Saffron Extract Crocus sativus L
Also named: Fan hong hua, Zang hong hua Hong Hua / Xi Zang, Xi Honghua
Saffron is arguably the most expensive herb in the world, due to amount of time and energy it takes to harvest. The term saffron actually refers to the dried stigmas and top of the saffron crocus, a type of flower similar to safflower. In China, saffron grows predominantly in the Henan, Hebei, Zhejiang, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The stigmas are picked by hand and dried. It takes approximately 75,000 saffron flowers to produce one pound of saffron stigma. In many cultures, saffron is used as a spice and for culinary purposes; however, it has many medicinal uses as well.
In traditional Chinese medicine, saffron has a sweet taste and cold properties, and is associated with the Heart and Liver meridians. Its main functions are to invigorate the blood, remove stagnation, clear the meridians and release toxins. It is typically used to treat conditions such as high fevers and related conditions that may be caused by pathogenic heat, and to help break up blood clots. There is also anecdotal evidence that saffron can inhibit the growth of some types of cancer cells. Small amounts of saffron can increase the incidence of contractions in pregnant women.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a species of crocus in the family Iridaceae. The flower has three stigmas, which are the distal ends of the plant's carpels. Together with its style, the stalk connecting the stigmas to the rest of the plant, these components are often dried and used in cooking as a seasoning and colouring agent. Saffron, which has for decades been the world's most expensive spice by weight, is native to Southwest Asia.
Saffron is characterised by a bitter taste and an iodoform- or hay-like fragrance; these are caused by the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal.It also contains a carotenoid dye, crocin, that gives food a rich golden-yellow hue. These traits make saffron a much-sought ingredient in many foods worldwide. Saffron also has medicinal applications.
Saffron contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds. It also has many nonvolatile active components,many of which are carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α- and β-carotenes. However, saffron's golden yellow-orange colour is primarily the result of α-crocin. This crocin is trans-crocetin di-(β-D-gentiobiosyl) ester (systematic (IUPAC) name: 8,8-diapo-8,8-carotenoic acid). This means that the crocin underlying saffron's aroma is a digentiobiose ester of the carotenoid crocetin. Crocins themselves are a series of hydrophilic carotenoids that are either monoglycosyl or diglycosyl polyene esters of crocetin. Meanwhile, crocetin is a conjugated polyene dicarboxylic acid that is hydrophobic, and thus oil-soluble. When crocetin is esterified with two water-soluble gentiobioses (which are sugars), a product results that is itself water-soluble. The resultant α-crocin is a carotenoid pigment that may comprise more than 10% of dry saffron's mass. The two esterified gentiobioses make α-crocin ideal for colouring water-based (non-fatty) foods such as rice dishes.
The bitter glucoside picrocrocin is responsible for saffron's flavour. Picrocrocin (chemical formula: C16H26O7; systematic name: 4-(β-D-glucopyranosyloxy)-2,6,6- trimethylcyclohex-1-ene-1-carboxaldehyde) is a union of an aldehyde sub-element known as safranal (systematic name: 2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexa-1,3-dien-1- carboxaldehyde) and a carbohydrate. It has insecticidal and pesticidal properties, and may comprise up to 4% of dry saffron. Significantly, picrocrocin is a truncated version (produced via oxidative cleavage) of the carotenoid zeaxanthin and is the glycoside of the terpene aldehyde safranal. The reddish-coloured zeaxanthin is, incidentally, one of the carotenoids naturally present within the retina of the human eye.
When saffron is dried after its harvest, the heat, combined with enzymatic action, splits picrocrocin to yield D-glucose and a free safranal molecule.Safranal, a volatile oil, gives saffron much of its distinctive aroma.Safranal is less bitter than picrocrocin and may comprise up to 70% of dry saffron's volatile fraction in some samples. A second element underlying saffron's aroma is 2-hydroxy-4,4,6-trimethyl-2,5-cyclohexadien-1-one, the scent of which has been described as "saffron, dried hay like".Chemists found this to be the most powerful contributor to saffron's fragrance despite its being present in a lesser quantity than safranal.Dry saffron is highly sensitive to fluctuating pH levels, and rapidly breaks down chemically in the presence of light and oxidizing agents. It must therefore be stored away in air-tight containers in order to minimise contact with atmospheric oxygen.Saffron is somewhat more resistant to heat.
Chemical Formula: C44H64O24
Chemical Family: Carotenoids
Extracted From: Gardenia
CAS Number: 42553-65-1