Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant compounds that are responsible for the bright colors of fruits and vegetables, such as red, blue, and yellow. These compounds play a crucial role in plant growth and development, as well as protecting plants against environmental stressors such as UV radiation, pests, and pathogens.
In recent years, researchers have been exploring the potential health benefits of flavonoids, including their impact on cannabis. As cannabis becomes more widely accepted and legalized, it is essential to understand the different components of the plant and their effects on human health. Flavonoids are one such component that is gaining attention for their potential health benefits in cannabis.
Let’s explore what flavonoids are, how they impact cannabis, and the potential benefits they may have for human health.
What flavonoids do
Flavonoids are a large group of naturally occurring plant compounds that belong to the class of polyphenols. They have a characteristic chemical structure composed of two aromatic rings connected by a three-carbon bridge. This structure can vary depending on the specific flavonoid compound.
Flavonoids are found in various parts of plants, including flowers, leaves, stems, and roots. They are synthesized in response to different environmental stimuli such as UV radiation, herbivory, and pathogen infection. The biological functions of flavonoids in plants are diverse, and they include:
- Attracting pollinators and seed dispersers
- Protecting against UV radiation
- Repelling herbivores and pathogens
- Regulating plant growth and development
- Acting as antioxidants
Flavonoids are different from terpenes, which are another class of naturally occurring plant compounds found in cannabis. Terpenes have a different chemical structure composed of isoprene units and are responsible for the aroma and flavour of cannabis. Although both flavonoids and terpenes play a significant role in the properties and effects of cannabis, they have distinct chemical structures and biological functions.
Flavonoids in cannabis
Different types of flavonoids have been identified in cannabis, including:
- Cannflavin A: unique to cannabis and has potent anti-inflammatory properties
- Cannflavin B: also unique to cannabis and has potential pain-relieving properties
- Quercetin: found in many plants, including cannabis, and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Kaempferol: found in many plants, including cannabis, and has potential anti-cancer and neuroprotective properties
Flavonoids in cannabis can affect the taste, aroma, and color of the plant. For example, the flavonoid anthocyanin contributes to the blue and purple hues of some strains of cannabis. They also contribute to the plant’s aroma, with some flavonoids having a citrus or floral scent.
The potential health benefits of flavonoids in cannabis are numerous. Studies have shown that flavonoids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In particular, cannflavins A and B have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for treating conditions such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
In addition to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, some flavonoids may also have potential pain-relieving and neuroprotective effects. For example, kaempferol has been shown to have potential anti-cancer properties and may also have neuroprotective effects that could be beneficial for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
Adding flavonoids into cannabis products
Flavonoids can be incorporated into cannabis products in several ways, depending on the desired application and product type. In edibles, for example, flavonoids can be added to the recipe during the cooking process, typically in the form of a cannabis-infused butter or oil. Flavonoids can also be added to beverages, such as teas or infused drinks, by steeping them in hot water or blending them with other ingredients.
In topical products, such as creams or balms, flavonoids can be added to the formula as an active ingredient. This can involve using a flavonoid-rich cannabis concentrate or isolating specific flavonoids for use in the product. Topical products can be applied directly to the skin, where the flavonoids can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin’s pores.
The potential health benefits of flavonoids in cannabis are a significant area of interest for researchers and medical professionals. They have been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help protect against chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, some flavonoids may have potential pain-relieving and neuroprotective effects, making them a promising area of research for conditions such as arthritis and Parkinson’s disease.
Future research could focus on several areas:
- Firstly, there is a need to understand the specific mechanisms through which they exert their effects in the body. This could involve studying the interactions between flavonoids and different cellular pathways to identify the specific biological targets of these compounds.
- Secondly, there is a need to investigate the potential synergistic effects of flavonoids with other compounds in cannabis, such as terpenes and cannabinoids. The combined effects of these compounds could have a more significant impact on human health than each compound individually.
- Lastly, there is a need to conduct clinical studies to assess the safety and efficacy of flavonoids in treating specific medical conditions. This could involve conducting randomized controlled trials to assess the effectiveness of flavonoids in treating conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.
Overall, the potential health benefits are significant, and further research is needed to fully understand their effects. However, the current evidence suggests they may have a role to play in the health benefits of cannabis and could be a valuable component of cannabis-based treatments in the future.
References and further reading
- Crozier, A., Jaganath, I. B., & Clifford, M. N. (Eds.). (2009). Flavonoids and related compounds: bioavailability and function. CRC press.
- Gonzalez-Sarrias, A., Gimenez-Bastida, J. A., Garcia-Conesa, M. T., & Tomas-Barberan, F. A. (2017). Non-extractable polyphenols and carotenoids: importance in human nutrition. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(12), 2573.
- Kuhnert, N. (Ed.). (2008). Flavonoids: chemistry, biochemistry and applications. CRC Press.
- Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364.
- Wilkinson, J. D., Whalley, B. J., & Baker, D. (2020). Flavonoids as modulators of memory and learning: molecular interactions resulting in behavioural effects. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 79(2), 246-258.
- Yang, H. W., Hwang, Y. H., & Kim, H. M. (2020). Flavonoids: antioxidants or signaling molecules? Biomolecules & therapeutics, 28(6), 523.
- Zou, Y. F., Lu, Y. H., Wei, D. Z., & Wang, Z. Z. (2020). Flavonoids from Cannabis sativa L.: A review. Journal of medicinal plant research, 14(9), 438-446.