Benefits of Crocin and Saffron to Allergy and Allergic Asthma
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Level of expertise: Moderate
Crocin and saffron could potentially help relieve seasonal allergy and allergic asthma.
Spring is here. But this season is not all good for people who are sensitive to allergy and allergic asthma. During this time, pollens from trees, grasses or weeds, and airborne mold spores can cause immune reactions, inflammations and tissue responses in those who are sensitive. Symptoms can range from sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, watery eyes and itching of the nose, eyes or the roof of the mouth, tight chest, shortness of breath and cough. Recent research studies indicated that one could potentially turn to natural products as an alternative to help boost health and prevent or reduce the severity of the allergy and asthma. Crocin and saffron might be a choice.
Saffron has been used in traditional medicine to treat many illnesses including heart disease, depression, stress, and sleep disorders. In recent years, saffron and its main active constituent crocin have been extensively studied. Crocin is identified as the main active constituent responsible for saffron’s health effects1,2. Crocin, as the only water-soluble carotenoid, is a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulatory agent. In the animal study, crocin treatment significantly alleviated experimentally-induced allergic asthma-associated alterations in inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers. Crocin enhanced anti-oxidant defenses, reduced the incidence of oxidative stress, restored pro-inflammatory cytokines to normal levels3, and modulated MAPK signaling pathway4. The histopathological analysis also showed significant lung improvement in the crocin-treated animal. In another study5 with human bronchial epithelial cells, crocin is found to reduce Aspergillus fumigatus-induced airway inflammation and NF-κB signal activation. Airway epithelial cells are the first line of defense against pathogens, including microbial and fungal pathogens, while Aspergillus is a major risk factor to induce inflammation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Pretreatment of crocin significantly inhibited A. fumigatus induced pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress. These findings indicated crocin has significant protective effects against allergic asthma through anti-inflammation and antioxidant activity.
Although the report of human study with crocin on allergy and allergic asthma has not found at this point, an evaluation of the effects of saffron supplementation on the asthma clinical symptoms and asthma severity in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma was just published5. In this double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study, patients with mild and moderate allergic asthma were randomized into two groups: the intervention group who received two capsules of saffron (100 mg/d), the control group who received two capsules of placebo for 8 weeks.
Results: Saffron improved the frequency of clinical symptoms of the patients (i.e., frequency of the shortness of breath during the day and night time, use of salbutamol spray, waking up due to asthma symptoms and activity limitation) in comparison to the placebo (p < 0.001). Besides, asthma severity decreased almost significantly in the saffron group (p = 0.07). It was also found that saffron, in comparison with the placebo, significantly reduced the systolic and diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Moreover, eosinophils and basophils concentration reduced in the saffron group (p = 0.06 and 0.05 respectively).
Study conclusion: Saffron seems to be an effective and safe option (in 8 weeks supplementation) to improve clinical symptoms of patients with allergic asthma but the toxicity and/or long-term effects of saffron intake are not known.
1. Finley JW, Gao S. Perspective on Crocus sativus L. (Saffron) Constituent Crocin: A Potent Water-Soluble Antioxidant and Potential Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease. Agric. Food Chem. 2017, 65, 1005−1020.
2. Zeinali M, et al. Immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of Crocus sativus (Saffron) and its main active constituents: A review. Iran J Basic Med Sci, 2019, 22(4): 334-344.
3. Yosri H, et al. Crocin modulates IL-4/IL-13 signaling and ameliorates experimentally induced allergic airway asthma in a murine model. International Immunopharmacology. 2017, 50: 305–312
4. Xiong Y, et al. Anti-asthma potential of crocin and its effect on MAPK signaling pathway in a murine model of allergic airway disease. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2015, 37:236-243.
5. Du J, et al. Crocin reduces Aspergillus fumigatus-induced airway inflammation and NF-κB signal activation. J Cell Biochem. 2018, 119: 1746–1754.
6. Zilaee M, et al. An evaluation of the effects of saffron supplementation on the asthma clinical symptoms and asthma severity in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial. Respiratory Research (2019) 20:39. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12931-019-0998-x