Antidepressant properties of bioactive fractions from the extract of Crocus sativus L

J Nat Med. 2010 Jan;64(1):24-30. doi: 10.1007/s11418-009-0360-6. Epub 2009 Sep 29.


The aim of this study was to investigate the antidepressant properties of stigmas and corms of Crocus sativus L. The aqueous ethanol extract of C. sativus corms was fractionated on the basis of polarity. Among the different fractions, the petroleum ether fraction and dichloromethane fraction at doses of 150, 300, and 600 mg/kg showed significant antidepressant-like activities in dose-dependent manners, by means of behavioral models of depression. The immobility time in the forced swimming test and tail suspending test was significantly reduced by the two fractions, without accompanying changes in ambulation when assessed in the open-field test. By means of a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry technique, twelve compounds of the petroleum ether fraction were identified. These data show that administration of C. sativus corms extract produces antidepressant-like effects. Aqueous stigmas extract also exerted antidepressive effects in the behavioral models. Crocin 1 and crocin 2 of the aqueous stigmas extract were identified by a reversed-phase HPLC analysis. In addition, the bioactive compound crocin 1 in this herb was quantitatively determined. The data indicate that antidepressant-like properties of aqueous stigma extracts may be due to crocin 1, giving support to the validity of the use of this plant in traditional medicine. All these results suggest that the low polarity parts of C. sativus corms should be considered as a new plant material for curing depression, which merit further studies regarding antidepressive-like activities of chemical compounds isolated from the two fractions and mechanism of action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Carotenoids / isolation & purification
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Crocus / chemistry*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Carotenoids
  • crocin