What are Cannabis Flavonoids, or Cannaflavins?

Purple cannabis leaves on a yellow background.
Heady Vermont Staff 29 Jul 2022

When we talk about bioactive compounds in cannabis, the more broadly known cannabinoids and terpenes tend to steal the spotlight. But what about cannabis flavonoids, or cannaflavins, which account for roughly 10% of these known compounds?

Cannabis plants contain several flavonoids that are found nowhere else in nature, known as cannaflavins. Cannabis flavonoids are primarily responsible for giving cannabis plants their pigmentation. For instance, the deep purple color of certain strains is attributed to the flavonoids anthoxanthins and anthocyanins.

What are cannabis flavonoids?

Thousands of types of flavonoids (at least 6,000-8,000 and counting) are found in plants throughout nature. Flavonoids are responsible for each cannabis strain’s unique flavors and its pigmentation.

The word “flavonoid” stems from the Latin flavus, referencing the color yellow as it appears in nature. This makes sense considering a primary function of flavonoids is to provide color pigmentation to plants, notably in flowers, for the purpose of attracting pollinators such as bees.

The flavonoids that are unique to weed are known as cannaflavins. Researchers have identified more than 20 in the cannabis plant alone. Like most compounds in cannabis, flavonoids will not get you high, but they are pharmacologically active with potential therapeutic benefits.

What kinds of cannabis flavonoids are there?

Examples of cannabis flavonoids, or cannaflavins, include apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, kaempferol, cannflavin A, cannflavin B (unique to cannabis), β-sitosterol, vitexin, isovitexin, kaempferol, and orientin.145.

Cannflavin A | C26H28O6 - PubChem
Molecular structure of cannaflavin A via PubChem

Are flavonoids synergistic in cannabis?

The entourage effect describes the synergistic interaction of cannabinoids, cannabis terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant. The entourage effect describes the increased therapeutic benefits when combining compounds of the whole plant rather than isolating them.

The reason why certain combinations of these biomolecules make us feel different is due to the synergistic properties of these various compounds. Cannabidiol (CBD), for instance, modulates the effects of THC at the blood-brain barrier. Flavonoids are thought to have similar synergistic abilities.

Whether they enhance the properties of cannabinoids or modulate their efficacy is not fully known and will require further research.

What are the potential therapeutic benefits?

There have been correlations between dietary phenolic compound intake and reduced incidence of chronic diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disorders.

Similar to terpenes, many of these compounds have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-cancer effects.

Apigenin, for example, has anxiolytic effects, and inhibits TNF-α931 which is involved in many inflammatory conditions.

Cannflavin A and B have potent anti-inflammatory effects, with Cannflavin A shown to inhibit PGE-2 30 times more potently than aspirin.

Studies on cannabis flavonoids

Flavonoids in Cannabis sativa: Biosynthesis… NIH Johanna L. Bautista, Shu Yu, and Li Tian

Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis…Eric P. Baron DO

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Cannabis Flavonoids, or Cannaflavins


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