[Histonet] Re: saffron vs. safran du gatinais

Bob Richmond rsrichmond <@t> gmail.com
Fri Jan 6 05:26:57 CST 2012

Saffron is of course the dried stigmas of Crocus sativus. Safran du
Gâtinais, commonly specified in old histology books, was apparently
grown in a particular area of France near the Mediterranean. Saffron
is so expensive to grow that it isn't much cultivated in Europe. Most
commercial saffron is grown in Pakistan or Kashmir, I think. There is
no synthetic substitute. You can get excellent quality culinary
saffron from Penzey's spices, though I don't know how it works as a
dye - you could probably ask them. The Wikipedia article is very much
worth reading. Apparently there is an ISO standard for saffron.

For histologic use, saffron is extracted with hot ethanol. Some people
did seven extractions. Some people used a reflux condenser for the hot
alcohol, if you can find a geezer like me who knows what a reflux
condenser is. The alcoholic extract smells terrible.

The most common use is as the hematoxylin-phloxin-saffron (HPS)
trichrome stain. It was in use as a general oversight stain in a few
pathology services when I was a resident in the 1960's, most notably
at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

Bob Richmond
Samurai Pathologist
Knoxville TN

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