BY MARIE LODI
Learning about cannabinoids (especially CBD) has been a big focus in both cannabis and mainstream culture as of late, with terpenes poised to be the next big thing. (Read more about terpenes now.) It’s important to learn about all the ins and outs of cannabis and how the plant has the potential to better our health, which is why getting educated on the powerful role of flavonoids in plants—specifically in cannabis—is the natural next step. So get excited: there’s yet another part of the cannabis plant to discover!
What are flavonoids?
Similar to terpenes, flavonoids are compounds found in all sorts of plant life, such as fruits, veggies, and flowers, as well as cannabis. They also contribute to the aromatic characteristics of plants. However, flavonoids are also behind the color of the plants, so if you have a bud that’s more purple, it might be due to the presence of the flavonoid anthocyanin, which is also found in berries.
Like terpenes and cannabinoids, they also share similar therapeutic benefits, such as being anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. To wit: A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications showed that eating foods high in flavonoids can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Some of the foods that naturally contain flavonoids include colorful fruits and vegetables like blueberries, red cabbage, plums, and parsley, as well as dark chocolate, red wine, and green tea. Those aren’t the only potential health benefits of these multitasking compounds, though: A diet rich in food with flavonoids naturally comes with lots of antioxidants, and there may even be benefits to flavonoids for tinnitus relief, as a 2016 study explored.
Like terpenes, there are various types of flavonoids found in different plants and foods, like the aforementioned anthocyanidins (cabbage, plums), kaempferol (broccoli, squash), and quercetin (arugula, red onion), among others. In the cannabis plant, you can find two versions of a flavonoid called cannflavin: cannflavin A and cannflavin B; these were discovered by Marilyn Barrett at the University of London in 1986. Barrett and her team found that cannflavin was 30 times more anti-inflammatory than aspirin. While this was an incredible discovery, the research on these flavonoids was limited because of the stigma and illegal ties to cannabis in the past 35 years. However, thanks to the spread of legalization, scientists are now beginning to learn more about cannflavin.
Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, published a recent study showing how cannflavin A and cannflavin B are produced. These molecules are not psychoactive, but like like CBD they can target pain directly, so there is the possibility that they could be used to create a painkiller that would not pose the risk of addiction.
Flavonoids and the Entourage Effect
These components in cannabis—the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids—are what make up the crux of the Entourage Effect. This is the phenomenon that occurs when these components act synergistically in concert with each other, amplifying their therapeutic benefits. However, there is still so much to learn about this powerful cannabis and plant world component. Hopefully, as legalization spreads, there will be more studies that follow in the footsteps of both Barrett and the researchers at the University of Guelph, so we’ll hopefully be able to further unlock the potential power of flavonoids, sooner than later.