Economic Botany

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 228–236 | Cite as

Uses of saffron

  • D. Basker
  • M. Negbi


The uses of saffron through the ages are discussed. Originally prized both as a medicament and as a dyestuff, these applications have declined in modern times; it has also been used as a perfume. The primary market now is as a food spice—by far the world’s most expensive.


Economic Botany Saffron Crocin Oxford English Dictionary Crocetin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Amelotti, G., and S. Mannino. 1977. [Analytical evaluation of the commercial quality of saffron.] Riv. Soc. Ital. di Scienza Aliment. 6: 17–20.Google Scholar
  2. Anonymous. N.D. A Guide to Spices. National Restaurant Assoc. and Amer. Spice Trade Assoc. Techn. Bull. 190. 2nd revision. No address given.Google Scholar
  3. Anonymous. 1970. Markets for Spices in North America, Western Europe and Japan. Int. Trade Centre UNCTAD/GATT, Geneva, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  4. Arctander, S. 1960. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Arctander, Elizabeth, NJ.Google Scholar
  5. Azizbekova, N. S., E.L. Milyaeva, N.J. Lobova, and M.K. Chailakhyan. 1978. Effects of gibberellin and kinetin on formation of flower organs in saffron crocus. Soviet Pl. Physiol. 25: 471–476.Google Scholar
  6. Bailey, L. H. 1975. Manual of Cultivated Plants. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Baumann, B. B. 1960. The botanical aspects of ancient Egyptian embalming and burial. Econ. Bot. 14: 84–104.Google Scholar
  8. Baynes, S., and W.R. Smith, ed. 1905. Saffron. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Vol. 21, p. 153–154. Werner, Akron, OH.Google Scholar
  9. Bhat, J. V., and R. Broker. 1953. Riboflavine and thiamine content of saffron, Crocus sativus Linn. Nature 172: 544.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blacow, N. W., ed. 1972. Martindale, The Extra Pharmacopoeia, 26th ed. Pharmaceutical Press, London.Google Scholar
  11. Bowles, E. H. 1952. A Handbook of Crocus and Colchicum. Bodley Head, London.Google Scholar
  12. Brighton, C. A. 1977. The cytology of Crocus sativus L. and its allies. Pl. Syst. Evol. 128: 137–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carrier, R. 1976. The Robert Carrier Cookery Course. Vol. 1, p. 60. Sphere, London.Google Scholar
  14. Childe, V. G. 1952. Trade and industry in barbarian Europe till Roman times. In Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Postan, M., and E.E. Rich, ed, Vol. 2, p. 1–32. Univ. Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  15. Claiborne, C. 1965. An Herb and Spice Cook Book. Bantam, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Clair, C. 1961. Of Herbs and Spices. Abelard-Schuman, London.Google Scholar
  17. Collins, M. 1964. The McCormick Spices of the World Cook Book. McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Daniel, A. R. 1963. Bakery Materials and Methods, 4th ed. Maclaren & Sons, London.Google Scholar
  19. Dawson, W. R. 1934. A Leechbook or Collection of Medical Recipes of the Fifteenth Century. Macmillan, London.Google Scholar
  20. De Candolle, A. 1912. Origine des Plantes Cultivées, 5th ed. Félix Alcan, Paris.Google Scholar
  21. Douskos, I. 1980. The crocuses of Santorini. In Thera and the Agean World, Doumas, C, ed, Vol. 2, p. 141–146. Thera and the Agean World, London.Google Scholar
  22. Duby, G. 1968. Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West. Arnold, Great Britain.Google Scholar
  23. Duquenois, P. 1972. Le safran dans la pharmacie moderne; ses essais d’identification et de purete. Bull. Soc. Pharm. Strasbourg 15: 149–159.Google Scholar
  24. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1974. Saffron. Macropaedia. Vol. 9, p. 891. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  25. Encyclopaedia Judaica. 1973. Saffron. Vol. 14, p. 631. Keter, Jerusalem, Israel.Google Scholar
  26. Fasal, P., and G. Wachner. 1933. Wein. klin. Wschr. 45: 745. Quoted by Blacow (1972).Google Scholar
  27. Folch-Andréu, R. 1957. A drug which is disappearing from the medical thesaurus: saffron. An historical study. Farmacognosia (Madrid) 17: 145–224.Google Scholar
  28. Forbes, K. I. 1964. Studies in Ancient Technology. Vol. 4, p. 123. Brill, Leiden, Holland.Google Scholar
  29. Gadd, C. J. 1971. The dynasty of Agade and the Gutian invasion. In Cambridge Ancient History, 3rd ed., Edwards, gnI. E. S., C.J. Gadd, and N.G. L. Hammond, ed, Vol. 1, Part 2, 417-463.Google Scholar
  30. Gainer, J. L. 1977. Increasing fermentation yields. U.S. Pat. 4038144.Google Scholar
