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Chemical and biological properties of the world’s most expensive spice: Saffron

03 May 2017

John P. Melnyk, Sunan Wang, Massimo F. Marcone

Saffron (Crocus sativus, L.) is traditionally used as a coloring or flavoring agent, but recent research has shown its potential to promote health. The constituents of interest include crocin, crocetin, picrocrocin, and safranal which have all demonstrated health promoting properties. Previous studies have found that biological activity of saffron constituents alleviate or prevent such health problems as gastric disorders, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, depression, premenstrual syndrome, insomnia, and anxiety. Saffron also shows promise in the prevention and maintenance of cancer due to its antioxidant properties. The present review article highlights the constituents that are important in the treatment of each disorder as well as the mechanisms. Many of the studies were conducted using purified forms of the constituents or completed on animal subjects. The need for human subjects using saffron in its natural form is evident to determine the possible health benefits of dietary saffron.

Saffron; Crocus sativus; Crocin; Crocetin; Picrocrocin; Safranal; Antioxidant; Health; Spice

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