Abstract
Saffron (Crocus sativus, L.) is a culinary spice widely used in Middle Eastern dishes. It has also been used in
traditional Persian medicine to relieve stomachaches, ease the pain of kidney stones, and treat depression.
In traditional Chinese system, saffron was used as an agent to improve blood circulation and cure the bruise.
[4] Some studies suggest that saffron may also have benefits of anticancer and memory-enhancing activities.

Health Benefits of Saffron and Its Extracts
Some studies suggest saffron extracts may have benefits of memory-enhancing, anti-cancer and
anti-oxidative activities. [2] Saffron may be able to against lots of
cancers such as leukemia, ovarian
carcinoma, colon adenocarcinoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, papilloma, squamous cell carcinoma, and soft tissue
sarcoma.  [4] In vitro study, sacrcoma's effect on carcinoma, sarcoma and leukemia cells is dose-dependent.
In a study of rats, saffron delays tumor growth and increase the life span of the animals. It also delays the
onset of papilloma growth and decreases the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma and soft tissue sarcoma.
A study indicates its effect may be related to a significant inhibition of nucleic acid synthesis. It appears that
saffron (dimethyl-crocetin) disrupts the DNA-protein interactions e.g. topoisomerases II, which is important for
cellular DNA synthesis. [5] It is believed that crocetin and / or crocin attribute(s) such activity. Please, note
that these are either animal or in vitro studies, clinical studies are needed to support saffron health benefits.

Research studies about saffron benefits on cancer
A recent study reports that crocetin is an anti-tumor agent in animal models and cell culture systems. It affects
the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting nucleic acid synthesis, enhancing anti-oxidative system, inducing
apoptosis and hindering growth factor signaling pathways. [Gutheil WG et al, Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2011
Apr 5.]

In a study, rats were treated with diethylnitrosamine as to induce liver cancer Administration of saffron at
doses of 75, 150, and 300 mg/kg/day was started 2 weeks prior to the diethylnitrosamine injection and was
continued for 22 weeks. Saffron significantly reduced the number and the incidence of hepatic dyschromatic
nodules. [Amin A et al, Hepatology. 2011 May 23. doi: 10.1002/hep.24433]

Another study demonstrates that crocin induces apoptosis and G1-phase cell cycle arrest of human
pancreatic cancer cell line BxPC-3 cells! The study shows the effect of crocin (cell viability) is dose and time
dependent  [Bakshi H, et  al, Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2010;11(3):675-9.]

Similarly, ethanolic extract of saffron also decreases cell viability in malignant lung cancer cells as a
concentration and time-dependent manner, in another study.  [Samarghandian S et al, Pharmacogn Mag.
2010 Oct;6(24):309-14.]

Crocetin benefits - atherosclerosis
Crocetin is a carotenoid (8,8'-diapo-8,8'-carotenoic acid) with seven double bonds and four methyl groups. It
contributes the most health benefits of saffron. In addition to its effect on cancer cells, crocetin also enhances
the oxygen diffusivity through plasma and other liquids, increases alveolar oxygen transport and enhance
pulmonary oxygenation. In study of hemorrhaged rats, crocetin improves cerebral oxygenation and shows
benefits on the atherosclerosis and arthritis treatment. In other animal studies, crocetin inhibits skin tumor
promotion. [1,3]

Saffron benefits - neurodegenerative Disorders
Saffron extract, crocetin and crocin may have benefits on people suffered from neurodegenerative disorders
accompanying memory impairment. [2,7]

In a study, the effects of a daily, 7-day, intraperitoneal administration of saffron on cognitive functions were
examined in both healthy adult (4 months old) and aged (20 months old), male Balb-c mice (n=8/group), by
passive avoidance test. Results showed that saffron-treated mice exhibited significant improvement in
learning and memory, accompanied by reduced lipid peroxidation products, higher total brain antioxidant
activity and reduced caspase-3 activity in both age groups of mice. [Papandreou MA, et al, Behav Brain Res.
2011 Jun 1;219(2):197-204.]

In studies of mice, saffron extract improved ethanol-induced impairments of learning behaviors and prevented
ethanol-induced inhibition of hippocampal long-term potentiation (related to learning and memory abilities).
Researchers believe that crocin may attribute this effect. [2]

Saffron benefits - major depression
Several human clinical trials provide preliminary positive evidence of antidepressant effects of saffron. [Sarris
J et al, Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2011 May 20]

Saffron extract and crocin benefits - oxidative stress
Rats were injected with saffron extract, crocin or vehicle over a period of 21days while being exposed to
chronic restraint stress (6h/day). After this, they were trained and tested on a water-maze spatial memory
task. Saffron and crocin prevented the impairment of learning and memory as well as the oxidative stress
damage to the hippocampus induced by chronic stress. [Ghadrdoost B, et al, Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 May 18.]

Crocin benefits - high lipid levels
In a study of hyperlipemia rats, crocin decreased cholesterol, triglyceride and density lipoprotein levels, and
increased the content of high density lipoprotein. Researchers believe that crocin prevents atherosclerosis in
hyperlipemia, via inhibition of both proliferation of smooth muscle cells and activation of p38MAPK. [6]

Toxicity and Side effects of Saffron
Saffron has low biochemical toxic effects on animals. [4]

What is saffron use for? Chemotherapy? There are piles of evidence of saffron benefits on
cancers, however, clinical support is needed to verify the claim.


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[1] Giaccio M. Crocetin from saffron: an active component of an ancient spice. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.
2004;44(3):155-72. [2] Abe K, Saito H., Effects of saffron extract and its constituent crocin on learning
behaviour and long-term potentiation. Phytother Res. 2000 May;14(3):149-52. [3] Abdullaev FI,
Espinosa-Aguirre JJ. Biomedical properties of saffron and its potential use in cancer therapy and
chemoprevention trials. Cancer Detect Prev. 2004;28(6):426-32. [4] Deng Y, Guo ZG, Zeng ZL, Wang Z.
Studies on the pharmacological effects of saffron(Crocus sativus L.)--a reviewZhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.
2002 Aug;27(8):565-8. [5] Nair SC et al, Saffron chemoprevention in biology and medicine: a review. Cancer
Biother. 1995 Winter;10(4):257-64. [6] Xu GL et al, Study of the effect of crocin on rat experimental
hyperlipemia and the underlying mechanismsZhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2005 Mar;30(5):369-72. [7]
Hosseinzadeh H, et al, Safranal, a constituent of Crocus sativus (saffron), attenuated cerebral ischemia
induced oxidative damage in rat hippocampus. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2005 Aug 22;8(3):394-9.
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