Crocus sativus, “Saffron” or “Saffron crocus” in English and “Crocus cultivé” ou “Crocus à safran” in French, belongs to the Iridaceae botanical family. Native from Europe to West Asia, it is the result of selective breeding, a small herb (0.10 to 0.30 m) growing in lawns and cultivated as a garden ornamental.
The stigmas have been used for many centuries to colour cloth and as a flavouring agent. They are the world’s most expensive spice, as yields per plant are extremely low.
They are used in traditional medicine for various purposes, as anaphrodisiac, antispasmodic, expectorant, for treatment of stomach ailments, for relieving tension, for depression, insomnia and in the treatment of measles, dysentery, jaundice, cholera…
Among its main constituents are carotenoids like crocetin which is the main active compound; the coloring components are crocins and zeaxanthin and the bitter flavor and aroma is due to the monoterpene aldehydes picrocrocin and its deglycosylated derivative safranal.