillic acid, zaaferan, zafaran (Arabic), zang hong hua.
  • Note: Saffron (Crocus sativus) should not be confused with meadow saffron, also known as autumn crocus (Colchicumautumnale L.), which is a poisonous plant. Saffron grown in America or Africa has been referred to as American saffron and African saffron, respectively, which is a misnomer as Carthamus tinctorius is the real American saffron and Lyperia crocea, Ecklon, is the real African saffron. Saffron should also not be confused with prairie crocus (Anemone patens).

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • The dried stigma of Crocus sativus L., known as saffron, has a long history of use as a spice, medicine, and coloring agent. The corm size of the saffron plant is a key limiting factor for its stigma harvest (1), making saffron the world's most expensive spice (2;3). It has been estimated that 225,000 hand-picked stigmas or 75,000 blossoms are required to make a single pound of saffron (4). Due to the labor-intensive harvest process involved, and the resulting variation in quality and grades of final products, the average retail price of saffron can range from $50 to $300 per ounce.
  • 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 study.
  • 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.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.