Harnessing the power of saffron color for food and future therapeutics

31 August, 2022

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. Usually obtained from the stigma of Crocus sativa flowers, it takes 150,000–200,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of saffron. Now, KAUST researchers have found a way to use a common garden plant to produce saffron’s active ingredient, a compound with important therapeutic and food industry applications.

The color of saffron comes from crocins: water-soluble pigments derived from carotenoids by a process that is catalyzed by enzymes known as carotenoid cleavage dioxygenases (CCDs). Crocins also occur, albeit in much lower amounts, in the fruits of Gardenia jasminoides, an ornamental plant used in traditional Chinese medicine.

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Image: Saffron spice is collected by hand from the stigma of the Crocus sativa flower (pictured above). It is known for its therapeutic potential, such as its antidepressant, sedative and antioxidant properties.
Image from Pixabay.