Saffron (Crocus sativus L.), the most valuable medicinal food product, belongs to the Iridaceae family, which has been widely used as a coloring and flavoring agent. The stigmas contain three major compounds; crocins (carotenoid compound responsible for color), picrocrocin (responsible for taste) and safranal (responsible for odor). It has been used for medicinal purposes, as a spice and condiment for food and as a dye since ancient times. Numerous studies have shown crocins as main carotenoids of saffron to be capable of a variety of pharmacological effects, such as protection against cardiovascular diseases and inhibition of cancer cell development. Salicylic acid is a signaling molecule and a hormone-like substance that plays an important role in the plant physiological processes. Due to the importance of saffron as a valuable product, the aim of this study is to investigate the effect of salicylic acid application (0.01, 0.1 and 1 mM) on crocin and safranal content and antioxidant activity of stigmas. The results showed that salicylic acid application at 1 mM was the most effective treatment in increasing the crocin content and stronger antioxidant activity of stigmas, but it had a negative effect on safranal content; the highest quantity of this compound was observed in the control plants.
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