The cannabis plant contains hundreds of different compounds, the best known of which are CBD and THC. CBD has been extensively studied and found to have many health benefits, such as suppressing pain and inflammation, relieving anxiety and depression, reducing symptoms related to cancer and its treatment, and offering neuroprotective protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and multiple sclerosis. THC has also been studied and is known to be responsible for the psychoactive effects that produce the ‘high’ feeling associated with cannabis.
However, cannabis plants also contain other compounds. One of these is terpenes, which are aromatic chemicals that contribute the different tastes and scents associated with different strains of the plant. Another, and probably the most overlooked, is flavonoids.
In this article, we’ll look at what flavonoids are, what benefits they have and why they are a vital component of cannabis.
What Do Flavonoids Do?
Flavonoids can be found in many plants, including fruits and vegetables. This includes the hemp plant, meaning the products of it, such as CBD oil, contain them. One of their primary functions is to provide the colour pigmentation for flowers, leaves and fruits that warn of herbivores, attract pollinators such as bees, and help with UV filtration. Though you may not have heard of flavonoids before, you will have certainly witnessed them in action as one of the most noticeable impacts they have on pigment change is on the colours of autumn leaves. During spring and summer the trees are predominantly green, due to chlorophyll growth caused by high exposure to sunlight. As the sun begins to fade, flavonoids come to the fore, giving the leaves their yellow colour.
However, though the etymological root of the word flavonoid is the Latin term ‘flavus’, which means ‘yellow’, flavonoids don’t provide just yellow pigmentation. Anthocyanins, one of the most prevalent flavonoids, are found in fruit and play an important role in changing their colour as they ripen. They cover a palette of purple, blue and red, and are found in rich, dark fruit like blackberries and blueberries, reaching a far broader spectrum than just yellowing leaves.
What are the Health Benefits of Flavonoids?
Flavonoids have been found to be very beneficial for human health. A study published in a journal called Plant Foods for Human Nutrition found that they have antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, as well as protecting the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Some of the major flavonoids and their benefits include:
This group includes two of the best flavonoids called kaempferol and quercetin, which are believed to have antioxidant effects and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Flavonones help to stabilize free radicals, harmful molecules that cause damage to our bodies on a cellular level, protecting us against a variety of dangerous diseases, including some forms of cancer. They also help to reduce cholesterol and have an anti-inflammatory effect.
These chemicals have a phytoestrogenic effect, meaning they mimic the hormone estrogen, and may play a role in regulating metabolism and hormone imbalance.
Anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and are the compound responsible for giving plants and fruits their distinctive colours.
Two areas in which flavonoids are believed to be particularly effective are in fighting cancer and managing weight. High intake of dietary flavonoids has been found to reduce the risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, esophageal cancer and colorectal cancer, amongst others. A 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal which followed its participants between 1986 and 2011 found that those who consumed more flavonoids gained less weight than those who did.
Flavonoids and Cannabis
Though cannabinoids, THC and terpenes are the most well known of the compounds that make up cannabis, flavonoids are actually the most abundant of all. About 20 different flavonoids have been identified in the cannabis plant, mainly belonging to the flavonol and flavonone groups. These include kaempferol, which is a powerful antioxidant, and quercetin, which can help protect against neurological diseases, relieve symptoms of allergies and lower high blood pressure. Also present in cannabis are apigenin, which can help to prevent skin cancer and luteolin, which is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and may also protect against cancer and heart disease.
There are also flavonoids that are unique to the cannabis family, known as Cannanflavin-A. Cannaflavin-B and Cannaflavin-C. Research published in a journal called Biochemical Pharmacology found that Cannaflavin-A and Cannaflavin-B have anti-inflammatory benefits 30 times stronger than aspirin. Another study from 2020 found that cannaflavins could potentially treat pancreatic cancer, which is particularly exciting as the cancer has a five-year survival rate of only 8%. These unique flavonoids enhance the health benefits already associated with CBD products even further.
Flavonoids and the ‘Entourage Effect’
The entourage effect is the name given to the beneficial effect of all the compounds found within the hemp plant working together. The theory is that by using the whole plant, rather than a singular aspect, the health benefits and overall therapeutic effects of the cannabinoids are given a boost. The flavonoids contained within a CBD product support the good work that the cannabinol is doing for your body, and vice versa. This also applies to the terpenes and fatty acids that naturally occur in cannabis.
If you wish to experience the entourage effect, you should be using full spectrum or broad spectrum CBD oil. Full spectrum CBD oil contains all of the naturally occurring compounds within cannabis, including a trace amount of THC. Broad spectrum CBD oil contains all of the compounds but without any amount of THC. CBD isolate oil is also available, but this does not deliver the enhanced benefits of using the whole cannabis plant.
Flavonoids are a naturally occurring chemical found in most plants, fruits and vegetables. These chemicals have many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and have been found to help protect against dangerous conditions including heart disease, cancer, neurological diseases and skin conditions. There are some flavonoids, called cannaflavins, that are only found in cannabis and products made from it, such as CBD products. Absorbing plenty of flavonoids can boost your wellbeing, and help you live a long and healthy life.