Saffron Crocus
BPC 1949 � USD 1926

Compiled and edited by
Ivor Hughes

Saffron (B.P.C. 1949). Crocus; Stigma Croci; Safran; Estigmas de azafrain; Azafran.ForeignPharmacopoeias: In Bell,., Chil., Egyp., Fr., Ger., Ind., Jap., Jug., Alex., Nor., Pol., Span., and Swiss. The dried stigmas and tops of the styles of Crocus sativus (Iridaceae) Protect from light.
Uses. It has been used as a colouring and flavouring agent in medicines. Saffron has been employed as an abortifacient and several fatal cases have been recorded.

The chief toxic symptoms are flushing of the face, epistaxis vertigo, vomiting, bradycardia and stupor.Death (after profuse metrorrhagia and abortion) has occurred following use of 24 grains. - P. Fasal and G. Wachner, Wien. On. W schr., 1933, 45, 747.
Glycer. Croci (B.P.C. 1934) Glycerin of Saffron. Digest saffron 2.5 g. in alcohol (60%) 50 mil. and glycerin 50 ml. for 1 hour using gentle heat, and filter. Protect from air and light. As a colouring agent 10 ml. per fl. oz. is used.

Syr. Croci (B.P.C. 1934). Syrup of Saffron. Glycerin of saffron 12.5 ml., syrup to 100 ml. Protect from light. As a colouring agent 60 m. per fl. oz. is used.

Tinct. Croci (B.P.C.1907). Tincture of Saffron. Saffron1 in 20 in alcohol (60%), prepared by maceration. As a colouring agent 5 to 15 m. per fl. oz. is used. A 1 in 10 tincture is included in Belg. P., Fr. P., hid. P., Span. P., and Swiss P.


CROCUS. N. F. USD 1926

Saffron is the stigma of Crocus sativus Linne (Fam. Iridacea). Saffron contains not more than 10 per cent. of yellow styles, or other foreign organic matter and yields not more than 7.5 per cent. of total ash. N.F. Autumnal Crocus; Stigmata Croci; Spanish Saffron; Safran Fr. Cod.; Crocus, P. Q.; Safran; Zafferano, It., Azafran, Sp.

Crocus sativus is a perennial plant, with a rounded and depressed bulb or corm, from which the flower rises a little above the ground, upon a long, slender, white, and succulent stem. The flower is large, of a beautiful lilac or bluish purple color, and appears in September or October.

The leaves are radical, linear, slightly revolute, dark green upon their upper surface, with a white longitudinal furrow in the center, paler underneath, with a prominent flattened midrib; they are enclosed at their base-together with the tube of the corolla in a membranous sheath, from which they emerge soon after the appearance of the flower.

The style hangs out on one side between the two segments of the corolla, and terminates in three long convoluted stigmas, which are of a rich orange color, highly odorous, rolled in at the edges, and notched at the summit. The stigmas of the Crocus orientalis are used in the East.

C. sativus is believed to he a native of Greece and Asia Minor, where it has been cultivated from the earliest ages. There are three main varieties of it, the French, the Grecian, and the Chinese. The first of these is superior in color and flavor, the second in the amount of yield, while the third is said to unite these qualities.

Saffron is also cultivated for medicinal use in Sicily, Spain, France, England, and other temperate countries of Europe. Large quantities of saffron are raised in Egypt and Persia. We cultivate the plant in this country chiefly as a garden flower, although some of the drug of very fine quality has been produced in Pennsylvania; the high cost of labor in America will probably prevent the possibility of its coming into commerce.

Wild saffron is found growing in uncultivated fields in Southern Russia; Tichomirow believes that these are varieties of C. sativus and C. speciosus Marsh. Biebr., var. Pallassii (C. Palassii Marsh. Biebr.). He further states that wild saffron from these sources is in no way inferior to the cultivated. (d. Pharm., 1903, 656.)

For an account of the cultivation in England, see P. J., June, 1887. The Spanish saffron is generally considered the best in the United States. Saffron has a peculiar, sweetish, aromatic odor, a warm, pungent, bitter taste, and a rich deep orange color, which it imparts to the saliva when chewed.

