What are Saffron, Crocetin, and Crocin, and where are they used? Saffron, E164, is a vibrant and aromatic spice derived from the Crocus sativus flower [1,2]. It is renowned for its culinary uses and potential health benefits. Within saffron, there are specific compounds that contribute to its unique properties, including Crocetin and Crocin [1,2]. Crocetin is responsible for the spice's vibrant orange-red colour and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Crocin gives saffron its distinctive aroma. Saffron and its derivatives, including Crocetin and Crocin, are used in various food products for preservation and sensory enhancements.
Saffron, in the form of Crocetin, exhibits natural preservative properties due to its antioxidant and antimicrobial activities [2-6]. It inhibits the growth of microorganisms, extending the shelf life of food products. Crocin adds a unique floral and slightly bitter taste, enhancing the flavour profile of food products [1,4]. It is commonly used in various cuisines to infuse dishes with saffron's characteristic taste and aroma, from savoury rice dishes to desserts and beverages. Additionally, saffron and its derivatives, are also utilised as natural food colourants, providing a vibrant yellow-orange hue to a wide range of food products [1,7]. This makes saffron an appealing choice for both flavour enhancement and visual appeal in the culinary world. Saffron is a highly prized spice used in various cuisines around the world [4,5]. You may find it in rice dishes such as paella and biryani, combined with herbs, spices and citrus juice in savoury marinades, infused in sweet treats delivering floral essences, steeped in beverages to develop soothing teas or other refreshments for an exotic twist.
Purported Health Implications
Antioxidant Properties: Crocetin, one of the key components of saffron, exhibits potent antioxidant activity [2-6]. Antioxidants help protect the body against oxidative stress by neutralising harmful free radicals. This property of saffron may have potential health benefits, including reducing inflammation, supporting cardiovascular health, and promoting overall well-being [8-10].
Mood and Cognitive Benefits: Saffron has been traditionally used in herbal medicine for its potential mood-enhancing properties [11,12]. Some studies suggest that saffron may help alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression and improve mood [11,12]. Additionally, preliminary research indicates that saffron may have cognitive-enhancing effects, potentially benefiting memory and cognitive function [13,14].
Recommendations for Safe Consumption
Regulatory Approval: Saffron and its derivatives, including Crocetin and Crocin, are generally recognized as safe for consumption by regulatory authorities such as Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) . However, it is important to obtain saffron and its derivatives from reputable sources to ensure quality and safety.
Dosage and Allergies: While saffron is generally safe when consumed in culinary amounts, some individuals may be allergic to saffron [16,17]. If you have known allergies or sensitivities, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating saffron into your diet.
Coultate T, Blackburn RS. Food colorants: Their past, present and future. Coloration Technology. 2018 Jun;134(3):165-86.
Plants MA. Medicinal & Aromatic Plants.
Andriamanantena M, Danthu P, Cardon D, Fawbush FR, Raonizafinimanana B, Razafintsalama VE, Rakotonandrasana SR, Ethève A, Petit T, Caro Y. Malagasy dye plant species: A promising source of novel natural colorants with potential applications–A review. Chemistry & Biodiversity. 2019 Dec;16(12):e1900442.
Meena NK, Meena VS, Verma M, Mishra S. Plant extracts as coloring agents. InPlant extracts: applications in the food industry 2022 Jan 1 (pp. 187-207). Academic Press.
Melnyk JP, Wang S, Marcone MF. Chemical and biological properties of the world's most expensive spice: Saffron. Food research international. 2010 Oct 1;43(8):1981-9.
Sugiura M, Abe K, Saito H, Ohta T, Uto T, Kito S, Aritake K, Shoyama Y. Review on Pharmacological Active Saffron and Crocin. Medical Research Archives. 2023 Sep 11;11(8).
Armellini R, Peinado I, Asensio-Grau A, Pittia P, Scampicchio M, Heredia A, Andres A. In vitro starch digestibility and fate of crocins in pasta enriched with saffron extract. Food Chemistry. 2019 Jun 15;283:155-63.
Chatterjee S, Poduval TB, Tilak JC, Devasagayam TP. A modified, economic, sensitive method for measuring total antioxidant capacities of human plasma and natural compounds using Indian saffron (Crocus sativus). Clinica Chimica Acta. 2005 Feb 1;352(1-2):155-63.
Ghaffari S, Roshanravan N. Saffron; An updated review on biological properties with special focus on cardiovascular effects. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2019 Jan 1;109:21-7.
Kamalipour M, Akhondzadeh S. Cardiovascular effects of saffron: an evidence-based review. The Journal of Tehran Heart Center. 2011;6(2):59.
Ayati Z, Yang G, Ayati MH, Emami SA, Chang D. Saffron for mild cognitive impairment and dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2020 Dec;20:1-0.
Singletary K. Saffron: Potential health benefits. Nutrition Today. 2020 Nov 1;55(6):294-303.
Papandreou MA, Tsachaki M, Efthimiopoulos S, Cordopatis P, Lamari FN, Margarity M. Memory enhancing effects of saffron in aged mice are correlated with antioxidant protection. Behavioural brain research. 2011 Jun 1;219(2):197-204.
Avgerinos KI, Vrysis C, Chaitidis N, Kolotsiou K, Myserlis PG, Kapogiannis D. Effects of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) on cognitive function. A systematic review of RCTs. Neurological Sciences. 2020 Oct;41:2747-54.
Food additives -alphabetical list Food additives -alphabetical list [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/additiveoverview/Documents/Food%20additives%20-%20alphabetical%20May%202019.pdf
Bahna SL, Burkhardt JG. The dilemma of allergy to food additives. InAllergy & Asthma Proceedings 2018 Jan 1 (Vol. 39, No. 1).
Feketea G, Tsabouri S. Common food colorants and allergic reactions in children: Myth or reality?. Food chemistry. 2017 Sep 1;230:578-88.
We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.