What are Flavonoids and how do they relate to cannabis?
Cannaflavins — Cannabis’s Very Own Flavonoids
Did you know that cannabis has its very own flavonoids? They’re called cannaflavins. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with flavonoids and their health benefits, we’re going to tell you all about them
But first let us tell you about how a team of scientists recently hunted down the origins of Cannaflavin A and Cannaflavin B so that they might be metabolically engineered to contribute to the cannabis research space. And why would they want to do that? Because previous studies show that these cannaflavins are powerful antioxidants. But these scientists aren’t the only ones finding uses for cannabis flavonoids …
Flavonoids are everywhere, and we’re going to tell you all about them. Why? Because they can prolong your life, help you maintain a healthy weight, and if you live a little on the wild side, they might even be able to cancel out some of that damage as well. We’re not promoting drinking or smoking or an unhealthy lifestyle; we’re simply stating the facts. Yup, there’s been a study done on it. Read on to find out all about it.
And as if that weren’t enough, medical cannabis has its own flavonoids — dubbed cannaflavins — that are only found in it. The benefits of medical marijuana just keep on coming, don’t they?
Flavonoids — What Are They?
Holy Health Benefits, Flavonoids!
As it turns out, a plant nutrient used by nature to attract pollinating birds and bees, is also attracting the attention of scientists and people interested in preventative health — and maybe even winding back the clock. Studies over the last decade continue to show that flavonoids, a natural compound found in most plants, have a part to play in reducing numerous health risks, obesity, and even mortality.
What Are Flavonoids?
Flavonoids are a diverse family of phytonutrients that, along with carotenoids, are responsible for churning out those vibrant colors we associate with fruits and veggies. These phytonutrients are the most plentiful in nature, clocking in with more than 6,000 types.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, there are six subclasses that are the most widespread in the human diet: anthocyanidins, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, flavanones, flavones, and isoflavones.
Why Are Flavonoids in Brightly Colored Foods?
The answer: Sex, of course. Flavonoids help create the vivid colors in plants in order to attract bees, butterflies and birds.
According to a 2016 overview in the Journal of Nutritional Science, you can find flavonoids in fruits, vegetables, tea, cocoa, and wine (nice!). Think blueberries, plums, apples, cherries, oranges, strawberries, grapes, pears, prunes, onions, spinach, parsley. … But also think, dark chocolate, green tea, nuts, red wine, and soy. And don’t forget cannabis. (You didn’t forget.)
The subgroups listed above have unique major natural sources. For example, berries, grapes, and, subsequently, red wine are major sources of anthocyanidins. Onions and tea are major dietary sources of flavones and flavonals. Soybeans and legumes have a high concentration of isoflavones.
The Therapeutic Benefits of Flavonoids
So what’s the payoff to having a diet rich in flavonoids? According to many animal model studies and human studies in which people self-report their dietary intake, flavonoids can reduce the risk of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. They can also help with weight loss.
This broad spectrum of health-promoting effects stems from their antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic (reduces rate of mutation), and anti-cancer properties and their immune system benefits.
The Diet of the Danes
In August of 2019, researchers form Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences published a study analyzing data from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort that assessed the diets of 53,048 Danes over 23 years.
Results revealed that flavonoids are associated with cardiovascular disease-related and cancer-related mortality. Moreover, researchers found that the protective effects of a high-flavonoid diet were stronger for smokers and drinkers. Researchers caution, however, that flavonoid intake does not replace the health effects of quitting smoking or drinking.
Flavonoids in Medical Cannabis
Flavonoids Contribute Your Cannabis Experience
You may have heard that it’s the terpenes that cause you to know your favorite strain by aroma and flavor. And that’s 100% true. But the smell and taste of your hemp bud is not up to terpenes alone. Flavonoids work with terpenes to pump out those distinct cannabis qualities. And what’s more? Pigmentation is the work of flavonoids. The same color you find in berries is what gives some cannabis strains’ flowers their lovely, rich purple. That’s the magic of the flavonoid Anthocyanin.
Flavonoids Have Health Benefits
We’ve already discussed above how flavonoids contribute to health and wellness. In cannabis, flavonoids are pharmacologically active. Preclinical and human studies (like the Danish one above) indicate that flavonoids in cannabis could, along with the other pharmacologically active compounds in the plant, offer therapeutic benefits in many areas.
Scientists agree there are about 20 flavonoids found in cannabis. Some of the most common flavonoids and their benefits include:
- Cannaflavin-A, -B, & -C: anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anticancer
- Quercetin: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, cancer-fighting, immunoprotective, eases skin irritation (topical use)
- Isovitexin: antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperalgesia, and neuroprotective
- Apigenin: anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anticancer
- Beta-Sitosterol: anti-inflammatory
- Luteolin: anti-oxidative, tumor-fighting, anti-inflammatory
- Orientin: antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, neuroprotective
- Catechins: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-proliferative, cardio-protective, helps lower cholesterol,
- Vitexin: antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperalgesia, and neuroprotective
Like most compounds in cannabis, flavonoids are non-intoxicating—i.e., they will not get you high. In fact, like CBD, flavonoids are thought to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC.
Flavonoids are thought to contribute to the “entourage effect”. This is the term experts coined to describe how cannabis compounds like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids have been observed to work synergistically to optimize their therapeutic potential.
Cannaflavins — Only in Cannabis
Like all flavonoids, Cannaflavin-A, Cannaflavin-B, and Cannaflavin-C have some pretty impressive properties that are, of course, exclusive to cannabis; cannaflavins have that “entourage effect” edge because of their synergistic relationship with other beneficial cannabis compounds.
Research into cannaflavins has only scratched the surface, but what has been discovered so far is exciting. As early as 1985 and 1986, a group of scientists discovered that cannaflavins have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It was determined that Cannaflavin-A and Cannaflavin-B had anti-inflammatory benefits that were 30 times stronger than aspirin. Wow!
Cannaflavins-A and -B, though unique to cannabis, belong to the class of plant flavonoids known as flavones. The dietary consumption of various plant flavones is well established in studies to offer neuroprotective, antioxidant, and anticancer properties in several animal models.
In 2019, researchers hunted down the biosynthesis of Cannaflavin-A and Cannaflavin-B. What does that mean? It means they figured out the pathway of how these cannaflavins are made (synthesized) in the plant. When researchers understand this, they can expand the scope of research for cannabis compounds. They must believe cannaflavins are important, right? This next bit of research makes it convincingly so.
According to a study published in 2020, cannaflavins could potentially treat pancreatic cancer.
A flavonoid derivative from Cannaflavin-B demonstrated “significant therapy potential in the treatment of pancreatic cancer” in mice. Considering that pancreatic cancer has a 5-year survival rate for patients at a dismal 8%, this is pretty exciting news. Researchers stated that the “results justify further studies to optimize therapy outcomes toward clinical translation.”