Therapeutic effects of Crocus sativus: An overview of systematic reviews

Document Type : Review Article


1 1Student, Student Research Committee, Medical Plants Research Center, Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Shahrekord, I.R. Iran

2 2Research Assistant, Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Shahrekord, I.R. Iran


Background and aims: Crocus sativus is of medicinal plants possessing many beneficial effects in treatment of various disorders. This study aimed to overview the therapeutic effects of Crocus sativus on the basis of reviews and systematic reviews. Methods: Computerized search of review articles was performed using PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science, Medline database from 1996 to 2015. Results: Searches identified 8 reviews and systematic reviews of therapeutic effects of Crocus sativus. Despite remarkable difference in interventions, and type of studies carried out on this plant (in vivo and in vitro), it seemed to have many therapeutic effects on the treatment of various types of diseases. In all the reviews, the objectives were similar, e.g. inhibition of growth of cancer cell lines, analgesic activity, improvement of health condition and treatment of some disease but the type of study (in vivo and in vitro) (animal studies: rat, mouse, guinipig, rabbit) and content was quite different. The most common effects of Crocus sativus were anti-carcinogenesis, tumoricidal, anti-depressant, antihypertensive, anticonvulsant, antitussive, anti-genototoxic and cytotoxic effects, anti-Alzheimer’s, antitussive, anxiolytic, aphrodisiac, antioxidant, anti-nociceptive, anti-inflammatory, relaxant activity, and effects on the gastrointestinal tract, on ocular blood flow and on retinal function, effect on coronary artery diseases, and hypnotic, and anesthetic effects. Conclusion: The results of various studies on Crocus sativus showed that it has a lot of therapeutic effects on the treatment of various types of diseases. However, to be able to use these results in our daily life, additional clinical trials with larger sample size and longer duration may be required to evaluate its toxicity and safety in each and every case of its therapeutic effects.


