Cannabinoids and terpenes are words that are thrown around often. But of the 200+ active compounds in the marijuana plant, flavonoids often get overlooked. Cannabis flavonoids play just as important a role as cannabinoids and terpenes in the smell, taste, and color of plants. The word flavonoid comes from the latin word “flavus”, which means yellow. It goes hand in hand with their function in plants – they’re important plant pigments, producing yellow and red/blue colour in petals to attract pollinator animals like bees.
Flavonoids are not unique to the cannabis plant. Scientists have identified thousands of them all throughout nature, from flowers to fruits and vegetables. However, there are some that are known to be found only within cannabis. These are known as cannaflavins. Similar to terpenes, flavonoids share a role in how we perceive cannabis through our senses. But there’s a lot more to flavonoids than what meets our nose and taste buds. In fact, flavonoids are among the most understudied compounds found within the plant.
The most common role that flavonoids play in the plant kingdom is to give them their characteristic color. The blue in your blueberries and the purple in your Granddaddy Purple are perfect examples of flavonoids doing their best work. In the world of plants, we most often observe flavonoids giving plants a vivid color that isn’t green!
Though weed is more often green than anything else, around 10 percent of all of the compounds in marijuana are cannaflavins. Even the little orange hairs on your buds are orange because of the presence of these interesting plant nutrients. While cannabis flavonoids definitely contribute to the smell and taste of ganja, their most prominent role all around the plant kingdom is giving color.
Alongside cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and terpenes like myrcene and limonene, flavonoids in cannabis also produce a range of effects. Commonly grouped together, flavonoids combine with each other and other cannabis phytonutrients to play a highly bioactive role in both the plant’s consumption and cultivation.
The word “flavonoid” actually stems from the Latin term 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.
Although understudied in the cannabis plant due to federal prohibition, flavonoids are one of the largest nutrient families known to scientists. Over 6,000 unique flavonoids have been identified in research studies. Many of these flavonoids are found in the edible plants we eat and cook everyday, like vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Of all the plant kingdom, common edible foods can be especially nutrient-rich in flavonoids, especially when grown properly. With more researchers studying cannabis every day, new findings show the cannabis plant can also be a flavonoid-rich resource, kicking it right up there with our broccoli and mashed potatoes.
Let’s take a look at catechins, for example. They are flavonoids that are found in cacao and green tea. Researchers have discovered that catechins provide cardiovascular health benefits as well as anti-inflammatory effects. They are also effective at keeping cholesterol levels in humans under control. Quercetins are another type of flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables as well as cannabis. They are known to have antioxidant and antiviral effects.
When it comes specifically to cannabis flavonoids, researchers have been able to isolate and identify 23. There are probably loads more, but don’t forget that cannabis is still federally illegal – which puts a huge halt on scientific research. Cannaflavin A (they weren’t very creative on the names) was recently discovered by researchers to have anti-inflammatory properties greater than those of Aspirin.
“The entourage effect” is a widely used term that describes the synergistic nature of the many pharmacologically active compounds in cannabis. Our bodies are equipped with an endocannabinoid system, a vast network of receptors that cover almost every organ and system within us. Cannabinoids bind to these receptors to produce different effects, which are further influenced by terpenes and cannabinoids.
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.
While the distribution of flavonoids in the cannabis plant varies on genetics, growing conditions, and the flavonoid itself, the compounds are found readily in cured cannabis leaves and flowers, reaching concentrations large enough for us to enjoy them. Soon, through extractions, or possibly synthesis, we might be twaxing joints with a dab of terp oil and a ribbon of “flav” oil.
More research is required to fully understand flavonoids in cannabis, but what we know is this: In addition to their contribution to cannabis plant growth and the human sensory experience, there are numerous benefits to be gained from their consumption—just like the flavonoids in our food.
Some flavonoids in cannabis and their corresponding effects and vaporization temperatures:
- Beta-sitosterol: 273 °F (anti-inflammatory)
- Apigenin: 352 °F (estrogenic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory)
- Cannaflavin A: 360 °F (anti-inflammatory)
- Quercetin: 482 °F (antioxidant, antiviral)