Description and Physical Properties. Unground Saffron. Stigmas 3, united or separate, attached to the apex of the style; usually about 25 mm. long, cornucopia-shaped, of a dark, rich red color, the margin dentate or fimbriate; styles about 10 mm. long, more or less cylindrical, solid, yellowish. Odor strong, peculiarly aromatic; taste bitterish, aromatic. When chewed it colors the saliva orange-yellow.

Structure. - Upper end of the stigma with numerous cylindrical papillae about 0.150 mm. long, among which occur a few spherical pollen grains, the latter being nearly smooth, and from 0.040 to 0.120 mm. in diameter; occasionally some of the pollen grains germinated, and with pollen tubes.

When placed in sulphuric acid, the stigmas are immediately colored blue, gradually changing to violet, and finally become a deep wine red color. Add 0.01 Gm. of finely powdered Saffron to 100 cc. of cold water, allow it to macerate for several hours and filter; on adding 10 cc. of this filtrate to 100 cc. of water, it gives a distinctly yellow-colored solution.

Macerate 0.01 Gm. of Saffron in 5 cc. of methyl alcohol; a deep orange color is imparted to the liquid. Macerate 0.01 Gm. of Saffron in 5 cc. of acetone, alcohol, or dehydrated alcohol; a distinct, lemon yellow color is produced. With corresponding quantities of Saffron and ether a very light lemon-yellow color is produced. With corresponding quantities of Saffron and chloroform a very slight yellow tinge is imparted; and with corresponding portions of Saffron and xylene, benzene, carbon disulphide, or carbon tetrachloride, the solvents remain colorless.

When Saffron is pressed between filter paper, the paper does not display transparent spots due to the absorption of oil. Saffron loses not more than 12 per cent. of its weight when dried at 100 C." Preserve it in tightly closed containers, protected from light."

N.F. Constituents. -Analyzed by Vogel and Bouillon-Lagrange, saffron afforded 65 per cent. of a peculiar extractive matter, which they named polychroite, but later researches have shown that it is a mixture of the glucoside crocin, sugar, and essential oil. (Planchon, Drogues Simples, vol. i. 210.) Kayser obtained (B. Chem. G., 1884, 2228) pure crocin, having the formula C44H70O28, as a yellow powder, easily soluble in water and diluted alcohol, only slightly soluble in absolute alcohol, and giving with concentrated sulphuric; acid a deep blue color, which turns violet, then cherry-red, and finally brown. It is easily hydrolyzed into crocetin and a dextrorotatory sugar which Kayser calls crocose. The crocetin is a red powder, not soluble in water, but easily soluble in alcohol and ether.

Its solution in alkalies shows an orange-yellow color, from which solution, acids separate it again in orange-colored flecks. Its formula is C34H46O9 or, according to Schmuck and Marchlewski, C15H20O4. Kayser also found a colorless bitter principle, to which he gave the name picro-crocin or saffron bitter, and the formula C38H66O17, which is also of glucoside character. Winterstein and Teleczky (Helv. Claim. Acta., 1922, v, 376) isolated a colorless crystalline ketonic compound having the composition C10H14O, which they also call picro-crocin.

They believe this principle to have accompanied and contaminated the crocin of previous investigators. It belongs to the terpene series and is related to carvone. According to T. Munesada (J. Pharm. Soc. Jap., 1922, 486, p. 661) Gardenia grandiflora also contains crocetin which he gives the formula C10H13O.OH and states that it is a derivative of saffron.

Saffron contains, according to Henry, about 10 per cent. of essential oil. This has the formula C10H14O, boils at 203-210 C., is yellow, of a hot, acrid, bitterish taste, and heavier than water.

Adulterations.-The high price of this medicine gives rise to frequent adulterations. Water is said to be very often added in order to increase its weight. Oil or glycerin is also added for the same purpose, or to improve the appearance. In some specimens the dyed corolla of the crocus with the attached stamens is abundant. Sometimes the flowers of other plants, particularly Carthamus tinctorius, or safflower, Calendula officinalis, or marigold, and Arnica are fraudulently mixed with the genuine stigmas.

They may be known by their shape, which is rendered obvious by throwing a portion of the suspected mass into warm water, to expand them. A ready method of detecting Carthamus in powdered saffron suggested by Vicari is based on the fact that saffron gives a blue coloration with a reagent made by mixing 60 cc. of concentrated sulphuric acid with 40 cc. of a 10 per cent. solution of sodium phosphomolybdate.

