Flavonoids are primarily responsible for the color of the cannabis plant.
To date, more than 20 flavonoids have been found in the cannabis Sativa plant alone.
Some flavonoids have shown the potential to mitigate inflammation, cancer, and other health issues.
Foods like dark chocolate, green tea leaves, red wine, and berries are often thought to be potent sources of flavonoids. But did you know these plant-based compounds can also be found in cannabis? That’s right, there are flavonoids in cannabis that are believed to affect not only its color and taste but also its potential effects. Ahead, we help find the answer to questions like “What are flavonoids?” and “What are the benefits of flavonoids?”
What are flavonoids?
Flavonoids are a type of phytochemicals, aka bioactive compounds. Similar to the more commonly known cannabinoids and terpenes, flavonoids are found in cannabis, fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Does cannabis contain flavonoids?
Yes, cannabis contains flavonoids, hence the term “cannabis flavonoid.”
This compound is primarily found in the seedlings, leaves, and flowers of the cannabis plant, but not in the roots and seeds. To date, more than 20 flavonoids have been found in the cannabis Sativa plant alone.
It’s also interesting to note that flavonoids are not limited to cannabis; they are also present in other plants – think fruits, vegetables, and flowers. That said, some flavonoids are uniquely present in cannabis and are called “cannflavins”. For example, the prenylated (C5) and geranylated (C10) flavones are unique to Cannabis Sativa.
What do flavonoids do in marijuana plants?
Cannabis flavonoids, or marijuana flavonoids, give marijuana plants their color. For example, the flavonoid anthocyanin gives certain cannabis strains a bright purple hue. Flavonoids also display “the entourage effect” as they intensify the bioactivities of other phytocannabinoids, namely, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
On top of that, scientists think that flavonoids and terpenes may be working together to give marijuana its unique scent that varies across different cultivars. Research also suggests that flavonoids may help protect the marijuana plant from external stressors like pests and harsh rays from the Sun.
Major flavonoids in cannabis
Research shows there are more than 20 flavonoids present in cannabis.
Kaempferol: Kaempferol is thought to have anticancer, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, antioxidant, antiallergic, and cardioprotective properties. [Source]
Quercetin: This bioflavonoid is also one of the most widely found polyphenols (plant-based compounds) in fruits and veggies. Quercetin displays antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective abilities. [Source]
Apigenin: This flavonoid is one of the most renowned plant-based compounds for addressing various health issues, such as diabetes, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, insomnia, and certain types of cancer. [Source]
Luteolin: This flavonoid has antimutagenic, antitumorigenic, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. [Source][Text Wrapping Break]More research unearthed its potential as an anticancer agent. Luteolin is generally found in vegetables, herbs and fruits.
Cannflavins A, B, and C: These cannflavins are reportedly only found in cannabis plants, although cannflavin A has been identified in Mimulus bigelovii (a Lopseed species otherwise known as monkey flowers). [Text Wrapping Break]Researchers are investigating the possible anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anticancer, antiparasitic, and antiviral activities of these compounds. [Source]
Potential health benefits of flavonoids
As you may have seen from the section on “Major flavonoids in marijuana,” these dietary flavonoids show promising results in terms of health benefits.
For instance, a 2021 review highlighted that cannflavins are a notable to help mitigate inflammation. Most specifically, cannflavin A has displayed promising anti-oxidant, anti-parasitic, and neuroprotective abilities. It also binds to viral proteins, suggesting possible antiviral activity.
Others like luteolin and quercetin stop gene mutation and protect the nerve cells against damage, respectively. Many of these compounds also downplay oxidation and inflammation that are otherwise harmful to the human body in excess amounts. [Source]
Improve cardiovascular health
According to another 2020 review, flavonoids are revered for their cardioprotective benefits. Thanks to their antioxidative abilities, flavonoids like quercetin, kaempferol, and apigenin may lower the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (read: “bad” cholesterol). This, in turn, improves your lipid profile. What’s more, flavonoids can promote vasodilation, which widens the blood vessels to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure.
Lower the odds of diabetes
Flavonoids exert an anti-diabetic effect. They help regulate carbohydrate digestion and glucose uptake. They also play a part in the signaling and secretion of insulin (a hormone that turns glucose into energy in the body).
