Saffron: from medicine to industry

Salwee Yasmin, J. Sethi, F.A. Nehvi, E. Sharma
Functional foods provide health benefits beyond just basic nutrition and play a role in reducing the risk of disease or in improving overall health. These foods include health-promoting ingredients or natural components found in conventional foods, fortified, enriched or enhanced foods. The most effective way to reap the benefits of functional foods is to eat a balanced diet that contains multiple contributing to good health. Nutrients include fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B, magnesium, vitamin C and antioxidants such as carotenoids and anthocyanins. High fiber foods help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Folate decreases homocysteine, an amino acid which, at high levels, can lead to artery damage. Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure level, antioxidants protects the cells from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals, the antioxidant carotenoid lycopene can help prevent the oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol. The anti-inflammatory diet protects from heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, allergies and much more. Spices are food additives and help to improve health due to their antidiabetic potential and also their hypoglycemic effects in controlling diabetes. Furthermore, the phenolic compounds in spices give flavor, taste, aroma, and color to food. However spices do much more. They can fight many diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and high blood sugar, as well as improving overall health. Adding spices such as saffron, basil, oregano, garlic, turmeric, and rosemary to the diet may reduce the risk of chronic health problems. Saffron as a functional food protects the cells from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. It also provides nutrients‒they play a role in reducing the risk of disease or in improving overall health. Crocetinglycosyl esters are responsible for its characteristic colour. In regard to the characteristic bitter taste, it is postulated to be due to the presence of a glycoside named picrocrocin. Finally an extensive group of compounds are responsible for saffron aroma, mainly ketones and terpenicaldehydes amongst which safranal stands out due to its high proportion. Kashmir saffron is unique in the world owing to the high concentration of crocin (366), safranal (59) and picrocrocin (121). Saffron is also a rich source of proteins, vitamins (riboflavin and thiamine), potassium, iron, copper, zinc, sodium and manganese thus imparting antioxidant property to it. Saffron has been found to be the richest source of riboflavin (100 μg g-1). Harvested from dried dark red stigmas of saffron flowers, it finds its use not only as a spice for flavouring and coloring food but also for treating several diseases. It contains carotenoids attributing it an anticancer, antitumour effect and immunomodulatory properties. Among the constituents of saffron extract, crocetin derivatives are mainly responsible for pharmacological activities. As a drug it is considered astringent, stimulant of metabolism, refrigerant, diuretic, antihusteric, stomachic, antiseptic and spasmodic. Due to presence of crocetin it indirectly helps to reduce cholesterol level in the blood and severity of atherosclerosis, thus reducing the chances of heart attacks. The crocetin present in saffron is found to increase the yield of antibiotics. Two compunds of safranal viz., 3,5,5trimethyl 2hydroxy-1, 4-cyclohesadion-2-ene and 2,4,4-trimethyl 1 3-formyl-6-hydroxy 2,5 cyclohexadion-1ene are supposed to increase antibacterial and antiviral physiological activity in the body. Because of the modern industrial methods, the food chain has become more complex increasing the possibility of chemical contamination of food products. Modern applied research methods are an essential part of the technology to produce ready and semi ready to use saffron products of nutritional value in order to satisfy the potential needs of the consumers.
Yasmin, Salwee, Sethi, J., Nehvi, F.A. and Sharma, E. (2018). Saffron: from medicine to industry. Acta Hortic. 1200, 227-232
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2018.1200.36
medicinal, industrial, uses, saffron

Acta Horticulturae