How Saffron has remerged from the tranquil of history and has found space in mainstream medical research: A detailed Review
Health sciences and pharmaceutical/neutraceutical industries have renewed their interest in medicinal and aromatic plants. From the production of the plant to the formulation of the final product, several industries and various processes are involved. According to a study published in “Frontiers in Pharmacology” in 2014, “The use of herbal medicinal products and supplements has increased tremendously over the past three decades with not less than 80% of people worldwide relying on them for some part of primary healthcare.”
The Saffron plant and its stigmas (picked from the flowers and dried) are concealed in expensiveness and ignorance. Ancient civilizations used to treat 90 different diseases with Saffron and its derivatives.
Drying & Storage
- Once stigmas are separated from the flowers, it is very important to dry them, otherwise they can rapidly decompose due to moulding.
- Traditionally dried and uncontaminated stigmas do not yield a good quality determined by their coloring potential and taste checks. Modern drying methods not only preserve taste and efficacy but also ensure coloring power of the saffron.
- Carotenoids are responsible for the intense color that saffron produces.
- The main carotenoid of saffron is Crocin. There are numerous Crocins in saffron.
- High quality saffron may contain 23% to 35% Crocins by weight.
• Picrocrocin is the substance responsible for the bitter taste of saffron.
• Good quality saffron may contain up to 26% Picrocrocin.
Valle García-Rodríguez M, Serrano-Díaz J, Tarantilis PA, López-Córcoles H, Carmona M, Alonso GL
J Agric Food Chem. 2014 Aug 13; 62(32):8068-74.
The Composition Aroma/Perfume
Scientists have identified more than 40 compounds in saffron that contribute to its rich aroma.
Safranal is the major component as it represents more than 65% of the total aroma components of the plant.
Chemical structures of crocetin (A), picrocrocin (B) and safranal (C).Official Journal of European Communities. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal- content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ:C:2000:173:TOC
Historical Uses of Saffron
Saffron was a well known medicinal plant in the ancient cultures and has remained among the world’s most expensive substances throughout the history. Different nations used saffron for different purposes. Although the three major purposes remained somewhat constant for over 3000 years:
Additionally, the medicinal use of saffron has a very rich history. It has had the largest number of application among all medicinal plants.
Medicinal Uses of Saffron in History
- The therapeutic properties of saffron were well known for more than 3000 years. Assyrians and Babylonians (2ndmillennium BC) used saffron in treatment of dyspnea, problems of head and painful urination
- Paintings found on the island of Santorini, dated 1627 BC illustrate the medicinal applications of the plant.
- For centuries, people used extracts and tinctures of saffron in traditional medicine as:
- Muscle Relaxant
- Gastro-protective Agent
- Menstruation Regulator
- Abortive Agent
Due to its wide range of applications as a medicinal plant, Pliny the Elder declared it a kind of panacea in his Naturae Historiarum. Some of the common diseases treated by saffron extracts and tinctures are listed below:
- Genital diseases
- Menstrual Disturbances
- Eye diseases
- Wounds & burns
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Age-related Macular Degeneration
- Joint pains
- Loss of libido
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Secondary Nerve Damage due to Diabetes
The Truth behind Saffron Hegemony
Scientific studies in the last three decades revealed very strong therapeutic effects of saffron on almost all major body systems establishing the scientific evidence for the broader range of diseases it can treat. It has shown strong activity in central & the peripheral nervous systems, on the cardiovascular system (CVS), on liver function (LF), and cancer cells.
The reason for the extensive research projects examining saffron primarily stems from the great public health problems it can potentially treat.
|CNS/ PNS||CVS||LF||Cancer Cell|
|Memory & Larning||Endothelial control||Hepato- Protective||Reduces cancers:|
|Cerebral Ischemia||Anticontractile properties||Pancreatic|
|CNS Tumours||Atherosclerosis||Bladder Cancer|
|Macular Degeneration||Hyper- cholesteremia||Breast|
|Antidepressa nt and Anxiolytic Effects||Skin Cancers|
• Anti-inflammatory • Anticonvulsant
• Gastric mucosa protective
A 2004 review had shown that saffron was used to treat up to 90 different diseases and disorders in ancient times and therefore, it is not strange that science has proven several of these to be true.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26775976 Therapy with saffron and the goddess at Thera. Ferrence SC1, Bendersky G.
