When we talk about the technical and scientific aspects of cannabis, we often hear of bioactive compounds and terms like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. We have talked about cannabinoids countless times, and we have written about terpenes in a previous article. So, what about flavonoids? What are they and what important role do they play in cannabis?
Flavonoids: What are they?
Flavonoids belong to a class of plant metabolites and chemicals that are known as phytonutrients. And this class or group is called polyphenols. These molecules provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects. Flavonoids are found in various flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and in cannabis plant, too!
The term “flavonoid” originated from the Latin term flavus, which refers to the color of yellow as it appears in nature. Since the primary function of flavonoids is to give color pigmentation to flowers and plants in order to attract pollinators, they deserve their name.
Many plants, fruits, and vegetables contain non-green pigmentation, owing their vibrant colors partly to flavonoids. Moreover, flavonoids help protect plants against the elements, like the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun, as well as plant diseases and pests.
There are more than 6,000 different types of flavonoids that have been identified. And these flavonoids are usually grouped into 12 separate categories. The ones with the most dietary importance are anthocyanidins, flavonols, flavan-3-ols, flavones, flavanones, and isoflavones.
Flavonoids account for roughly 10 percent of the known compounds found in cannabis. And there are around 20 varieties of flavonoids known to exist in the plant.
What’s more, there are some types of flavonoids that are known to exist only in cannabis. They are known as cannaflavins.
Just like terpenes, flavonoids play a role in how cannabis users perceive cannabis through their senses. However, there are a lot more to them than what our noses smell and what our taste buds taste.
The role of flavonoids in cannabis
Terpenes are credited for the aromas and flavors of cannabis. However, flavonoids also play an important part in providing distinct qualities that are used to differentiate between cannabis strain varieties. Needless to say, cannabis strains have their unique odors and flavors due to the synergistic qualities that flavonoids and terpenes share with each other.
This synergy among the pharmacologically active compounds in cannabis — terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids — is called the entourage effect. Together they work in harmony to produce various effects on our bodies.
Flavonoids also contribute to the pigmentation of cannabis. For example, deep purple cannabis strains have flavonoids called anthoxanthins and anthocyanins to thank for their beautiful coloration. Depending on pH levels, anthocyanin may give red, blue, or purple coloration in other plants like berries.
The range of cannaflavins varies depending on the grow conditions and genetics of a certain plant.
Pharmacologically active compounds
Research has also shown that flavonoids are highly pharmacologically active. A pharmacologically active substance is an active ingredient that is easily absorbed by the body through a host of routes of administration. These are substances that actively affect the function of a human or animal body.
Because they are pharmocologically active, flavonoids can have therapeutic effects on the body. In fact, recent studies suggest that flavonoids are partly responsible for the many health and dietary benefits of eating vegetables and fruits.
Take for instance the flavonoid catechins, which is found in cocoa, teas, and other pome fruits. Catechins is an antioxidant and can be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Another example is the flavonoid quercetin, which is found in many vegetables and fruits, as well as in cannabis. Quercetin is known to have anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties.
Other flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antithrombogenic, antidiabetic, anticancer, and neuroprotective properties. Some can also help improve cardiovascular and metabolic health.
Therefore, it is not surprising that flavonoids are used to help with:
- weight management
- cardiovascular disease
Many flavonoids are concentrated in the skins of vegetables of fruits. However, because they are believed to be fragile compounds, flavonoids tend to be eliminated when they are subjected to most cooking procedures. This is why consuming vegetables and fruits raw and with their skin is believed to bring you most benefits associated with flavonoids.
Medicinal benefits of cannaflavins
Meanwhile, there are studies showing that cannaflavin A in cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties that could be stronger than those in Aspirin. Cannaflavin B and cannaflavin C are also being studied for potential therapeutic benefits.
Other highly active flavonoid that you can find in cannabis include silymarin, orientin, apigenin, vitexin, luteolin, and kaempferol. They also have antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory potentials.
More studies on flavonoids are needed
While studies and chemical profiling on flavonoids have already been done, there is still a lot to learn about these substances, especially when it comes to flavonoids in cannabis. This mainly due to the federal prohibition of cannabis.
In order for further research to be done and for us to better understand the role that flavonoids play in cannabis, it is important that the government lift the federal ban on the substance.