What are Flavonoids? From Cannabis and Beyond

10th June 2020

Cannabis has a number of medicinal, therapeutic, and recreational uses, and though some of the compounds found within the plant are gaining increasing attention, there are still some that are not widely understood. An example of this is a group known as Flavonoids, which are present in cannabis as well as all other plants in the world! So, what are flavonoids?

Flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) which, along with carotenoids, are responsible for the vivid colour, and often taste, in plants such as fruits and vegetables. There are around 6,000 known flavonoids, making it the largest group of phytonutrients.

As well as contributing to the look and taste of fruits vegetables, and other plants, in recent years, these compounds have also been analysed for certain health benefits.

Flavonoids from a variety of plant species have been found to have a number of health benefits including aiding in skin protection, brain function, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. In addition, some flavonoids have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.

Cannabis and Flavonoids

Although cannabinoids and terpenes often steal the limelight when discussing the cannabis plant, flavonoids also play an important role in the plant’s biology. These compounds account for around 10% of known cannabis compounds, with around 20 flavonoids found in the plant.

Although the compounds are found in a huge variety of plants, scientists have identified some flavonoids that are unique to cannabis. These flavonoids are known as ‘cannaflavins’. Cannaflavins, along with terpenes, play a role in the characteristics of cannabis strains, from colour to taste. Despite being one of the lesser researched cannabis compounds, they have also been found to have some medicinal potential.

Flavonoids only occur in extremely small concentrations. However, scientists in Canada recently discovered how the plant produces these compounds. This discovery may open the door to the biosynthesis of these compounds on a larger scale.

The Potential of Cannaflavins

Like flavonoids found in other plants, cannaflavins are thought to hold some medicinal and therapeutic potential. One recent study even found that two of these compounds could help to treat pancreatic cancer. Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University found that flavonoids may have the potential to kill cancer cells in the pancreas and throughout the body.

Some cannaflavins have also been found to have significant anti-inflammatory potential, which could be utilised in the development in non-opioid pain medications.

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