The dried stigma of the plant Crocus sativus L. (Iridaceae), commonly known as saffron,
is used as a food spice and in folk medicine for various purposes. Of over 150 phytochemicals
present in saffron, crocetin, a carotenoid precursor of the carotenoid crocin, is
the primary bioactive metabolite and responsible for saffron's characteristic color.
Other relevant bioactive components are picrocrocin and safranal. Saffron flower tepals
and stigmas also contain flavonoids and anthocyanins. Potential therapeutic applications
of saffron and its compounds have been investigated in in vitro and in vivo studies,
reporting several properties including immunoregulatory, antiinflammatory, antioxidant,
cardioprotective, antiatherogenic, antibacterial, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective,
antidepressant, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective activities. The therapeutic effects
of saffron and its extracts have also been studied clinically. The most researched
clinical applications relate to mental health, with current evidence suggesting benefits
in the treatment of depression and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system.