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Saffron

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Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the Crocus sativus, a species of genus Crocus in the family Iridaceae. A Crocus sativus flower bears three stigmas, each the distal end of a carpel. Saffron is native to Southwest Asia. The domesticated saffron crocus (C. sativus) is an autumn-flowering perennial plant.
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Botanical Names
Crocus sativus
Indian Names
Sanskrit : Keshara, Kunkuma, Aruna, Asra, Asrika Hindi : Kesar Marathi : Kesar Bengali : Jafran Gujarati : Keshar Kannada : Kumnkuma kesari
Chemical Constituents
The saffron stigma has a distinct and unique color, flavor and smell and some of the groups of chemical compounds responsible for this. Saffron contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds. It also has many nonvolatile active components many of which are carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α- and β-carotenes (1). A principal coloring pigment which imparts it color is crocin. The main aroma factor in saffron is safranal and the special bitter flavor is the glycoside picrocrocin. The α-crocin is a carotenoid pigment that may comprise more than 10% of dry saffron's mass. The two esterified gentiobioses make α-crocin ideal for colouring water-based foods. The flavouring property of saffron is due to the bitter glycoside picrocrocin chemically it is 4-(β- D- glucopyranosyloxy)- 2, 6, 6-trimethylcyclohex- 1- ene- 1- carboxaldehude. Safranal is less bitter than picrocrocin and may comprise up to 70% of dry saffron's volatile fraction in some samples. It gives saffron much of its distinctive aroma .
Pesticide Limits
A limit for pesticide is one of the major issues in standardization of medicinal plants and products in view of the worldwide widespread use of pesticides in cultivated plants. The presence of pesticides in extracts increase the health risk by many folds. The pesticides can be extremely irritant on skin as well as in the internal organs, it is essential to monitor its concentration as a part of GMP. Various analytical methods for the quantitative determination of pesticides by gas chromatography coupled with mass-spectrophotometer are in use. Konark Research Foundation (KRF), a NABL certified lab is well equipped with the latest technology and instruments and monitors the pesticide limit as part of its GMP.
Chromatographic Profile
From the pharmacopoeial perspective, a better quality control of raw material can be achieved by specifying quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content of the active ingredient or marker substances. A chromatographic finger profile represents qualitative/ quantitative determination of various components present in a complex plant extract, irrespective whether or not their exact identity is known. Thin layer chromatographic technique is the simplest and least expensive method that provides plenty of information on the composition of raw herbs and its preparation. For quantitative analysis of active ingredients or marker substances with simultaneous separation and detection High Pressure liquid chromatography is the best technique. We use the latest model of HPLC for all its analysis.
Limits of Impurities
A test requirement for foreign organic matter would ensure the extent of contamination of extraneous matters such as filth and other parts of botanicals not covered by the definition of the herbal drug. Since sand and soil are predictable contaminants of botanicals, test requirements for ‘total ash’, water soluble ash’, ‘acid soluble ash’, residue on ignition and sulphated ash would be expected to limit such contaminants. Test requirement for heavy metals in botanical raw material are probably more relevant for parts of plants growing under ground than for the aerial parts of the plant. The presence of high levels of minerals interacts with the final product there by affecting its keeping quality.
Microbial Limits
If the raw herbs are to be used directly without boiling in water prior to consumption, restrictive limits on microbial contaminants are required for pathogens such as Salmonella sp. Enterobacter and E. coli which are causative agent for various gastrointestinal diseases. A lower level of yeasts and molds and a limit on total aerobes are considered appropriate in plant material for topical use. The presence of aflatoxins detected by chemical means is generally independent of the number of viable molds that are detected using microbiological methods. Aflatoxins in microgram quantity are capable of giving serious hypersensitivity reactions which can be extremely harmful to human health.
Pharmacology
Saffron has been traditionally used as a Bitter, fragrant, stimulent, tonic, stomachic, aphrodisiac, anodyne, antispasmodic, diauretic, anticancer, and laxative. It is also useful in bronchitis, cephalgia, vomiting, fever, melancholia, hepatomegaly, epilepsy, inflammations, and skin diseases. Saffron and its characteristic components possess anti carcinogenic and anti tumor activities in vivo and in vitro (3). It has been shown that saffron extract and its purified characteristic compounds crocin, safranal, picrocrocin, and s-carotene inhibited different types of tumor cell growth. It was reported that a novel glucoconjugate isolated from corms and callus of saffron possessed cytotoxic activity against different tumor cells. Glucoconjugate from corms of Crocus sativus possessed cytotoxic activity on human tumor cells derived from fibrosarcoma, cervical epithelioid carcinoma, and breast carcinoma. Crocus sativus stigmas and petals extract also shows the anti-inflammatory activities. The anti-inflammatory effects of the extracts may be due to their content of flavonoids, tannins, anthocyanins, alkaloids and saponins. The stigma extracts showed weak to moderate effect against acute inflammation. In chronic inflammation, stigma extracts, as well as petal extract, exerted anti-inflammatory effects .