The powder is spread over a glass slide and a drop of the reagent added and well mixed. When examined by the microscope the particles of carthamus stand out because of their reddish color, in contrast with the blue of the true crocus. According to Heim, Crocosma aurea Pl., which is cultivated in Southern Africa as a dye-stuff, affords an excellent substitute for saffron, the dried petals giving, when treated with water, a brilliant yellow solution.

The partly dry aqueous extract gives with sulphuric acid a blue coloration, passing to violet, similar to that obtained from saffron. Other adulterations are the fibers of dried beef, the stamens of the crocus, distinguishable by their yellow color, the stigmas previously exhausted in the preparation of the infusion or tincture, and various mineral substances, easily detected upon close examination. The ligulate florets of Calendula officinalis have been factitiously colored and employed to adulterate Crocus. This article, known as Feminell, has a carmine-red color and when mounted in chloral solution and examined microscopically shows elongated epidermal cells bearing near the tube of the corolla large multi cellular hairs, yellowish oil globules in the parenchyma and spiny pollen grains.

An adulteration which has been largely practiced appears to consist of yellow-colored chalk or barium sulphate, made into a thin paste, probably with honey, and attached to the stigmas, sometimes isolated, sometimes in groups of five or six, enveloping them almost completely. If this saffron be kept in a dry place, and often handled, the paste becomes partly broken up, and the colored powder spreads itself in the mass and the envelope. The chalk can at once be detected by shaking the suspected saffron with water, and treating the precipitated powder with hydrochloric acid, when effervescence will occur.

A less than the ordinary brightness of color in the saffron should lead to suspicion of this adulteration. Much can be told as to the purity of saffron by agitating the suspected flowers in distilled water; if the drug be pure the liquid will remain clear, slowly assuming a fine pure yellow tint; the saffron also will retain its red color for hours. Another excellent plan is to scatter a pinch of the flowers upon the surface of warm water, when the stigmas should spread out and display their proper form. Minute fragments of red saunders, which are occasionally added to saffron, may be separated by agitating with water.

Adulterations of crocus may sometimes be detected by remembering that the pollen grains of Crocus sativus are spheroidal, nearly smooth, and from 0.040 to 0.075 mm. in diameter. In various European markets there has been offered a saffron largely adulterated with borates, chlorides, and other salts of sodium and potassium, and yet retaining the physical properties of saffron of high character.

These and other adulterations with inorganic salts can be detected by the amount of ash left on burning, genuine saffron leaving from five to seven per cent. The borated saffron also yielded immediately to water an orange-yellow color. Further, some of it at least was hygroscopic, so that when rubbed up between the fingers into a ball it retained that form instead of being elastic as is true saffron.

A more recent adulterant for Crocus consisted of the florets of a species of Onopordon artificially dyed with Tartrazine and commercial Ponceau 2 R, and weighted with borax, glycerine and saltpeter. This adulterant may be detected by the presence of tubular florets, the corollas of which bear club-shaped multi cellular, glandular hairs, by the pollen grains with a peculiarly thickened triangular coat and by the narrow extension of the stamens above the anthers. The artificial dyes may be determined by the pink to red color produced when the material is placed in an organic solvent.

A product called Cape Saffron formerly attracted some attention but is now rarely met with. It consists of the flowers of a scrophulariaceous shrub, Lyperia atropurpurea Benth., which grows in South Africa.

Uses.-Saffron was extensively used by the ancients and by medieval physicians, as a nerve sedative and emmenagogue, and is still employed to some extent in Europe; but in Great Britain and the United States it has fallen into well deserved and almost complete desuetude.

In domestic practice saffron tea is occasionally used in exanthematous diseases, to promote the eruption. At present it is chiefly used to impart color and flavor. Saffron should be preserved in tightly-closed containers protected from light

Dose, from ten to thirty grains (0.65 to 2.0 Gm.).

Off. Prep.-Tinctura Croci, N. F.; Pilulae Antiperiodicae N.F.; Pilulae Antiperiodica sine Aloe, N. F.; Tinctura Antiperiodica, N. F.; Tinctura Antiperiodica sine Aloe, N. F.; Tinctura Opii Crocata, N. F.