  31. Gainer, J. W., and G.M. Chisolm. 1974. Oxygen diffusion and athersclerosis. Athersclerosis 19: 135–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Genders, R. 1973. Bulbs, A Complete Handbook. Hale, London.Google Scholar
  33. Gerard, J. 1633, reprinted 1975. The Herbal. Dover, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Greenhill, T. 1705. The Art of Embalming. London.Google Scholar
  35. Grieve, M. 1959. A Modern Herbal. Hafner, New York.Google Scholar
  36. Grisolia, S. 1974. Hypoxia, saffron, and cardiovascular disease. Lancet 2: 41–42.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Guenther, E. 1952. The Essential Oils. Vol. 2, p. 348. Van Nostrand, New York.Google Scholar
  38. Gurr, E. 1956. A Practical Manual of Medical and Biological Staining Techniques. Leonard Hill, London.Google Scholar
  39. Gusseva-Badmaeva, A. P., A.F. Hammermann, and W.S. Sokolov. 1972. Heilmittel der Tibetischen Medizin. Pl. Med. 21: 161–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hedrick, U. P., ed. 1919. Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants. State of New York, Dept. Agric, 27th Annual Report. Vol. 2, Part II, 200. Lyon, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  41. Hood, S. 1978. The Arts in Prehistoric Greece. Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.Google Scholar
  42. Indian Standards Institution. 1969. Specification for saffron. IS: 5453–1969. New Delhi.Google Scholar
  43. Ingram, J. S. 1969. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.). Trop. Sci. 11: 177–184.Google Scholar
  44. International Standards Organization. 1974. Spices and condiments—saffron—specification. Draft Int. Standard ISO/DIS 3632. Geneva, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  45. Lewis, F. T. 1942. The introduction of biological stains: employment of saffron by Vieussens and Leeuwenhoek. Anat. Rec. 83: 229–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lopez, R. S. 1952. The trade in medieval Europe: the south. In Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Postan, M., and E.E. Rich, ed, Vol. 2, p. 257–354. Univ. Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  47. Lowell, G. 1964. Saffron adulteration. J. Assoc. Offic. Agric. Chem. 47: 538.Google Scholar
  48. Lust, J. B. 1978. The Herb Book. Bantam, New York.Google Scholar
  49. Machanik, A. 1973. Herbs and Spices for all Occasions. Haum, Cape Town, South Africa.Google Scholar
  50. Madan, C. L., B. M. Kapur, and U. S. Gupta. 1966. Saffron. Econ. Bot. 20: 377–385.Google Scholar
  51. Maimonides, M. 12th century. [On the Causes of Symptoms.] Leibowitz, J. O., and S. Marcus, ed, 1974. Univ. California Press, Berkeley, CA.Google Scholar
  52. Mannino, S., and G. Amelotti. 1977. [Determination of the optimum humidity for storage of saffron.] Riv. Soc. Ital. di Scienza Aliment. 6: 95–98.Google Scholar
  53. Marafioti, L. Y. 1970. The meaning of generic names of important economic plants. Econ. Bot. 24: 189–207.Google Scholar
  54. Marinatos, S. 1976. Excavations at Thera VII. Greek Archeolog. Soc, Athens.Google Scholar
  55. Martindale. 1941. The Extra Pharmacopoeia. 22nd ed. Pharmaceutical Press, London.Google Scholar
  56. Mathew, B. 1977. Crocus sativus and its allies (Iridaceae). Pl. Syst. Evol. 128: 89–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Mathew, B. F. 1980. Crocus L. In Flora Europaea, Tutin, T. G., V.H. Heywood, N.A. Burges, D.M. Moore, D.H. Valentine, S.M. Walters, and D.A. Webb, ed, Vol. 5, p. 92–99. Cambridge Univ. Press, London.Google Scholar
  58. Melchior, H., and H. Kastner. 1974. Gewürze. Verlag Paul Parey, Berlin.Google Scholar
  59. Michell, H. 1940. The Economics of Ancient Greece. Univ. Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  60. Nauriyal, J. P., R. Gupta, and C.K. George. 1977. Saffron in India. Arecanut Spices Bull. 8: 59–72.Google Scholar
  61. Olney, R. 1977. Simple French Food. Atheneum, New York.Google Scholar
  62. Oxford English Dictionary. 1971. Compact ed. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  63. Parry, J. W. 1962. Spices: Their Morphology, Histology and Chemistry. Chemical Publishing, New York.Google Scholar
  64. Parvaneh, V. 1972. The assessment of purity of saffron colour. J. Assoc. Public Analysts 10: 31–32.Google Scholar
  65. Pfander, H., and F. Wittwer. 1975. Untersuchungen zur Carotinoid-Zusammensetzung im Safran. Helv. Chim. Acta 58: 1608–1620.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Pliny (the Elder). 1st century. Natural History. Bostock, J., and H.T. Riley, trans. 1887. Bohn, London.Google Scholar
