Saffron

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Volatile Oils

Saffron is the dried stigma and styletops of Crocus sativus Linn., belonging to family Iridaceae.


SAFFRON

 

 

Synonyms

 

Crocus, Spanish, Saffron, French Saffron.

 

Biological Source

 

Saffron is the dried stigma and styletops of Crocus sativus Linn., belonging to family Iridaceae.

 

Geographical Source

 

The plant is native of south Europe and is found in Spain, France, Macedonia, Italy, Austria, China, Germany, Switzer-land, and Iran. In India, the plant is cultivated in Kashmir.

 

Cultivation and Collection

 

The plant is a small, perennial herb, 6–10 cm high. The corms are planted in July–August in well prepared soil. In the following year flowering takes place. Each corm is replaced by daughter corms. The flowers are collected early in the morning. The style of each flower is separated just below the stigma and dried by artificial heat for 30–45 min. The drug is coated and stored in dry place. About 1 kg of dried drug is collected from nearly 100,000 flowers. Saffron thrives well in cold regions with warm or subtropical climate. It requires a rich, well-drained, sandy, or loamy soil. The plant is propagated by bulbs. No manure is applied or irrigation is given once the plants are established. The bulbs continue to live for 10 or 15 years, new bulbs being produced annually and the old ones rotting away. The plants flower in October–December, heavy rains during this period are harmful. Styles and stigmas are separated and dried in the sun or over low heat on sieves in earthen pots. The tripartite stigmas plucked from fleshly collected flowers and dried in the sun constitute Saffron of the best quantity.

 

Characteristics

 

Saffron is flattish-tubular, almost thread-like stigmas which are about 3 cm long with slender funnel having dentate or fimbricate rim. Colour is reddish-brown with some yellowish pieces of tops of styles. Odour is strong, peculiar, and aromatic; taste is aromatic and bitter.

 


                                        Crocus sativus

 

Chemical Constituents

 

The drug contains volatile oil (1.3%), fixed oil, and wax. Crocin is the chief colouring principle in Saffron. On hydrolysis, it yields digentiobiose and the carotenoid pigment crocetin. Saffron possesses a number of carotenoid coloured compounds such as ester of crocin (a coloured gly-coside), picrocrocin (a colourless bitter glycoside), crocetin (an aromatic compound), gentiobiose, α- and γ-carotenes, lycopene, zeaxanthin, crocin-1, crocin-2, crocin-3, crocin-4, mono- and digentiobiosyl and glucosyl esters of crocetin; β-sitosterol, ursolic, oleanolic, palmitoleic, oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids (in bulbs).

 


 

Chemical Tests


1. Add a drop of sulphuric acid to dry stigma. It turns blue, gradually changing to purple and finally purplish-red.

 

2. Saffron imparts yellowish orange brown colour with water.

 

Uses

 

Saffron is used in fevers, cold, melancholia and enlargement of the liver; as colouring and flavouring agent, catarrhal, snake bite, cosmetic pharmaceutical preparations, and as spice. Saffron has stimulant, stomachic, tonic, aphrodisiac, emmenagogue, sedative, and spasmolytic properties.

 

Adulterant

 

Saffron is frequently adulterated with styles, anthers and parts of carolla of Saffron. Exhausted Saffron, flowers, and floral parts of some Compositae like Calendula species and Carthamus tinctorius, com silk, and various materials coloured with coal tar dyes are also used as adulterants. Water, oil, or glycerin is added to increase the weight. Coke Saffron of commerce often contains safflower florets with adhesive sugary substances.

 

Marketed Products

 

It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Tentex forte, Speman forte (Himalaya Drug Company), J.P. Nikhar oil (Jamuna Pharma), and Amyron (Aimil Pharmaceuticals).

 

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