How saffron can change our brain and mind ?
Saffron is proven to be effective in psychiatric disorders including depression and anxiety.
Daily administration of 30 mg of saffron could be useful in the management of depression when compared with Imipramine, Citalopram or Fluoxetine.
“A trial of 66 patients with anxiety-depressive disorder compared treatment with saffron (30 mg/day) or citalopram (40 mg/day) for 6 weeks. Here was no significant difference between the use of saffron and the drug and proposed saffron to be a potentially effective and tolerable treatment for this disorder”.Crocus sativus L. versus Citalopram in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Anxious Distress: A Double-Blind, Controlled Clinical Trial. Ghajar A, Neishabouri SM, Velayati N, Jahangard L, Matinnia N, Haghighi M, Ghaleiha A, Afarideh M, Salimi S, Meysamie A, Akhondzadeh S Pharmacopsychiatry. 2017 Jul; 50(4):152-160.
How Viva Works in Depression & Anxiety?
Neurons communicate with each other using an array of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters; Changes in neurotransmitter levels and uptake have been found in conditions such as stress and depression. Crocin acts by inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters, while safranal inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, leading to an increase in their levels in the synaptic space and reducing depressive symptoms.
Chronic stress can affect learning and memory. Viva can prevent brain damage caused by oxidative stress and therefore, prevent the impairment of learning and memory.
In a one month study published in 2017, researchers investigated the efficacy of affron® for improving mood, stress, anxiety and sleep quality in healthy adults. The results showed a significant decrease in negative mood and symptoms related to stress and anxiety at a 28mg/d dose. The authors concluded that Affron® increased mood, reduced anxiety and managed stress without side effects and can be a natural alternative to antidepressant drugs.Effects of saffron extract and its constituent crocin on learning behaviour and long-term potentiation. Abe K, Saito H Phytother Res. 2000 May; 14(3):149-52. Bioactivity assessment and toxicity of crocin: a comprehensive review. Alavizadeh SH, Hosseinzadeh H Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Feb; 64():65-80 Kell G, Rao A, Beccaria G, et al. affron® a novel saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.) improves mood in healthy adults over 4 weeks in a double-blind, parallel, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med 2017;33:58-64.
- Research into the effects of saffron and its components establish suitable doses and its safety.
- The new generation saffron extracts like Affron have been designed to provide optimum dose for general wellbeing.
- A proprietary high-tech process eliminates microbiological contamination and improves the profile of bioactive components of saffron in Affron.
- Traditionally extracts of saffron have been used in the treatment of diseases with no toxic side effects.
- To a daily maximum dose of 1.5 grams there has not been any risk documented.
- Lethal dose is 20 grams.
- 30 mg/day is the best dose for CNS related disorders like depression & anxiety.
“Nothing is adulterated as much as saffron”. Pliny wrote in his encyclopedic, Naturalis Historia 2000 years ago, which became an editorial model for encyclopedias. Theophrastus (371-287 BC) mentioned saffron in his works.
A kilogram of saffron costs more than $2000 in the USA. The high cost is one of the reason for predominant adulteration.
The harvesting and processing work is done manually and thus contributes to high cost of the spice.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3887317/
Viva contains proprietary Saffron extract (Affron) 28 mg
With Vitamin C 12 mg, Niacin 2.4 mg, Folate 32 mcg, Vitamin B12 0.38 mcg, Biotin 7.5 mcg, Pantothenic Acid
0.9 mg and Iodine 22.5 mcg. Other ingredients include Beta cyclodextrin, microcrystalline cellulose, tricalcium phosphate, magnesium salts of fatty acids.