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Greek Saffron

Saffron (Crocus sativus), derived from the Arabic word yellow, represents the high concentration of carotenoid pigments in the spots of saffron flowers [1].

 It is a perennial spicy herb, also known as Red Gold in countries, where it is produced, such as India and Greece. It comes from the dried spots of the Crocus sativus flower, which explains why it is the most expensive spice, as it costs about $ 8 per gram. It takes about 175 flowers for one gram of Crocus. The name Crocus comes from Greek mythology [17]. Crocus was a friend of the god Hermes. One day, while the two friends were throwing a record, Hermes hit Krokos on the head and fatally injured him. As Crocus died, three drops of blood from his head fell on the center of a flower, making the three spots on the flower that bore his name.

The yellowish color of saffron is due to its carotenoid compounds such as crocin and crocetin [21]. Crocus has been used in folk medicine and Ayurveda as a sedative, expectorant, and as an adaptive herb to stress. In the 16th-19th centuries, saffron was used in various opioid preparations to relieve pain. Crocus is known for its antioxidant [1], anti-inflammatory [2], digestive [3] and cardioprotective properties [4].

Crocus contains more than 150 volatile compounds, with three of them being responsible for its pharmacological effects: crocin, crocetin, saffron and picrocrocin [5]. Crocin and crocetin are responsible for the golden yellow hue of saffron, picrocrocin is responsible for the bitter taste and saffron is responsible for the characteristic aroma of saffron [12]. Carotenoids have been shown to interact with GABA receptors and positively regulate serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels [6-8].

Saffron consumption can be an aid in weight loss

Crocus can also be extremely helpful in weight management, as it can reduce the tendency for snacks and therefore help in weight loss. After eight weeks, women who consumed saffron lost significantly more weight than women who did not take saffron [20].

Saffron consumption can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression

Saffron supplementation through a clinical trial showed that consuming Crocus twice a day for twelve weeks led to a reduction in anxiety symptoms and an improvement in depression [9,10]. Greater improvements in separation anxiety, social phobia, and depression were reported in an eight-week study in adolescents aged 12-16 years who received saffron crocus twice daily [11].

Administration of saffron improves cognitive function

Similarly, the administration of saffron at sixteen weeks has led to improved cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's, as saffron may inhibit the accumulation and deposition of amyloid β in the brain and may therefore be useful in the management of Alzheimer's disease. [18,19].

1. Rahaiee S, et al. Evaluation of antioxidant activities of bioactive compounds and various extracts obtained from saffron (Crocus sativus L.): a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Apr;52(4):1881-8

2. Poma A, et al. Anti-inflammatory properties of drugs from saffron crocus. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2012;11(1):37-51

3. Khorasany AR, Hosseinzadeh H. Therapeutic effects of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in digestive disorders: a review. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2016 May;19(5):455-69.

4. Hatziagapiou K, Lambrou GI. The protective role of crocus sativus L. (saffron) against ischemia- reperfusion injury, hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis: nature opposing cardiovascular ciseases. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2018;14(4):272-89.

5. Melnyk JP, et al. Chemical and biological properties of the world’s most expensive spice: saffron. Food Res Int. 2010 Oct 1;43(8):1981-9.

6. Marañón JA, et al. GABA receptors mediates the activity of safranal from IRIDAFRAN saffron extract. Int Soc Nutraceutical Func Foods Conference. 2012.

7. Mazidi M, et al. A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in the treatment of anxiety and depression. J Complement Integr Med. 2016 Jun 1;13(2):195-9.

8. Talaei A, et al. Crocin, the main active saffron constituent, as an adjunctive treatment in major depressive disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pilot clinical trial. J Affect Disord. 2015 Mar 15; 174:51-6.

9. Moshiri E, et al. Crocus sativus L. (petal) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2006 Nov;13(9-10):607-11.

10. Mazidi M, et al. A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in the treatment of anxiety and depression. J Complement Integr Med. 2016 Jun 1;13(2):195-9.

11. Lopresti AL, et al. Affron®, a standardised extract from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) for the treatment of youth anxiety and depressive symptoms: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord. 2018 May; 232:349-57.

12. Alavizadeh S.H., Hosseinzadeh H., (2014) ‘’Bioactivity assessment and toxicity of crocin: a comprehensive review’’. Food Chemical Toxicology. 64: 65-80

13. Stargrove MB, et al., eds. Herb, nutrient, and drug interactions: clinical implications and therapeutic strategies. St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2007.

14. Modabbernia A, Sohrabi H, Nasehi AA, Raisi F, Saroukhani S, Jamshidi A, Tabrizi M, Ashrafi M, Akhondzadeh S. Effect of saffron on fluoxetine-induced sexual impairment in men: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Oct;223(4):381-8.Epub 2012 May 3. PMID: 22552758.

15. Kashani L, Raisi F, Saroukhani S, Sohrabi H, Modabbernia A, Nasehi AA, Jamshidi A, Ashrafi M, Mansouri P, Ghaeli P, Akhondzadeh S. Saffron for treatment of fluoxetine-induced sexual dysfunction in women: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2013 Jan;28(1):54-60.

16. Schmidt M, Betti G, Hensel A. Saffron in phytotherapy: Pharmacology and clinical uses. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2007;157:315–9.

17. Kakisis JD. Saffron: From Greek mythology to contemporary anti-atherosclerotic medicine. Atherosclerosis. 2018 Jan;268:193-195.  Epub 2017 Nov 24. PMID: 29198557.

18. Moshiri M, Vahabzadeh M, Hosseinzadeh H. Clinical applications of saffron (Crocus sativus) and its constituents: a review. Drug Res (Stuttg) 2015;65(6):287-295.

19. Akhondzadeh S, Sabet MS, Harirchian MH, et al. Saffron in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a 16-week, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Pharm Ther 2010;35(5):581-588.

20. Gout B, Bourges C, Paineau-Dubreuil S. Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women. Nutr Res 2010;30(5):305-313

21. Gohari AR, Saeidnia S, Mahmoodabadi MK. An overview on saffron, phytochemicals, and medicinal properties. Pharmacogn Rev. 2013;7:61–6.