Saffron & Cancer Prevention

What is particularly intriguing is saffron's potential role in cancer prevention. This was first brought to public attention in the 1990s by S.C. Nair of the Amala Cancer Research Centre and Hospital, Kerala, India. In several papers, Nair showed that saffron and its components had surprisingly strong anticancer activity.

Some components in saffron act as "topo II" inhibitors, similar to the chemotherapeutic drug Adriamcyin. Yet, unlike Adriamycin, saffron is non-toxic. Nair noted a dose-dependent cancer effect on carcinoma, sarcoma and leukemia cells in the test tube. Saffron increased the life span of treated mice compared to untreated controls by 45 to 120 percent. In addition, it delayed the onset of papillomas.

Just this November, Indian scientists showed that saffron decreased the damage to the DNA and the liver caused by various forms of chemotherapy. Long-term treatment with crocin of female rats with colon cancer enhanced their survival without major toxic effects. "The effects of crocin might be related to its strong cytotoxic effect on cultured tumor cells," Spanish scientists concluded.

Scientists have also shown that extracts of saffron inhibit cell growth of human tumor cells. Cancer cells treated with crocin had empty areas, reduced cytoplasm, and a destruction of their DNA… all potentially good things for patients. Crocin, they said, is a "promising saffron compound to be assayed as a cancer therapeutic agent,"

A provocative study from Greece showed that saffron was comparable to all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) in terms of its anticancer activity. ATRA is a form of vitamin A that is conventionally used to treat some head-and-neck cancers. Although saffron extracts are slightly less active than ATRA, they are not precursors of vitamin A and "could therefore be less toxic than retinoids, even at high doses."

Moss Report #18 January 7, 2002

Moss Report, July 23, 2006 "Dr. Fikrat Abdullaev, author of over 120 scientific papers and probably the world's leading expert on the medicinal uses and anti-cancer properties of saffron, died suddenly this week".

Ralph Moss' site

LINK for more information cancer therapies

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