Saffron and its anticancer effects

Cancer is known as the most feared illness and a major cause of death around the world. Cancer has many consequences includes family and society hardships. Cancer leads to death in developing and low-income countries more than developed countries because of increasing the risk factors, demographic changes, environment pollution, uncontrolled infections, unhealthy lifestyles, aging, etc. The proportion of some types of cancers such as breast, cervix and ovary is common in women, while the lung, prostate, stomach and esophagus cancers are common cancers among men. Based on the cancer occurrence results there is an upward trend among the scientists and pharmacologists to find a very strong diagnostic and treatment solution.
There are some treatments for this kind of diseases such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy but they show various side effects and they also are not successful enough; that’s why scientists do investigation and researches to find a substance instead of the existing treatments. There are many herbal medicines and plants with minimum side effects such as cumin, turmeric, ginger, basil and saffron that showed anticancer and antitumor preventive potential activity. There are also many spices that are healthy and can be used for medicinal purposes. Among them, the dried stigma of Crocus Sativus plant which is known as Saffron is the most interesting spice for scientists. It has been used as a traditional medicine by Iranian, Indian, Arabian and Chinese nations to cure many diseases. Saffron showed many activities including antioxidant, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive, antitussive, anti-solar, etc. The dried stigma of saffron as the most expensive spice of the world contains 150 components; the chemical analysis demonstrated three main constituents of saffron are Crocin, Crocetin and Safranal that make the saffron more useful in medicinal and pharmaceutical industries, too. These carotenoids are responsible for the color, taste and aroma of this precious spice, respectively. Since they have demonstrated anticancer and antioxidant activity, they can prevent the cell growth of different cancers such as liver, leukemia, colorectal, pancreatic, skin, lung, breast, cervical cancer, etc.
Many types of research have been done on animal models; the analysis of saffron extract effect on various cells demonstrated that saffron can be signified as a safe medicinal herb for cancer therapy.

Saffron anti-carcinogenic effects:
Since various cancer therapies have not been succeeded, scientists try to find an alternative treating option. The knowledge of traditional medicine from around the world has been investigated again. Researchers concluded that some of the raw materials need more surveys such as saffron which is the dried stigma of Crocus Sativus plant and is famous for its color, aroma and taste in culinary, food and beverage, medicinal and other industries.
Naturopathic treatment is used as supplementary or protective care to help in treating various cancers. This type of treatment has many advantages include decreasing the side effects of radiotherapy, whet the appetite, increasing sleep quality, assist the body to relief the cells and tissues which has been occurred because of the chemotherapy and radiation. The occurrence of cancer can be reduced by some natural edible plants, fruits, vegetables, etc.

Lung cancer
Saffron has been used as a food additive and traditional medicine for treating various disorders such as vomiting, bronchitis, cold, fever, spasm, cardiovascular disorders and cancers. One of the most important characteristics of aqueous extract of saffron is its anti-proliferative activity of saffron that could help to prevent the cancer cell growth. Non-small cell and small cell are two types of lung cancer. In one study it has reported that crocetin demonstrated anticancer activity in lung tissues.

Liver cancer:
Scientists tried to investigate the saffron components effects on liver cancer. The results showed that one of the main applications of saffron as an anticancer substance is its effect on inhibition of cancer cell growth; in one of the researches, it is provided a considerable effect against cancer cell proliferation. An anti-proliferative effect of saffron is because of one of its main components Crocin which is responsible for the saffron color. It is proved that Crocetin showed an action against the ROS.

Breast cancer:
Saffron and one of its main components Crocetin have demonstrated impelling apoptosis on breast cancer cells. The extract of dried saffron stigma and its main constituent Crocin was investigated on cancer cells. The results showed that these components have a preventive role in cancer cells’ growth while do not have any effect on normal cells. It should be mentioned that there are many factors that might be effective on the anticancer action of Crocin and one of them is hormonal factors that influence the effect of Crocin on breast cancer.

Skin cancer:
The researchers investigated that increasing the level of vitamin A and carotene can impress the antitumor and anticancer effects of saffron. It is suggested that the antioxidant of saffron stigma can affect the cancer cells. Crocetin administration postpones the initiation of skin tumors and reduces the tumor constitution. Crocetin also exhibits that it can affect the span life of different animals that experimented in the laboratory with different tumor size, but its anticancer effects has not been proved, yet.

The anticancer effect of saffron is related to one of its main constituent which is called Crocin. Crocin is responsible for the color of saffron. In many types of research saffron anti-carcinogenic effect has been investigated and it is proved that Crocin is the most effective anticancer components of saffron. A mixture of saffron extract and cysteine considerably prevent the effects of cisplatin, it also can be used as a pre-treatment of this type of disorder. Crocin is known as an anticancer constituent of saffron extract because of its preventive activity on cancer cell growth.

Pancreatic Cancer:
Crocetin as one of the major constituents of saffron has a significant role and influence in inhibition the growth of tumors and the prevention of proliferation in pancreatic cancer cells.

There is an upturned tendency and comprehensive attention to natural substances such as fruits, vegetables, spices, etc. Because of their properties and constituents, they can be used as a component in medicines. Many types of research and scientists try to prove that there is a positive correlation between using more saffron in a daily diet with a lower risk of being faced by different types of cancers.
To know the exact mechanism of saffron as an anticancer substance, more investigation needs to be done. The bioactive of saffron which makes it useful for medicinal purposes belong to its carotenoids. Carotenoids demonstrate antioxidant activities which is proper for immune response of the body, cell growth regulation and they also useful in cancer therapy and cancer inhibition. Some of these carotenoids are b-carotene, a-carotene, zeaxanthin or canthaxantine. There are many more phytochemicals in saffron which are used as a substance in pharmaceutical industry and include carbohydrates, musilage, vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, proteins, carotene, amino acids, lycopene, starch, gums and anthocianin; among them there are four main constituents that are medicinally bioactive and more important than the others; these pigments include Crocin, Crocetin, Picrocrocin and Safranal.
In this study the anticancer activity of saffron and its constituents has been investigated. Most of these activities are related to its carotenoids antioxidant properties. However, its effects have not proved totally, yet. More investigations and clinical trials need to be done on human.

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