The cannabis herb produces more than 400 chemical compounds—all of which manifest in different efficacy profiles depending on consumption avenue, including ingestion (edibles) and inhalation (smoke and vapor, each producing different molecular profiles).
The most noted and understood of these molecules are cannabinoids and terpenes.
Major terpenes include
- myrcene (the most common found in cannabis that acts as a sedative)
- limonene(an anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative [anti-cancer] agent)
- pinene (an anti-inflammatory that is helpful for respiratory conditions)
- linalool (an analgesic terpene that also relieves anxiety).
Within this cacophony of cannabis chemistry lurks the redheaded stepchild of herbal enhancement: Flavonoids. The flavonoids found exclusively in cannabis are called cannaflavins.
Roughly 20 flavonoids are found within the cannabis genome (not all of which are exclusive to this herb that is also categorized as a vegetable).
Primary Functions within Plants
Flavonoids serve two primary functions within the plants in which they appear: 1) Aroma/flavor and 2) pigmentation (typically intended to attract pollinating insects). However, the unique fragrance of each cultivar of cannabis is produced not by terpenes alone, but rather the delicate interplay of flavonoids and terpenes.
The majority of edible non-green fruits and vegetables owe their yellow pigmentation to flavonoids (the Latin root word flavus means the hue of yellow found in nature).
Flavonoids are categorized in six classes, each comprised of a slightly different molecular structure and delivering varied medicinal benefits: Anthocyanins, chalcones, flavones, flavonols, flavandiols, and proanthocyanidins.
6,000 Varieties in Nature
It is estimated that more than 6,000 varieties of flavonoids are produced by the majority of edible fruits and vegetables in the plant kingdom.
However, the roles played by flavonoids extend beyond aroma, flavor, and pigment.
The spectrum of cannabis flavonoids delivers a wide range of medicinal efficacy, including anti-fungal, anti-inflammation, anti-microbial, and antioxidant. It is believed that some flavonoids—in another instance of how they mirror molecules such as cannabinoids and terpenes—may also be anti-tumor and fight cancer.
A few of the major flavonoids produced by cannabis
Apigenin: Anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
Quercetin: Anti-cancer, anti-fungal, and antioxidant
Catechins: Antioxidant and cardiovascular benefits
Cannaflavin A: Anti-inflammatory
Relatively little research has been conducted regarding cannaflavins. However, because flavonoids appear in so many plants in nature, available research indicates that various flavonoids may be beneficial in preventing or treating diseases involving neurological degeneration, including Alzheimers and Parkinson’s.
A 2016 study entitled “Flavonoids: An Overview” that was published in the Journal of Nutritional Science found that a variety of flavonoids convey anti-inflammatory properties and also fight particular diseases.
A 2013 study entitled “Recent Studies on Flavonoids and their Antioxidant Activities” and published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Sciences conducted a literature review of existing flavonoid research and found considerable health benefits derived from these unique molecules.
A 2013 research study entitled “Chemistry and Biological Activities of Flavonoids: An Overview” that was published in The Scientific World Journal uncovered multiple health benefits from several flavonoids. This included the distinct capability to fight multiple forms of cancer.