Nutritional and health beneficial properties of saffron (Crocus sativus L): a comprehensive review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2022;62(10):2683-2706. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1857682. Epub 2020 Dec 17.


Saffron (Crocus sativus L., family Iridaceae) is used traditionally for medicinal purpose in Chinese, Ayurvedic, Persian and Unani medicines. The bioactive constituents such as apocarotenoids, monoterpenoids, flavonoids, phenolic acids and phytosterols are widely investigated in experimental and clinical studies for a wide range of therapeutic effects, especially on the nervous system. Some of the active constituents of saffron have high bioavailability and bioaccessibility and ability to pass the blood-brain barrier. Multiple preclinical and clinical studies have supported neuroprotective, anxiolytic, antidepressant, learning and memory-enhancing effect of saffron and its bioactive constituents (safranal, crocin, and picrocrocin). Thus, this plant and its active compounds could be a beneficial medicinal food ingredient in the formation of drugs targeting nervous system disorders. This review focuses on phytochemistry, bioaccessibility, bioavailability, and bioactivity of phytochemicals in saffron. Furthermore, the therapeutic effect of saffron against different nervous system disorders has also been discussed in detail.

Keywords: Crocus sativus; Saffron; anxiety; brain; nervous system; stress; traditional medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Crocus* / chemistry
  • Flavonoids
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts