Saffron and Anti solar and Moisturizing Effects



Every year, more than one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer and about 10,000 dies from malignant melanoma. Most skin cancers occur on the areas that are most frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, and the back of the hands. The harmful effects of solar radiation are caused by the ultraviolet (UV) part of the solar rays, which can be divided into three regions: UVA, from 320 to 400 nm; UVB, from 290 to 320 nm and UVC, from 200 to 290 nm.

Natural substances extracted from plants have recently been considered as potential sunscreen resources because of their ultraviolet absorption in the UV region and their antioxidant activity.

Saffron (Crocus sativus) is the dried stigmas of a flower scientifically identified as Crocus sativus L. Saffron is a perennial stemless herb widely cultivated in Iran and some other countries such as India, Spain, and Greece. The vivid crimson stigmas and styles, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food.
Pharmacological studies have been revealed that saffron extracts or its constituents have antitumor and hypo-lipidemic effects as well as radical scavenging properties.  Anti-nociceptive, anti-inflammatory (anti-convulsant, and antidepressant effects have also been reported in animals and humans.
There is strong evidence that the DNA-damaging ultraviolet radiation induces the accumulation of UV-absorbing flavonoids and other phenolics in the dermal tissues of the plant.
In this study, because of the advantages of Saffron besides having many aromatic and flavonoid compounds such as kaempferol and Crocetin C20H24O4, the possibility of using it as a UV radiation absorbent in sunscreen products was evaluated.
Another effect of a sunscreen product should be producing a moisturizing effect. The chronometers have gained worldwide acceptance as an efficient instrument to measure the water content in stratum corneum. It can show the dryness of the skin and the effects of treatment.


For this experiment, we made two different lotions to examine the saffron effect as a sunscreen.
First, one is called reference homosalate lotion as the standard sunscreen and the second one is oil/water emulsion of saffron.
Homosalate lotion
The homosalate lotion reference containing 8% homosalate presented an SPF value of 4-5, determined by UV spectrophotometry the values for the term “EE × I” are constants, which were determined by Sayre et al. (1979)

 Saffron lotion

The pollen of Crocus sativus was collected from Ghaen in Khorasan province in the eastern part of Iran (This province is the main producer of saffron in the world). The pollens of the saffron were dried at room temperature and powdered in a grinder. Lotions containing 2, 4 and 8% of saffron were prepared by the same formulation and procedure of homosalate lotion reference except that homosalate was prepared by saffron.
Results of experiments:
In this study, three concentrations of saffron lotions were evaluated by UV spectrophotometry using the Mansur mathematical equation.
This study showed that there were no significant differences in the SPF values of 4% saffron lotion and 8% homosalate lotion reference. However, the SPF of 8% saffron lotion was significantly higher than 8% homosalate lotion reference (P < 0.05). These results show that in equal concentration, saffron can act as a better antisolar agent compared to homosalate.
The lotions containing 8% saffron and the lotion base without saffron were used in our experiments and the water contents were measured using corneumeter CM 825.


The decrease in intensity of the UV radiation reaching the skin by sunscreens may reduce the risk of sun-induced skin cancer. The efficacy of sunscreen is usually expressed by the sun protection factor which is defined as the UV energy required to produce a minimal erythema response after 16-24 h of exposure on protected skin, divided by the UV energy required to produce the same degree of erythema on unprotected skin after the same time.
In this study, the homosalate lotion reference and the lotions containing 2, 4 and 8 % saffron were prepared. The SPF values of the formulations were determined by an in vitro method according to Mansur et al.This study indicated that there was no significant difference in the SPF values of 4% saffron lotion and 8% homosalate lotion reference. However, the SPF of 8% saffron lotion was significantly higher than that of homosalate
Lotion reference. These results showed that in equal concentrations saffron (Crocus sativus) can act better than homosalate as an antisolar agent.
In this study for the determination of the SPF we used the method which was developed by Mansur et al. in 1986. Regarding sun-care experiments, it is also a safety issue, since only positive in vitro responses will direct the future of the in vivo tests. The proposed UV spectrophotometric method is simple, rapid, uses low-cost reagents and can be used for in vitro determination of SPF values in many cosmetic formulations. It can be performed both during the production process, on the final product.

In recent years, natural compounds or bioactive products have gained considerable attention as UV protective agents due to the presumably safe utilization, ecological issues, and minimum side effects besides their antioxidant activity. Saffron extracts such as crocin and crocetin, due to containing a wide range of phenolic acids, flavonoids, and high molecular weight polyphenols, usually cover the full range of UV wavelengths
Saffron has been shown to be a source of bioactive compounds with cytotoxic, antitumoral, chemopreventive, antimutagenic and immuno-stimulating properties. Abdullaev and Espinosa-Aguirre discussed the experimental in vitro and in vivo investigations focused on the anticancer activity of saffron and its principal ingredients. It was suggested that saffron (Crocus sativus), which contains a high carotenoid concentration, may be a source for antitumor agents.
From the results obtained in this study, the high SPF value of Saffron’s lotions may be related to the presence of many aromatic and flavonoid compounds such as kaempherol, Crocetin C20H24O4 in Crocus sativus. In addition, this photo protective effect may be due to the phenolic components such as tannic, gallic, caffeic, cinnamic, chlorogenic, ferulic and vanillic acids in saffron. Caffeic acid, and with a greater degree, ferulic acid proved effective in protecting human skin from UVB-induced erythema. Ferulic acid, shown to be a strong UV absorber, is used as a photoprotective agent in a number of skin lotions and sunscreens. These components exist in saffron extracts. (One approach to protecting human skin against the harmful effects of UV irradiation is to use antioxidants as photo protectives. These flavonoids and phenolic components in saffron, also having anti-tumor and anti-oxidant activities), proposed saffron as a natural sunscreen, which is also indicated from the results of this study. Phenolics may be beneficial in preventing UV induced oxygen free radical generation and lipid peroxidation, i.e. events involved in pathological states such as photoaging and skin cancer. Phenolics, particularly polyphenols exhibit a wide variety of beneficial biological activities as well as anti-carcinogenic actions. They are considered as powerful antioxidants. Crocetin C20H24O4 in Saffron is a promising flavonoid that possesses the highest antioxidant activity among flavonoids. Topical formulations containing Crocetin successfully inhibit UVB-induced skin damage in mice. This component can also contribute to the UV protective effects of saffron. Another flavonoid, silymarin, isolated from the seeds of Silybum marianum, also shows protection (Golmohammadzadeh Sh, Jaafari MR and Hosseinzadeh H / IJPR (2010)) against sunburn, DNA damage, nonmelanoma skin cancer, and immunosuppression. Many flavonoids such as Quercetin, luteolin, and catechins are better antioxidants than nu¬trients vitamin C, vitamin E, and β-carotene.


 The results of this study indicated that saffron (Crocus sativus) and its extracts can be used as a natural UV-absorbing agent. The 4% concentration of saffron produced on SPF value equivalent to 8% homosalate lotion reference sunscreen by an in vitro method. There was no significant difference between the skin moisture contents after the application of the saffron lotions or the control lotion without saffron.

Retrieved from an article: Does Saffron Have Antisolar and Moisturizing Effects?
(Shiva Golmohammadzadeh, Mahmoud Reza Jaafariand, Hossein Hosseinzadeh)
(Nanotechnology Research Center, Biotechnology Research Center, Pharmaceutical Research Center and School of Pharmacy, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences)

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