Look out, because cannabis flavonoids, and more specifically, cannaflavins, are showing some promising results in the lab. One team of scientists recently hunted down the origins of Cannaflavin A and Cannaflavin B so that they might be metabolically engineered and 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 …
We’ll get into that in a minute, because some of you might be wondering what in the world a flavonoid is. And a cannaflavin? … sounds like an instrument played by a parade of Dr. Seuss characters. Well, get ready, because it’s actually that freaking off the hook.
So, first stop … what are flavonoids. Listen up, because they can prolong your life, help you maintain a healthy weight, and if you live a little on the wild side, they might be able to cancel some of that damage out as well (although we are not promoting drinking or smoking or any unhealthy lifestyle … just saying …).
Flavonoids—What Are They?
Flavonoids are a diverse family of phytonutrients that give plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables their rich and vibrant colors. They are plentiful in nature with over 6,000 types.
Flavonoids are natural compounds that 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, dietary flavonoids are abundant in foods and beverages of plant origins, such as fruits, vegetables, tea, cocoa, and wine. Nice, right?!
Think blueberries, plums, apples, cherries, oranges, strawberries, grapes, pears, prunes, onions, spinach, parsley. … But also think, dark chocolate, green tea, nuts, red wine, soy, and … wait for it … cannabis. We know, right?!
So what’s the payoff for having a flavonoid life? According to many animal model studies and human observational studies, 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 produce section of health-promoting effects is due to anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, and anti-carcinogenic properties and immune system benefits found in flavonoids. Here’s just one of many studies that gives evidence that all that glitters with flavonoids is gold:
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 Cannabis
So why do we at The Hemp Haus care about a compound in cannabis? Well, first of all, we sell hemp-derived CBD and full spectrum cannabinoid products—and remember—hemp is cannabis, just with the legal amount (or less) THC, which is .3%.
Also, The Hemp Haus now sells hemp flower. When you vape or smoke raw hemp flower, you are getting the full spectrum of whole plant compounds like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. So, let’s get on with talking about what flavonoids in cannabis do and why they’re so great.
Flavonoids Contribute to Cannabis Character
You may have heard that terpenes are responsible for the aroma and flavor that helps you recognize your favorite strain. And that’s 100% true. But the nose and taste of your hemp bud is not left 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 Therapeutic Effects
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 present 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, flavonoids are thought to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC.
In the benefits department, flavonoids are thought to contribute to the “entourage effect.” The entourage effect 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.
Flavonoids Unique to Cannabis
As you may have noticed, there are some flavonoids that are exclusive to all cannabis plants, whether high-THC medical cannabis or high-CBD hemp. These cannabis-exclusive flavonoids are known as cannaflavins. They are simply: Cannaflavin-A, Cannaflavin-B, and Cannaflavin-C.
Like all flavonoids, they have some pretty impressive properties that are, of course, unique 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 than 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.”
You probably knew about cannabinoids and maybe even terpenes. But cannaflavins, for all their contributions to brightness, fragrance, and flavor, seem to have taken a backseat in the cannabis attention department. But now that awareness of the health benefits of flavonoids in general is becoming more pronounced, and because it’s become “safe” to really take a look at cannabis and ask what all it has to offer, flavonoids—and cannaflavins—are showing us their true colors. We look forward to a future when all the therapeutic compounds in cannabis will be fully appreciated and embraced for the medicinal benefits that they offer!