Crocus sativus L. is native to Iran and Greece, and is now cultivated largely in Southern Europe, Tibet and other countries. In India, it is mainly cultivated in Kashmir. C. sativus is an important medicinal plant with aphrodisiac, antispasmodic, expectorant, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-depressant, anticancer and anti-tumor activities. Phytochemical investigations of the species have revealed the presence of a number of important carotenoids especially crocetin and its glycosidic forms such as crocin, picrocrocin and safranal. The genetic origin of C. sativus is believed to have occurred by auto-triploidy or by allopolyploidy and Crocus cartwrightianus is believed to be its most probable ancestor. World over, saffron shows a declining trend in production and productivity due to high labour cost, lack of variability for major economic traits and poor economic returns. This review focuses on the detailed distribution, chemical composition and the medicinal importance of saffron.
Key words: Crocus sativus, crocin, picrocrocin, safranal, medicinal properties.
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