The multiple properties of saffron, which make it valuable, are based on the uniqueness of the combination of substances it contains.
The chemical composition of the saffron has been extensively analyzed by scientific bodies and has been the subject of many scientific papers by scientists all over the world as well as in Greece.
Phyto-chemical research has revealed that the natural red stigmas of the saffron flower contain a number of natural chemical substances, such as:
- Carbohydrates, proteins.
- Metal salts of potassium, iron, copper, zinc, sodium and manganese, thus adding antioxidant property in it.
- Vitamins Β1 (riboflavin) and Β2 (thiamine).
- Coloring substances: crocine, crocetin, carotene, lycopene and zeaxanthin (Bhat, J.V. and Broker, 1953).
- Essential oils with the main substance safranal.
- In addition, it contains small amounts of coloring substance anthocyanin, fat-soluble pigments including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin (Norbaek, R., Kondo, T, 1998).
- Flavonoids and saponins.
These substances are derived from zeaxanthin by physical chemical reactions as follows:
The content of saffron in these three natural compounds also determines its quality according to the international ISO body.
The main coloring substance is crocine, which is responsible for the intense pigment property of the saffron, and is one of the few carotenoids found naturally and easily dissolved in water.
The main element that attaches to saffron its particular taste is picrocrocin, which is stable to fresh saffron, but with the influence of heat and over time it naturally decomposes and turns into the volatile substance safranal.
Saffron has a strong aroma, which is produced by certain essential oils. Safranal is the main essence of the essential oils of saffron (it accounts for about 70% of the total essential oil), to which is mainly attributable the aroma of saffron. The conversion of picrocrocin to safranal occurs during the treatment of the saffron in the drying phase by spontaneous chemical hydrolysis reaction (Himeno, H. and Sano, K., 1987).