Effects of saffron extract and its constituent crocin on learning behaviour and long-term potentiation

Phytother Res. 2000 May;14(3):149-52. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-1573(200005)14:3<149::aid-ptr665>3.0.co;2-5.


Crocus sativus L., commonly known as saffron, is used in folk medicine for various purposes. Modern pharmacological studies have demonstrated that saffron extracts have antitumour effects, radical scavenger properties or hypolipaemic effects. Among the constituents of saffron extract, crocetin is mainly responsible for these pharmacological activities. In addition, recent behavioural and electrophysiological studies have demonstrated that saffron extract affects learning and memory in experimental animals. Saffron extract improved ethanol-induced impairments of learning behaviours in mice, and prevented ethanol-induced inhibition of hippocampal long-term potentiation, a form of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity that may underly learning and memory. This effect of saffron extract is attributed to crocin (crocetin di-gentiobiose ester), but not crocetin. Saffron extract or its active constituents, crocetin and crocin, could be useful as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders accompanying memory impairment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Liliaceae*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / drug effects*
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Carotenoids
  • crocin