CHEM 5957
Research Paper
Dr. Abbas G. Shilabin
Fayez Khaled J Alharbi
ETSU – Fall 2018


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• Introduction
• What is saffron
• World saffron production
• Why saffron is so expensive?
• Chemistry of saffron
• Uses of saffron

• Medical benefits of saffron
• References

Saffron is a spice collected from the flower stigmas of Crocus sativus, and a member of
the Iridaceae family. Also, it plays a significant role in the culinary culture of different areas
around the world, where many people use it as a food additive because it has powerful flavor
and color.
The history of saffron is so ancient that it gets you back to the age of Indus, Egyptian,
Persian civilizations when only royal families used saffron for fabric dyes, oils, cooking and
for medicinal purposes.
Today, saffron is a versatile spice most commonly used in cooking, and it is proven to
be useful in many situations.
Chemical constituents of saffron are responsible for its smell, taste, color, and quality.
Saffron is a spice containing the antioxidant carotenoids crocin and crocetin. Saffron is well
known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cell protective effects.

Saffron is made from crocus sativus (saffron crocus)
flower and used as food spice for many years.
The flower of saffron (crocus sativus) a plant belonging
to the Iridaceas family, have shown promising
neuroprotective activities in experimental studies.
Saffron flower (crocus sativus) is composed of six purple petals, three golden yellow
stamens and one red pistil. This pistil made up of three stigmas which when dried up gives
the saffron spice.
Saffron made from the dried stigmas (the red line) of Crocus sativus flower. The
stigmas are 25 mm long attached to the top of the style, cornucopia-shaped, red and with
fimbriate margins.

The odor of saffron is strong and characteristically aromatic, and the taste is
bitter/aromatic. The flowers collect every morning, as they open, and then collect the stigma.
It has been used as a natural herbaceous in the past and one of nature’s most potent
herbs because it has various health benefits. It is also known to relieve stomach aches,
kidney stones and improves circulation of blood.

Iran is the largest saffron producing country, producing 94% of the world’s saffron in
There are other countries producing saffron like Morocco, Kashmir, Spain, India, Italy,
Afghanistan, and the United

So, why Iran is the main producer of saffron?
As we mentioned before, saffron needs a lot of laborers to harvest, and separate
stigmas and these numbers of workers are available in Iran. Also, salaries are low up to 5$
as maximum a day.

This is saffron which called ” Red gold” and one pound of it costs you 5,000 $ and that
is the most valuable spice in the world. So, what makes saffron so widely expensive?
Due to its labor-intensive production process. Saffron is a complicated spice to harvest
as they need a lot of hard work to pick up the flowers, separate stigma and dry it. Stigma
which is the red line in the flower is the female part of the flower and saffron is the
dehydrated or dry stigma.
As we know before that saffron comes from “saffron crocus flower or crocus sativus”
and each saffron crocus flower has three stigmas, that is the saffron.
For all these processes they need a lot of laborers, and the yield of saffron is meager
compared with the numbers of hired laborers. One acre of crocus sativus yield only four
pounds of saffron and that is nothing.
One pound of saffron requires 170,000 flowers. For all these facts, saffron is so
expensive, and from here it is called ” Red gold”.

The main active compounds of saffron are crocin (? – crocin), picrocrocin and safranal
and the biosynthesis pathway to get them below.

Chemical constituents of saffron are
responsible for its smell, taste, color, and
quality. The synthesis of dry saffron is
carbohydrates 13.35%, crude fiber 4.48%,
moisture 15.6%, essential oil 0.6%, fixed oil
5.63%, and ash 4.27% and the Higher levels
have been reported of fixed oil (13.4%) and
essential oil (1.37%).
A large number have been reported of
nonvolatile compounds, a carotenoid in nature
is the most. These include zeaxanthin, lycopene, and ? – and ? – carotenes.

The specific yellow color of saffron is due to ? – crocin, which is a digentibiose ester
of trans – crocetin.

? – crocin

Another significant constituent of saffron is picrocrocin, which is responsible for the
spice’s bitterness.

It is an ether of safranal and a ? – d – glucose moiety. When saffron is treated with
heat, as in drying, picrocrocin yields free safranal and glucose.

Safranal is volatile and responsible for some of saffron’s desirable flavor and less
bitter than the glycoside and is the major constituent (70%) of the volatile fraction of the

Saffron could use in many different ways:
• Cooking: saffron used as a spice in cooking for centuries and regard as the main ingredient
in many middle eastern dishes especially in Iran.
• Flavor: Being an expensive flavor item, saffron is typically used only in exotic dishes made
for special occasions. It is especially suitable for coloring and flavoring rice preparations
and candies.

• Medicine: Saffron is usually used as a coloring or flavoring agent, but recent research has
shown its ability to promote health also as a herbal medicine for over 3,000 years.
• Dye: saffron yellow color has been used as an expensive dye in many cultures.
• Fragrance: Used as a fragrance in many perfumes.
• Nutrition: Dried saffron is composed of 65% carbohydrates, 6% fat, 11% protein and 12%
water, In comparison to other spices or dried foods, the nutrient content of dried saffron
shows richness in content of B vitamins and dietary minerals.
Saffron is usually used as a coloring or flavoring agent, but recent research has shown
its ability to promote health. The constituents of it contain crocin, safranal, and picrocrocin,
which have all shown health improving.

Previous researches have found that biological activity of saffron components prevent
such health problems as gastric disorders, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, anxiety,
insomnia, depression, and premenstrual syndrome. In addition, Saffron shows promise in the
prevention and maintenance of cancer due to its antioxidant properties.
Recent clinical trials have shown saffron to be an effective treatment against
depression. Saffron is useful for treating mild to moderate depression. Depressive disorders
affect millions of people each year. People with depression may have excessive weight loss
or gain, sleepiness or insomnia, and feelings of worthlessness.

Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. Saffron exerts its
antidepressant activity by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain like serotonin.

Saffron makes a promise as a treatment against
• Cancer
• Alzheimer disease
• Parkinson disease
• Age related cellular degeneration disease

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and Biotechnology 650 (pp. 321-326).
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effects of Crocus sativus and its constituents on nervous system: A review. Avicenna journal of
phytomedicine, 5(5), 376.
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