Toxicity of Saffron Extracts on Cancer and Normal Cells: A Review Article

Document Type : Systematic Review and Meta-analysis


1 Research Center for Non-Communicable Disease, Jahrom University of Medical Sciences, Jahrom, Iran.

2 Golestan Rheumatology Research Center, Golestan University of Medical Sciences, Gorgan, Iran.

3 Department of Oncology-Pathology, Immune and Gene Therapy Lab, Cancer Center Karolinska (CCK), Karolinska University Hospital Solna and Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Background and Aim: Medicinal plants have played an important role in human health since the Stone Age. According to WHO, 80% of Asian and African people rely on traditional medicine and medicinal plants to conserve their health. Saffron has received much attention among the herbal compounds related to cancer treatment. Methods: This review aims to provide an overview of in-vitro and in-vivo evaluation molecule mechanism for anti-tumor activity, cancer preventing and protective effects of saffron extract. The review is based on the available data accessible in PubMed, Science Direct, Google Scholar,, and databases. Results: Saffron has selective toxic and preventive effects on cancerous cells and without adverse effects on normal cells and prevents tumor formation. Saffron appears to reduce the toxic effects of anticancer drugs. Saffron has toxicity effects when used in high amounts, which are far greater than those  are used in human food culture. Conclusions: Considering the observed effects of saffron on the removal of cancer cells, saffron extract can be used in the treatment and prevention of cancer after confirmation in human clinical trials. According to the high IC50 of saffron extracts in normal cells, its toxicity against non-cancerous cells is low and its use is safe. Besides, the studies suggested the cytotoxic effects of saffron on some of the  more cancers, including nervous system cancer and common cancers. Further studies are required to determine the effective dose and influence of mechanism of saffron in various animal type of cancers.


Main Subjects

Volume 21, Issue 7
July 2020
Pages 1867-1875
  • Receive Date: 29 April 2020
  • Revise Date: 01 June 2020
  • Accept Date: 21 July 2020
  • First Publish Date: 21 July 2020