Health Benefits
Saffron possesses anti inflammatory, anti carcinogenic activities. Saffron stigma and petal extracts exhibited anti-inflammatory effects in chemical pain test. These effects might be due to their content of flavonoids, tannins, anthocyanins, alkaloids, and saponins. Clinical trials have demonstrated that saffron may be of therapeutic benefit in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Crocetin, which is an important ingredient of saffron may be helpful in preventing Parkinsonism (5). Saffron also acts as anticholesterol in nature. It was demonstrated that suppression of LDL oxidation by crocetin contributes to the attenuation of atherosclerosis. The oral administration of the saffron extract increased the life span of Swiss albino mice intraperitoneally transplanted with sarcoma-180 cells, Ehrlich ascites carcinoma and Dalton’s lymphoma ascites tumors. Studies have shown that crocin which is the compound of C. sativus has antioxidant effects and may have cardio protective effect. During the last few years, the anti-tumor properties of crude saffron stigma extracts, both in vitro and in vivo, have also been demonstrated.
Application in Cosmetics
Saffron has vast health benefits. It is not only used to treat many diseases but it is also a very important ingredient in cosmetics. Saffron is often reported to be the royal ingredient for skin care cosmetics all over the world. Facts provide that saffron paste was applied as natural foundation for a richer glow and soft skin. Saffron contains safranal possess antibacterial activity which was used in traditional medicine to treat skin disorders (7, 8). The extracted carotenoids from saffron as an antioxidant prevent many common diseases by scavenging harmful molecules known as free radicals. Saffron has anti oxidant, anti microbial, and anti inflammatory properties. It scavenges free radicals and protects the skin from oxidation reactions. It improves skin texture and whitens the darker skin. Free radical scavenging activity is involved in aging processes thus it gives the youthful complexion and keeps wrinkles at bay. It soothes the skin. Thus saffron can be used in formulation of cosmetics, skin cares and sun protection products. Medicines containing saffron are also used to treat acne. A paste of the spice can be used as a dressing for bruises and superficial sores.
Research References
1. Ehsan K., Ehsan O., Rudi H. and Jaafar H. Z. Evaluation of Crocus sativus L. Stigma Phenolic and Flavonoid Compounds and Its Antioxidant Activity Molecules 2010, 15: 6244-6256 2. KATARIYA D. C., NERKAR N., GADIYA R. V. and ABHYANKAR M. M. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences DETAILED PROFILE OF CROCUS SATIVUS 2011 2(1) 3. Escribano J., Alonso G. L., Coca-Prados M., Fernandez J. A. Crocin, safranal and picrocrocin from saffron (Crocus sativus L.) inhibit the growth of human cancer cells in vitro.Cancer Lett. 1996 100(1-2):23-30. 4. MEMNUNE S., HILAL Y., NEVA G., BULENT C., ZEYNEP E. AND SEZAI E. TOTAL PHENOLIC CONTENT, ANTIOXIDANT AND ANTIMICROBIAL ACTIVITIES OF SOME MEDICINAL PLANTS Pak. J. Pharm. Sci., 2009 22(1):102-106 5. Akhondzadeh S., Sabet M. S., Harirchian M. H., Togha M., Cheraghmakani H., Razeghi S., Hejazi S. S., Yousefi M. H., Alimardani R., Jamshidi A., Zare F., Moradi A. 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. 6. Gulumser A., Nazime M. D., Mehmet E. Duru and Ibrahim K. Phenolic profiles antimicrobial and antioxidant activity of the various extracts of Crocus species in Anatolia African Journal of Microbiology Research 2010 4 (11):1154-1161 7. Srivastava R., Ahmed H., Dixit R. K., Dharamveer, Saraf S. A. Crocus sativus L.: A comprehensive review 2010 4(8): 200-208 8. Mahboobeb N. Mehrangiz K. K. Mohammed R. Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori Growth invitro by saffron (Crocus sativus) Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences 2008 11(2):91-96.