What is the most effective constituent of Saffron?

Crocin saffron
Introduction:
Crocus Sativus is from an iridaceae family flower and is one of the most expensive spices in the world; Saffron plants in many countries including Iran, Spain, Switzerland, India, etc. it is used for medicinal purposes and has therapeutics role in treatment of various diseases from ancient time. Saffron cultivation and using this plant in different fields go back to many years ago (about 3000 years). It is obtained from the stigma of Crocus Sativus flower. This plant is small and perennial and grows 10 to 30 cm high. Saffron can be used as a spice, color, herbal medicine, chemical substance, etc. in various cases.
Saffron stigma contains different chemical components which make it useful for different purposes; such as Crocin, Crocetin, anthocyanin, lycopene and carotene, thus they can have different medicinal and pharmaceutical effects on treating various diseases.
The chemical constituents of saffron contains sugars, protein, moisture, crude fiber, minerals, fat which are about 63, 12, 10, 5, 5, 5 percent, respectively. There are more than 150 volatile compounds in saffron stigmas among which, three active and major constituents are more important and well known. The color, aroma and bitter taste of saffron are caused by Crocin, Safranal and Picrocrocin, as the most significant ingredients, respectively.

What is Crocin?
Among different constituents of saffron, Crocin is the most important component because it has shown biological activities. Crocin is the extraction of some parts of two plants in the world; Gardenia Jasminoides and Crocus Sativus L (the scientific name of saffron).
As mentioned above, Crocin (Crocetin di-gentiobiose ester) is known as a chemical compound extracted from two plants in the world; the stigmas of Crocus Sativus L. and the fruits of Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides Ellis). It has so many properties that make it more effective for different purposes including antioxidant, anti-proliferative, brain neurodegenerative disorder, learning and memory enhancer, biosurfactant, sperm cryoconservation and Alzheimer disorder. In many studies Crocin is showed no side effect, so it is safe as a phytotherapeutical drug. Not only Crocin can be used in therapeutic purposes, but also it is useful for nutritional applications.
Crocin saffron is the main three constituents of saffron stigma (the red part) and is responsible for the color of it. Crocin has a potential chemical response to light as one of the main constituents of saffron stigmas and is a water soluble carotenoid. Crocin commercially obtained from the dried stigma of saffron and belongs to a group of natural carotenoids. It can be in a powder form, has a deep red color and is water soluble; when it mix with water it becomes yellow to orange.

Crocin Saffron as a color:
Since, saffron has a deep red color; it can be used as a color agent from ancient time till now. These days’ researches demonstrated that the saffron constituents are more than 150 compounds. Mixtures of different substances are in the saffron stigma which among them Crocin, Safranal and picrocrocin are the most important components of this plant and they are accountable for color, aroma and taste of it, respectively. Crocin is one of the main ingredients which is responsible for the coloring matter of saffron stigmas. This compound can be used as a dye or colorant in the food, beverage, etc.

Pharmacological activities of  Saffron
Nowadays, most of people tend to use alternative herbal medicines instead of chemical products for treatment of their diseases; because they are safe and have fewer side effects. Among various medicinal herbs, saffron and its important role on treating and preventing different diseases is known and documented. The role of saffron constituents including Crocin and Crocetin have been proved in the treatment of different disorders in the body and its medicinal properties and main constituents have been studied in various researches for many years. These activities includes anti-Alzheimer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitussive, anti-ischemic, anticonvulsive, antidote, anti-genotoxic, anti-nociceptive effects; using saffron cures numerous diseases and also protects the body organs against Parkinson, diabetes, cardiovascular, cancer, tumor, depression and atherosclerosis; It has aphrodisiac effects, too. Some of the studies investigated and the results is shown here: The modern pharmacological uses of saffron investigated and the findings compared with the traditional applications of it; it demonstrated that scientific research can confirm the traditional uses of saffron.


The extraction of Crocin from saffron stigmas:
Crocin saffron can be extracted by different methods. In a research, crystallization process had been used and Crocin crystals acquire less purity.
Many researches have been done to analyze saffron and different methods used including TLC, HPLC, GC-MS, UV-Visible spectrophotometry.


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