1. Abdullaev FI. Biological effect of Crocus sativus. Biofactors. 1993; 4(1): 83-6.
2. Abdullaev FI. Cancer chemopreventive and tumoricidal properties of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.). Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002; 227(1): 20–5.
3. Tarantilis PA, Tsoupras G, Polissiou M. Determination of Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.) components in crude plant extract using HPLC-U V Visible photodiode-array detection-mass spectrometry. J Chromatography. 1995; 699(107): 18.
4. Escribano J, Alonso GL, Coca-Prados M, Fernandez JA. Crocin, safranal and picrocrocin from Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.) inhibit the growth of human cancer cells in vitro. Cancer Lett. 1996; 100(1): 23-30.
5. Lozano P, Delgado D, Rubio M, Iborra JL. A non-destructive method to determine the safranol content of Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.) by supercritical carbon-dioxide extraction combined with HPLC and gas chromatography. J Biochem Biophys Methods. 2000; 43(1): 367-78.
6. Rios JL, Recio MC, Giner RM, Máñez S. An update review of Crocus sativus and its active constituents. Phytother Res. 1998; 10(3): 189-93.
7. Salomi MJ, Nair SC, Panikkar KR. Inhibitory effects of Nigella sativa and Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus) on chemical carcinogenesis in mice. Nutr Cancer. 1991; 16(1): 67-72.
8. Abdullaev FI, Frenkel GD. Effect of Crocus sativus on cell colony formation and cellular nucleic acid and protein synthesis. Biofactors. 1992a; 3(1): 201-5.
9. Abdullaev FI, Frenkel GD. The effect of Crocus sativus on intracellular DNA, RNA and protein synthesis in malignant and non-malignant human cells. Biofactors. 1992b; 4(1): 43-5.
10. Abdullaev FI. Cancer chemopreventive and tumoricidal properties of Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.). Exp Biol Med. 2002; 227(1): 20-5.
11. Fernández JA. Anticancer properties of saffron, Crocus sativus L. Adv Phytomed. 2006; 2(1): 313-30.
12. Magesh V, Singh JP, Selvendiran K, Ekambaram G. Antitumor effect of Crocetin in accordance to tumor incidence, antioxidant status, drug metabolizing enzymes and histopathological studies. Mol Cell Biochem .2006; 287(1-2): 127–35.
13. Aung, HHI, Wang CZ, Ni M, Fishbein A, Mehendale SR, Xie JT, et al. Crocin from Crocus sativus possesses significant anti-proliferation effects on human colorectal cancer cells. Exp Oncol. 2007; 29(3): 175.
14. Abdullaev FI, Espinosa-Aguirre JJ: Biomedical properties of Crocus sativus and its potential use in cancer therapy and chemoprevention trials. Cancer Detect Prev. 2004; 28(6): 426-32.
15. Nair SC, Kurumboor SK, Hasegawa JH. Crocus sativus chemoprevention in biology and medicine: a review. Cancer Biother. 1995; 10(4): 257-64.
16. Das I, Das S, Saha T. Crocus sativus suppresses oxidative stress in DMBA-induced skin carcinoma: a histopathological study. Acta Histochem. 2010; 112(4): 317-27.
17. Amin A, Hamza A, Bajbouj K, Ashraf SA, Daoud S. Crocus sativus: a potential candidate for a novel anti-cancer drug against hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatology. 2011; 54(3): 857-67.
18. Rouhi Broujeni H, Heidarian E, Darvishzadeh Boroujeni P, Rafeian-Kohpaei, Gharipour M. Lipid lowering activity of moringapergerina seeds in rat: A comparison between the extract and atorvastatin. Res J Biol Sci. 2013; 8(5): 150-4.
19. Abdullaev FI, Gonzalez de Mejia E. Antitumor activity of natural substances: lectins and saffron. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1997; 47(3): 195-202.
20. Tavakkol-Afshari J, Brook A, Mousavi SH. Study of cytotoxic and apoptogenic properties of Crocus sativus extract in human cancer cell lines. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008; 46(11): 3443-7.
21. Hausenblas H, Saha D, dubyak PJ, Anton SD. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J integr med. 2013; 11(6): 377-383.
22. Premkumar K, Abraham SK, Santhiya ST, Ramesh A. Protective effects of Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.) on genotoxins-induced oxidative stress in Swiss albino mice. Phytother Res. 2003; 17(6): 614-7.
23. Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H, Khaleghpanah P. Study of antidepressant effect of aqueous and ethanolic extract of Crocus sativus in mice. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2001; 4: 11–5.
24. Hosseinzadeh H, Karimi G, Niapoor M. Antidepressant effect of Crocus sativus L. stigma extracts and their constituents, crocin and safranal, in mice. Acta Horticul. 2004; 650: 435–45.
25. Hosseinzadeh H, Motamedshariaty V, Hadizadeh F. Antidepressant effect of kampferol, a constituent of Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus) petal, in mice and rats. J Pharmacol. 2007; 2: 367–370.
26. Akhondzadeh S, Tahmacebi-Pour N, Noorbala AA, et al. Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2005; 19(2): 25–9.
27. Zheng YQ, Liu JX, Wang JN, Xu L. Effects of crocin on reperfusion-induced oxidative/nitrative injury to cerebral microvessels after global cerebral ischemia. Brain Res. 2007; 1138: 86-94.
28. Dufresne C, Cormier F, Dorion S: In vitro formation of crocetinglucosyl esters by Crocus sativus callus extract. Planta Med. 1997; 63(2):150-153.
29. Crnkovic-Mertens I, Felix HS, Karin B. Induction of apoptosis in tumor cells by siRNA-mediated silencing of the livin/ML-IAP/KIAP gene. Oncogene. 2003; 22(51): 8330-36.
30. Winterhalter P, Straubinger M. Crocus sativus-renewed interest in an ancient spice. Food Rev Int. 2000; 16(1): 39–59.
31. Gregory MJ, Menary RC, Davies NW. Effect of drying temperature and air flow on the production and retention of secondary metabolites in Crocus sativus. J Agric Food Chem. 2005; 53(15): 5969–75.
32. Lage M, Cantrell C. Quantification of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) metabolites crocins, picrocrocin and safranal for quality determination of the spice grown under different environmental Moroccan conditions. Sci Hortic. 2009; 121(3): 366–73.
33. Alonso GL, Salinas MR, Garijo J, Sanchez-Fernadez M. Composition of crocins and picrocrocin from Spanish Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.). J Food Qual. 2001; 24(3): 219–33.
34. Hosseinpour Chermahini S, Adibah AB, Roji Sarmidi M, Taghizadeh E, Salehnezhad S. Impact of Crocus sativus as an anti-cancer and anti-tumor herb. Afr J Pharm Pharmacol. 2010; 4(11): 834–40.
35. Liakopulou-Kyriakides M, Kyriakides DA. Crocus sativus biological active constituents. Stud Nat Prod Chem. 2002; 26: 293–312.
36. Wallis TE. Textbook of pharmacognosy. New Delhi: CBS Pub; 2005: 163–5.
37. Evans WC. Trease and Evans, Pharmacognosy. China: Saunders Ltd Pub; 1996.
38. Samarghandian, S, Borji A. Anticarcinogenic effect of Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.) and its ingredients." Pharmacognosy Res. 2014; 6(2): 99.
39. Abdullaev FI. Antitumor effect of Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus L.): overview and perspectives. ISHS Acta Horticulturae. 2004: 491-500.
40. Hosseniasl mK, Rouhi Boroujeni H, MirHosseni Shervin Asari. Effect of ocimumbasilicum extract on treatment of functional dyspepsia. J Shahrekord Univ Med Sci. 2002; 4(3): 14-20.
41. Srivastava R, Ahmed H, Dixit RK, Saraf SA. Crocus sativus L.: A comprehensive review. Pharmacognosy Rev. 2010; 4(8): 200-8.
42. Hosseinzadeh, H, Nassiri‐Asl M. Avicenna's (IbnSina) the Canon of Medicine and Crocus sativus (Crocus sativus): A review. Phytother Res. 2013; 27(4): 475-83.
43. Moshiri M, Vahabzadeh M, Hosseinzadeh H. Clinical applications of Saffron (Crocus sativus) and its constituents: A review. Drug Res (Stuttg). 2015; 65(6): 287-95.
44. Beigi Boroujeni V, Beigi A, Hojat Rouhi Boroujeni, et al. Comparing the effect of Aloe veragel (Aloe vera) compared with conventional therapies in the treatment of chronic wounds. Yafeh. 1999; 11(1).
45. Schmidt M, Betti G, Hensel A. Crocus sativus in phytotherapy: pharmacology and clinical uses. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2007; 157(13-14): 315–9.
46. Hosseinzadeh H, Ziaee T, Sadeghi A. The effect of saffron, Crocus sativus stigma, extract and its constituents, safranal and crocin on sexual behaviors in normal male rats. Phytomedicine. 2008; 15(6-7): 491-5.