Anxiolytic and hypnotic effect of Crocus sativus aqueous extract and its constituents, crocin and safranal, in mice

Phytother Res. 2009 Jun;23(6):768-74. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2597.


Saffron stigma (Crocus sativus L.) is used for insomnia and anxiety in traditional medicine. In this study, the anxiolytic and hypnotic effects of saffron aqueous extract and its constituents, crocin and safranal, were studied in mice. Agents were administered intraperitoneally in mice before the experiments for the evaluation of hypnotic activity (induced by sodium pentobarbital, 30 mg/kg, i.p.), anxiolytic activity (elevated plus maze test), locomotor activity (open field test) and motor coordination (Rotarod test). The aqueous extract reduced the locomotor activity dose dependently. At low doses, saffron showed a significant increase in the time on the open arms of the maze. When using the Rotarod method, the aqueous extract showed considerable effect on motor coordination of the mice. In the hypnotic test, only a dose of 0.56 g/kg of saffron increased the total sleep. Crocin showed no anxiolytic, hypnotic or myorelaxation effects. Safranal, in higher doses, 0.15 and 0.35 mL/kg, showed anxiolytic effects. Safranal increased the total sleep time dose dependently. This constituent at lower doses (0.05 and 0.15 mL/kg) decreased some locomotion activity parameters. Safranal demonstrated no effects on motor coordination. The results showed that saffron aqueous extract and safranal have anxiolytic and hypnotic effects.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Crocus / chemistry
  • Cyclohexenes / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flowers / chemistry
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Pentobarbital / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Rotarod Performance Test
  • Terpenes / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Plant Extracts
  • Terpenes
  • Carotenoids
  • safranal
  • crocin
  • Pentobarbital