What is Crocetin

In the beginning, let's take a look at what actually is Crocetin and in what field it’s been or it can be used:
Crocetin is a natural carotenoid compound found in the stigmas of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and also a kind of fruit called Gardenia jasminoides Ellis. The yellow compound has been used as an expensive spice and natural food colorant in various parts of the world.) In addition, saffron and gardenia fruits have been used as traditional medicine and crocetin is one of the major active compounds of these herbs. Crocetin is an amphiphilic low-molecular-weight carotenoid compound. more research on crocetin indicated that it inhibits tumor promotion, is hepatoprotective, and has neuroprotective potential,( exerts anti-inflammatory effects, and can be effective on cardiac diseases. In recent studies, crocetin showed positive effects on asthenopia and attenuating effects on physical fatigue.  Therefore we can say Antioxidant potential of crocetin can contribute to these pharmacological actions.


Crocetin and cancer

Crocetin is an important carotenoid constituent of saffron, has shown the potential to be used as an anti-tumor agent in animals and cell systems. Crocetin affects the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting nucleic acid synthesis, enhancing the anti-oxidative system, inducing apoptosis and hindering growth factor signaling pathways.

Below you can find the chemical structure of Crocetin: 

Crocetin belongs to the large family of natural dyes known as carotenoids, but it does not have a pro-vitamin function. The constituents of this small molecule compounds are mostly polyunsaturated hydrocarbons (the formula is C40H56) or their oxygenated derivatives.

Crocetin analysis in plasma and brain

 On a study which is been held on US National Institute of Health Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals Blood and brain was collected from rats one and half hour after crocetin administration orally.. the whole brain used to analysis the crocetin distribution (control group: 1.44 ± 0.07 g wet weight, crocetin group; 1.67 ± 0.04 g wet weight) was homogenized in 2.0 ml of alkaline buffer and the homogenate was mixed with 6.0 ml of methanol/chloroform (1:1). The mixture was centrifuged (3,000 rpm, 10 min) and the supernatant was evaporated under nitrogen gas. The residue of plasma or brain was dissolved in 2.0 ml of alkaline buffer and loaded onto a solid-phase extraction cartridge (Oasis HLB Extraction Cartridge, Nihon Waters, Tokyo, Japan) pre-conditioned with methanol (2.0 ml) and alkaline buffer (2.0 ml). The cartridge was washed with water (2.0 ml) and hexane (2.0 ml). The analysis was eluted with methanol (2.0 ml) and the eluate was concentrated to dryness under nitrogen gas. The residue was reconstituted in 200 µl of methanol and filtered with a 0.45-µm Millipore filter for reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis. Crocetin was quantified by the HPLC method s the recovery percentage of crocetin extracted from plasma and brain homogenate was determined to be 99% and 92%, respectively.

Crocetin as an antioxidant

Saffron extracts and its biologically active compounds including crocin, crocetin, carotene, and safranal have been shown both in vivo and in vitro antioxidant property. Many studies showed the Pharmacological and biological effects of saffron especially its alcoholic extracts due to its antioxidant activity. However, the synergistic effect of all the bioactive components gave saffron a significant antioxidant activity the same as vegetables rich in carotenoids. According to the results, it can be concluded that there are various causes for antioxidant activity of saffron including glucose sugars attached to crocetin, polyphenolic compounds and the presence of more double bonds. This increases its therapeutic importance and calls for more studies especially as a promising chemotherapeutic agent in cancer treatment in the future. This finding shows the spice as an excellent candidate for being a functional food.

Crocetin and Diabetes

Crocetin prevented high-fat-diet-induced insulin resistance (increased clamp glucose infusion rate), raised hepatic non-esterified fatty acid uptake and oxidation, accelerated triglyceride clearance in plasma, enhanced lipoprotein lipase activity in liver, and reduced the accumulation of detrimental lipids (DAG and long-chain acyl CoA) in liver and muscle. Genes involved in hepatic lipid metabolism which are regulated by peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-α were modulated to accelerate lipid uptake and oxidation.
Through regulating genes involved in lipid metabolism, crocetin accelerated hepatic uptake and oxidation of non-esterified fatty acid and triglyceride, and reduced lipid availability to muscle, thus decreasing lipid accumulation in muscle and liver and consequently improving sensitivity to insulin.

Atherosclerosis (also known as arteriosclerotic vascular disease or ASVD) is a specific form of arteriosclerosis in which an artery wall thickens as a result of invasion and accumulation of white blood cells (WBCs) (foam cell) and proliferation of intimal-smooth-muscle cell creating a fibrofatty plaque. we confirmed the protective effect of the crocetin in the HCD induced AS rats. We hypothesized that crocetin attenuates the expression and instigation of AS by reducing the p38 MAPK pathway and inflammatory response. We also estimated the crocetin effect on the pathogenesis of the AS rats. Our data confirmed that the crocetin treatment considerably prevented the expansion of AS.
In conclusion, the current investigation claims that the crocetin reduced the AS expression via inhibiting the inflammatory response and oxidative stress connected with the p38 MAPK pathway. The result, in addition, tinted the importance of crocetin in the treatment of different CVS including AS.


Parkinson’s Disease


Crocetin showed neuroprotective effects against the 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHAD) rat model of Parkinson’s disease (PD). It increased the level of antioxidant and the content of dopamine and its metabolites. It seems that crocetin could inhibit neurodegeneration (Ahmad et al., 2005). Pretreatment with saffron (0.01% w/v) could protect dopaminergic cells of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and retina in an acute MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1, 2, 3, 6-tetrahydropyridine) mouse model of PD (Purushothuman et al., 2013)

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