  67. Preece, W. E. ed. 1968. Saffron. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 19, p. 875–876. Benton, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  68. Pruthi, J. S. 1980. Spices and Condiments: Chemistry, Microbiology, Technology. Advances Food Res. Suppl. 4. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  69. Rajagopalan, R., B.R. Baliga, and J.V. Bhat. 1960. Saffron as a possible source of riboflavin. Proc. Natl. Inst. Sci. India A26(Suppl. 1): 128–134.Google Scholar
  70. Rietz, C. A. 1961. A Guide to the Selection, Combination and Cooking of Foods. Avi, Westport, CT.Google Scholar
  71. Rinpoche, R. 1976. Tibetan Medicine. Univ. California Press, Berkeley, CA.Google Scholar
  72. Rockwell, F. F. 1946. The Book of Bulbs. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  73. Roden, C. 1975. A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.Google Scholar
  74. Roia, F. C, Jr. 1966. The use of plants in hair and scalp preparations. Econ. Bot. 20: 17–30.Google Scholar
  75. Rosengarten, F. 1969. The Book of Spices. Livingston. Wynnewood, PA.Google Scholar
  76. Rostovtzeff, M. 1941. The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World. Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  77. Runciman, S. 1952. Byzantine trade and industry. In Cambridge Economic History of Europe. Postan, M., and E.E. Rich, ed, Vol. 2, p. 86–118. Univ. Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  78. Sarton, G. 1948. Introduction to the History of Science. Carnegie Inst. Washington, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, MD.Google Scholar
  79. Sastry, L. V. L., M. Srinivasan, and V. Subrahmanyan. 1955. Saffron (Crocus sativus Linn.). J. Sci. Industr. Res. (India) 14A: 178–184.Google Scholar
  80. Schauenberg, P. 1965. The Bulb Book. Warne, London.Google Scholar
  81. Schetky, E. J. 1968. The ageless art of dyeing. In Dye Plants and Dyeing, Schetky, E. J., ed, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY.Google Scholar
  82. Shakespeare, W. 1611. The Winter’s Tale. IV (iii) 48.Google Scholar
  83. Shankaracharya, N. B. 1974. The Spices of India. Symp. Spice Industry of India. Assoc. Food Scientists & Technologists (India) and Central Food Technological Res. Inst., Mysore, India.Google Scholar
  84. Shewell-Cooper, W. E. 1943. Bulb Growing Inside and Out. Gifford, London.Google Scholar
  85. Silberrad, U., and S. Lyall. 1909. Dutch Bulbs and Gardens. Adam & Charles Black, London.Google Scholar
  86. Singer, C, E. J. Holmyard, and A.R. Hall, ed. 1958. A History of Technology. Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  87. Skeat, W. 1951. A Reader’s Guide to John Milton. Oxford Univ. Press, London.Google Scholar
  88. Stahl, E., and C. Wagner. 1969. TAS-method for the microanalysis of important constituents of saffron. J. Chromatogr. 40: 308.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Starkie, W. J. M. 1911. The Clouds of Aristophanes. Macmillan, London.Google Scholar
  90. Stebbins, G. L. 1951. Variation and Evolution in Plants. Columbia Univ. Press, New York.Google Scholar
  91. Stecher, P. G., ed. 1968. The Merck Index, 8th ed. Merck, Rahway, NJ.Google Scholar
  92. Suvatabandhu, K. 1968. Buddhist rules prescribe dyes for monks’ robes. In Dye Plants and Dyeing. Schetky, E. J., ed, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY.Google Scholar
  93. Tammaro, F., and L. di Francesco. 1978. Lo Zafferano de l’Aquila. Istitudo di Tecn, e Propaganda Agrar., Italy.Google Scholar
  94. Thomas, C. A. 1980. Jackfruit, Artocarpus heterophyllus (Moraceae), as source of food and income. Econ. Bot. 34: 154–159.Google Scholar
  95. Thorndike, L. 1929. A History of Magic and Experimental Science. Vol. 1, 605. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  96. Todd, R. G., ed. 1967. Martindale, The Extra Pharmacopoeia, 25th ed. Pharmaceutical Press, London.Google Scholar
  97. Trease, G. E., and W.C. Evans. 1973. Pharmacognosy. 10th ed., Baillière Tindal, London.Google Scholar
  98. Warburg, E. F. 1957. Crocuses. Endeavour 16: 209–216.Google Scholar
  99. Wister, J. C. 1948. Bulbs for Home Gardens. Oxford Univ. Press, New York.Google Scholar
  100. Woenig, F. 1886. Die Pflanzen im Alten Aegypten. Leipzig.Google Scholar
  101. Zarghami, N. S. 1970. The volatile constituents of saffron (Crocus sativus L.). Ph.D. Thesis. Univ. California, Davis, CA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Basker
    • 1
  • M. Negbi
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Food TechnologyAgricultural Research OrganizationBet DaganIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural Botany, Faculty of AgricultureHebrew University of JerusalemRehovotIsrael

Personalised recommendations