Pharmacological Effects of Saffron and its Constituents in Ocular Disorders from in vitro Studies to Clinical Trials: A Systematic Review

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2021;19(3):392-401. doi: 10.2174/1570159X18666200507083346.


Introduction: Some medicinal plants have shown promising therapeutic potential for the management of the diseases. We aimed to systematically review the literature wherein the therapeutic effects of saffron have been studied on eye disorders.

Methods: A systematic literature search was performed in PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Google scholar and other databases using eye disorders and saffron as key terms. No strict inclusion criteria were defined, and almost all clinical studies, as well as in vivo and in vitro studies were included. The reported data in each study were extracted and then qualitatively described.

Results: Finally, 78 articles were found but only 29 relevant articles were included. Nine articles were clinical trials and 20 articles were studies conducted on cellular and molecular aspects of saffron on eye disorders. According to the included studies, crocin prevented the pro-inflammatory response in retinal cells and decreased glucose levels in diabetic mice. Also, crocetin prevented retinal degeneration and saffron protected photoreceptors from light-induced damage in retinal cells. Saffron also improved visual function in age-related macular edema and decreased intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. In addition, it was shown that crocin can improve best corrected visual acuity and decrease central macular thickness in patients with diabetic maculopathy.

Conclusion: The results of this review indicated that saffron and its main ingredients such as crocin could be a potential candidate for the treatment of ocular disease especially eye inflammation; however, further clinical studies are needed to confirm such efficiency.

Keywords: Saffron; crocin; eye disorder; eye inflammation; herbal medicine; ocular complication.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Crocus*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Eye Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use


  • Plant Extracts