Monday, June 16, 2014

Saffron Benefits for Cancer

Saffron, also known as Kesar, is cultivated in many countries including France, Turkey, Iran and India. It is popularly used as a food coloring and flavoring agent. The plant derived spice is made from the dried stigmas of the flowers of Crocus sativus

In folk and modern medicine, saffron has been used to treat depression, asthma, premenstrual syndrome, erectile dysfunction, macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease and insomnia. Experimental studies have revealed the role of saffron extracts and its components as cancer therapeutic agents as well.

Scientists have been able to identify various compounds in saffron that have anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties. This has also been found that saffron can even delay certain types of tumor growth. Although the research is still in their early stages, but the broad range of activities of the plant extract on cancer cells encourages tapping the benefits of saffron in negating cancer.

Saffron has been shown to inhibit carcinogen-induced skin carcinoma in mice and to have cytotoxic action against human leukemia cell lines. Saffron also has been shown to cause cell death in liver cancer cells and carcinoma cells.

Saffron extract and its constituent, Crocin, have shown to significantly inhibit the growth of cancer cells while not ameliorating the normal cells. Crocetin, another natural carotenoid constituent of saffron, has shown significant potential as an anti-tumor agent in animal models and cell culture systems by enhancing anti-oxidative system, inhibiting nucleic acid synthesis, inducing apoptosis and hindering the growth factor signaling pathways.

Saffron extract has been shown to have dose-dependent inhibitory effects on the proliferation of human breast cancer cells. It has been proved to greatly inhibit chemotherapy-induced cellular DNA damage. It also was successful in delaying and preventing cancer in mice that were genetically predisposed to both soft tissue sarcoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Topical application of saffron also resulted in the inhibition of skin tumors. Even more recent research has revealed that saffron can also be utilized to help reduce side effects of chemotherapy drugs.

The other compounds of interest found in saffron are safranal, picrocrocin, and β-carotene that have also shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, radioprotective and anti-carcinogenic properties. In different cancers, it has been established that saffron extracts are dose dependent, and also dependent on the method of intake. Further studies are required to evaluate the safety and efficacy of saffron in cancer treatment.