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What Are They and What Do They Do?
When we talk about cannabis, it always seems that terpenes and cannabinoids such as CBD and THC take the center stage. While cannabis is loaded with 400 different compounds, there is another type of component that we think deserves a piece of the spotlight. It’s called a flavonoid also called ‘cannaflavin’- a phytonutrient that is responsible for the plant’s appearance and fragrance. Current research has found that these little group of natural substances not only provide the development and consumption of plants but also offer a range of benefits for health and well-being.
You may not know it, but there are more than 8,000 existing varieties of flavonoids found in nature, and 20 of those have been identified in cannabis so far. They are the most abundant nutrient families found in all plants, such as herbs, fruits, and veggies and not to mention the humble cannabis plant. Though there is more research needed, cannabis flavonoids have been proven to contain antibacterial, neuroprotective, antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties. That said, it may be worth learning a little more about their function and purpose in the cannabis plant. Below, we dive into the lesser-known yet vital components of cannabis that we shouldn’t ignore.
Deriving from the Latin word “flavus” (meaning ‘yellow’ or ‘blonde’) describes flavonoids color in nature. Without getting too lost in the sauce of science, they are essentially naturally-occurring secondary metabolites that are most known for their rich diversity as color-providing pigments.
They are found in most if not all plant species, including but not limited to fruits, veggies, herbs, and yes you guessed it — our beloved plant friend cannabis.
As members of one of the largest nutrient families in all of the plant kingdom, they are distributed throughout all parts of a plant, which includes everything from the leaves and seeds to the roots, flowers, and stems. As mentioned above, they provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits that plants, animals, and humans can benefit from. By bonding with one another and other compounds found in a plant, flavonoids have the bio-active ability to significantly impact both the nutritional value and cultivation of plant life.
Like all other plants, flavonoids play a functional role in the health of cannabis flower. By participating in the seed development and growth process, they are able to execute essential functions. They not only regulate cell cycle progression at a cellular level, but they act as a defense mechanism. By inducing antioxidant activity in different compartments of the plant, flavonoids are able to help prevent damage caused by environmental stressors such as fungi, viruses, bacteria, insects and even some herbivores. Additionally, they provide protection from harmful UV rays from the sun, operating in areas of plant-growth like UV light filtering system.
It’s probably worth mentioning, though, that there are some flavonoids in nature that have allelopathic functions and act as chemical attractants, which either help with pollination or spreading seeds.
Aside from defending against outside factors and controlling growth processes, flavonoids are what a plant its overall outward appearance. Because they participate in pigment, flavor, aroma differences of plants (including fruits, veggies, and herbs), each cannabis strain is given its own unique color, taste, and smell. Beyond providing vibrant pigments, exactly what do they do in the human body? Well, if you were to smoke, vape, or ingest a little bud – apparently a whole lot of something.
How Cannabis-specific Flavonoids Benefit the Human Body
Much like cannabinoids, flavonoids found in the stems, leaves, and seeds of cannabis contain unique elements that can influence metabolic functions in the body (i.e. absorption, digestion, and biotransformation) but also can help protect our cardiovascular and nervous systems.
When consumed, flavonoids combined with other cannabis compounds such as terpenes and cannabinoids create synergistic (meaning they work together) effects by activating CB1 and CB2 receptors found in our endocannabinoid system. The entire God-given plant was created to work as a whole in order to produce the best effects, thus, this display of energy known as the “entourage effect” provides a more holistic effect, especially when ingesting multiple cannabis compounds at a time.
It is believed that the bioavailability in cannabis may be improved by flavonoids. Depending on the compounds they encounter, a flavonoid’s ability to exert pharmacological activity within the human body is determined by its bioavailability (i.e. the number of compounds available for the body to work with). All scientific jargon aside, below we have listed some of the more well-researched flavonoids:
These are cannabis-specific flavonoids that contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties — strong enough said to outperform in pain-relieving drugs, such as Tylenol.
Cannflavin B & C
These flavonoids are specifically found in the cannabis lay, however, more research is needed to conclude its uses.
The catechin flavonoid contains antioxidants and is typically found in cannabis as well as herbal teas, cacao beans, herbal teas, and some fruits. It is also said to provide cardiovascular health Benefits.
Mostly found in various foods such as green pepper and celery, it’s an antioxidizing flavonoid that may protect against heart disease and cancer.
Kaempferol flavonoids (belonging to the flavonoid group, ‘flavonols’) have antioxidant effects to prevent the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and can be found in a variety of plants in nature, including the cannabis plant.
Found in cannabis as well as teas (specifically rooibos tea), this flavonoid contains powerful antioxidant effects, which help reduce oxidative stress by stabilizing free radicals.
This may be the most commonly found flavonoids — mostly in foods such as fruits, veggies, and teas. But it’s also found in cannabis and known to provide antifungal and antioxidant properties.
Flavonoids produced by plants are by far our greatest source of these health-supporting phytonutrients. While there is limited research on the number of flavonoids in cannabis needed to provide health benefits, they contain some pretty powerful properties that are seemingly beneficial — just like the flavonoids in other plants. Our greatest hope is that research will continue to dive deep beyond the human sensory experience and find out more about the contribution of their effects in all forms of cannabis.