For centuries Saffron (Crocus Sativus) has been believed to contain medicinal if not magical properties, and has been used across Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe to treat ailments. Today's science has backed up medicinal claims in clinical trials showing the proven effectiveness of saffron in treating numerous conditions including anti-depression, anti-inflammation, anti-convulsion, as well as anti-tumor treatment. We have chosen to focus on scientific study specifically relating to skin and hair care
Saffron is rich in minerals and vitamins which include Vitamin A, Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin, Vitamin B3 – Niacin, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Selenium, Zinc, Carotenoids and Crocin, all active constituents of delivering positive health benefits to skin and hair.
The Persians used saffron in their traditional treatments to lighten skin tone, reduce dark circles below the eyes, and tackle light pigments, in addition to combatting acne1. It is also believed that the Crocin in Saffron acts as an activator for DNA excision repair enzymes(2).
Two clinical trials on the utilization of saffron as a antipruritic and complexion promoter for the skin, both confirmed that saffron was more efficient than the placebo(3), as stated in Clinical Applications of Saffron (Crocus Sativus) and its Constituents: A Review. These trials also provide reasons to believe that saffron assists to provide protection against UV rays from the sun. In the study conducted, a cream which contained 4% saffron extracts appeared to have a similar UV protection factor (SPF) to that of an 8% homosalate solution, with saffron outperforming the latter(4). Futhermore, the methanolic extract of Crocus Sativus which includes Safranal, reportedly possesses radical scavenging activity, suggesting its use as a cosmetic to treat age related disorders.
The evaluation of saffron's moisturizing effect in a cream was conducted with a formulation of 3% saffron extract. The cream was applied for 2 months on the skin with evaluations conducted weekly. In comparison to the base containing no saffron extract, the increase in skin moisture and the fluctuation in trans-epidermal water loss was significantly in favor of the saffron formulation.
The shining and depigmentation effect of saffron is probably attributed to the high levels of Crocin and Crocetin which serve as an antioxidant. The extracted carotenoids from saffron as an antioxidant prevent many common diseases by taming harmful molecules known as free radicals. According to a study, a cream formulation that contains saffron has significant depigmentation and antierythema effects on human skin, apparently reducing melanin and erythema levels in the skin.
The promotion of a fairer complexion from saffron has also been studied by Fehrat (2004), who reviewed the application of saffron by aqueous ethanol in cosmetics and sun protection formulation(10). It was reported that the stigmas of the flower have significant tyrosinase inhibitory activity(11), limiting the rate of the enzyme that controls the production of melanin.
Last but not least, in terms of safety Saffron has been used as a food additive for centuries which supports its safety for most of the population and in general can be taken orally up to 30mg per day chronically, whereas higher doses can bring adverse effects.
1. Abdullaev F. Biological properties and medicinal use of saffron (Crocus sativus L.). Acta Hort (ISHS) 2007; 739: 339-345
2. Konoshima T, Takasaki M, Tokuda H et al. Crocin and crocetin derivatives inhibit skin tumour
promotion in mice. Phytother Res 1998; 12: 400-404
3. Moshiri M, Vahabzadeh M, Hosseinzadeh H. Clinical Applications of Saffron (Crocus sativus) and its Constituents: A Review.
4. Golmohammadzadeh S, Jaafari MR, Hosseinzadeh H. Does Saffron have antisolar and moisturizing effects?. IJPR 2010; 9: 133-140
5. Vijaya Bhargava K. Medicinal Uses and Pharmacological Properties of Crocus Sativus Linn (Saffron)
6. Akhtar N, Khan HM, Ashraf S, Mohammad IS, Saqib NU, Bashir K. Moisturizing effect of stable
cream containing Crocussativus extracts. Pak J Pharm Sci 2014; 27:1881?1884.
7. Vyas LK, Tapar KK, Nema RK. Study of Crocus sativus as complexion promoter in skin care. IJPCR
2010; 2: 76-79
8. H, Fekrat. The Application of Crocin and Saffron Ethanol – Extractable Components in Formulation of Health Care and Beauty Products
9. Naveed Akhtar1 , Haji Muhammad Shoaib Khan1 , Shoaib Ashraf1 , Imran Shair Mohammad2 * and
Atif Ali3 Original Research Article Skin Depigmentation Activity of Crocus sativus Extract Cream
10. Sumathy Babitha†, Jeong Hyun Shin*, and Eun Ki Kim*. Potential Skin Whitening Agents of Natural Origin from South Asian Region '
11. C. Y. Li and T. S. Wu. Constituents of the stigmas of Crocus sativus and their tyrosinase inhibitory
activity, J. Nat. Prod., 65(10), 1452 (2002).
12. – Examine.com Supplements/Saffron