Therapeutic effects of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in digestive disorders: a review

Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2016 May;19(5):455-69.


Saffron, the dried red-orange stigmas of Crocus sativus L, has been known as a flavoring agent, food coloring and traditional herbal medicine. Pharmacological effects of saffron are mainly attributed to crocin, crocetin, picrocrocin and safranal. These components especially crocin, have significant effects including antidepressant and anticonvulsant, analgesic, anti-cancer and other therapeutic effects on different parts of our body namely cardiovascular, immune, respiratory, genital-urinary and central nervous system. According to the reports and findings, saffron plays a key role to cure different digestive system disorders via chemopreventive, inhibition of cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis, antioxidant effects and radical scavenging, genoprotective property, prevention of lipid peroxidation and anti-inflammatory processes. The outcome of the above mentioned mechanisms shows potential therapeutic properties of saffron against liver cancer, hepatotoxicity, fatty liver, hyperlipidemia, stomach cancer, peptic ulcer, colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, diabetes and pancreas cancer and ileum contractions. According to global statistics, the susceptibility to intestinal diseases is considered as a significant matter and can be important in health planning in any community. Several strategies for treatment and prevention of the digestive system diseases have provided that the use of herbal remedies seems effective and useful. Considering the available findings, the present study aims to introduce saffron as a prophylactic and therapeutic agent against gastrointestinal tract disorders. However, further clinical studies seem necessary in various aspects of saffron effects in different parts of body to verify these findings.

Keywords: Crocetin; Crocin; Crocus sativus L; Digestive system; Picrocrocin; Saffron; Safranal.

Publication types

  • Review