Role of saffron and its constituents on cancer chemoprevention

Pharm Biol. 2013 Jul;51(7):920-4. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2013.771190. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


Context: Cancer dramatically impacts human life expectancy and quality of life. Natural substances from vegetables, herbs and spices could be beneficial in the prevention or treatment of a variety of cancers. Crocus sativus (Iridaceae), which has been used as a folk medicine for treating diseases for ages, showed obvious cancer chemoprevention potential.

Objective: This article focuses on the effects of Crocus sativus and its main ingredients, such as crocin, on cancer therapeutics.

Methods: We reviewed research data from saffron, a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, and its constituents using the major databases, namely, Web of Science, SciFinder and PubMed.

Results and conclusion: Saffron possesses free radical-scavenging properties and antitumor activities. Significant cancer chemopreventive effects have been shown in both in vitro and in vivo models. Based on current data, saffron and its ingredients could be considered as a promising candidate for clinical anticancer trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Chemoprevention / methods
  • Crocus / chemistry*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / isolation & purification
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Quality of Life


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Plant Extracts