Bioactivity assessment and toxicity of crocin: a comprehensive review

Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Feb;64:65-80. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.11.016. Epub 2013 Nov 22.


Since ancient times, saffron, the dried stigma of the plant Crocus sativus L. has been extensively used as a spice and food colorant; in folk medicine it has been reputed to be efficacious for the alleviation and treatment of ailments. In addition to the three founded major constituents including crocin, picrocrocin and safranal, presence of carotenoids, carbohydrates, proteins, anthocyanins, vitamins and minerals provide valuable insights into the health benefits and nutritional value of saffron. Of the carotenoids present in saffron, highly water-soluble crocin (mono and diglycosyl esters of a polyene dicarboxylic acid, named crocetin) is responsible for the majority of its color, and appears to possess various health-promoting properties, as an antioxidant, antitumor, memory enhancer, antidepressant, anxiolytic and aphrodisiac. It is also worth noting that the crocin principle of saffron exhibited high efficacy along with no major toxicity in experimental models. We would be remiss to not consider the great potential of saffron and crocin, which benefits the cuisine and health of human life throughout the world. The present study provides a comprehensive and updated report of empirical investigations on bioactivities and biological characteristics of crocin.

Keywords: (UV/visible); 2-thiobarbituric acid method; AMD; Bioactivities; C. sativus L.; CE; CK; CPP; Crocin; Crocus sativus L.; FAB-MS; G. fructus; G. jasminoides; GC; GSH; Gardenia fructus; Gardenia jasminoides Elliss; HPLC; IC(50); IR; LDH; MDA; MES; MMS; NMR; NO; PTZ; ROS; SOD; Saffron; Spice; TBA; TBARS; TG; TLC; TNF; Toxicological effects; age-related macular degeneration; capillary electrophoreis; conditioned place preference; creatine kinase; fast atom bombardment-mass spectrometry; gas chromatography; glutathione peroxidase; half maximal inhibitory concentration; high performance liquid chromatography; i.c.v.; i.p; intracerebroventricular; intraperitoneal; ischemia-reperfusion; lactate dehydrogenase; malondialdehyde; maximal electroshock seizure; methyl methanesulfonate; nitric oxide; nuclear magnetic resonance; pentylenetetrazole; reactive oxygen species; superoxide dismutase; thin layer chromatography; thiobarbituric acid reactive species; triglyceride; tumor necrosis factor; ultraviolet/visible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antidotes / pharmacology
  • Antimutagenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Carotenoids / chemistry
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Carotenoids / toxicity
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Eye Diseases / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney / physiology


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antidotes
  • Antimutagenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Carotenoids
  • crocin