Reduce the likelihood of cancer
Ample scientific evidence indicates the anticancer benefit of flavonoids. A 2020 article explains these bioactives:
Influence the reactive oxygen species (ROS)-scavenging enzyme activities,
Stop the cell cycle in its tracks to induce cell death and destruction of damaged cells, which helps curb the growth and spread of cancer cells, and
Play down the signaling pathways for inflammation within the body
Flavonoids vs. terpenes
You may wonder of there’s a difference between flavonoids and terpenes. The short answer is yes. The long answer is…
Flavonoids are primarily responsible for the color of the cannabis plant. Meanwhile, terpenes are the primary contributor to the unique scent of a particular cannabis strain. The potential health benefits of flavonoids differ from those of marijuana terpenes. Another point of difference would be that there are a lot more terpenes than flavonoids in nature. For context, researchers have identified more than 150 terpenes and only over 20 flavonoids in cannabis Sativa.
While both flavonoids and terpenes have different profiles in the cannabis plant, they work in tandem to enhance your sensory experience of a particular cultivar. Scientists credit this to the “entourage effect”. So, for all their differences, think of flavonoids and terpenes as heading toward the same goal.
Find the flavonoid that’s right for you!
Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand more about these bioactive compounds. Even though there are only around 20 cannflavins, there’s still a need for trial and error to determine which one(s) are best for your specific needs. That’s what RISE is here for. If you wish to learn more about flavonoids in cannabis, speak with one of our knowledgeable patient care specialists at your local RISE dispensary today.
Wang J, Fang X, Ge L, et al. Antitumor, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of kaempferol and its corresponding glycosides and the enzymatic preparation of kaempferol. PLoS One. 2018;13(5):e0197563. Published 2018 May 17. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0197563
Imran M, Salehi B, Sharifi-Rad J, et al. Kaempferol: A Key Emphasis to Its Anticancer Potential. Molecules. 2019;24(12):2277. Published 2019 Jun 19. doi:10.3390/molecules24122277
Gonçalves Cirino, J. P., & Ortega, M. M. (2021). The Pharmacological Action of Kaempferol in Central Nervous System Diseases: A Review. Frontiers in Pharmacology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2020.565700
Sneh Punia Bangar, Vandana Chaudhary, Nitya Sharma, Vasudha Bansal, Fatih Ozogul & Jose M. Lorenzo (2022) Kaempferol: A flavonoid with wider biological activities and its applications, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2022.2067121
Tsao, J., Bernard, J. R., Hsu, H., Hsu, C., Liao, S., & Cheng, I. (2022). Short-Term Oral Quercetin Supplementation Improves Post-exercise Insulin Sensitivity, Antioxidant Capacity and Enhances Subsequent Cycling Time to Exhaustion in Healthy Adults: A Pilot Study. Frontiers in Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.875319
Saeedi-Boroujeni, A., Mahmoudian-Sani, MR. Anti-inflammatory potential of Quercetin in COVID-19 treatment. J Inflamm 18, 3 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12950-021-00268-6
Deepika, Maurya PK. Health Benefits of Quercetin in Age-Related Diseases. Molecules. 2022; 27(8):2498. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27082498
Blay, J. (2021). Does Oral Apigenin Have Real Potential for a Therapeutic Effect in the Context of Human Gastrointestinal and Other Cancers?. Frontiers in Pharmacology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2021.681477
Mahbub, A.A., Le Maitre, C.L., Cross, N.A. et al. The effect of apigenin and chemotherapy combination treatments on apoptosis-related genes and proteins in acute leukaemia cell lines. Sci Rep 12, 8858 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-11441-z
Salehi B, Venditti A, Sharifi-Rad M, et al. The Therapeutic Potential of Apigenin. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(6):1305. Published 2019 Mar 15. doi:10.3390/ijms20061305
Ou HC, Pandey S, Hung MY, et al. Luteolin: A Natural Flavonoid Enhances the Survival of HUVECs against Oxidative Stress by Modulating AMPK/PKC Pathway. Am J Chin Med. 2019;47(3):541-557. doi:10.1142/S0192415X19500289
Imran M, Rauf A, Abu-Izneid T, et al. Luteolin, a flavonoid, as an anticancer agent: A review [published correction appears in Biomed Pharmacother. 2019 Aug;116:109084]. Biomed Pharmacother. 2019;112:108612. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2019.108612
Flavonoids in Cannabis sativa: Biosynthesis, Bioactivities, and Biotechnology Johanna L. Bautista, Shu Yu, and Li Tian ACS Omega 2021 6 (8), 5119-5123 DOI: 10.1021/acsomega.1c00318
Al-Ishaq RK, Abotaleb M, Kubatka P, Kajo K, Büsselberg D. Flavonoids and Their Anti-Diabetic Effects: Cellular Mechanisms and Effects to Improve Blood Sugar Levels. Biomolecules. 2019;9(9):430. Published 2019 Sep 1. doi:10.3390/biom9090430
Fan X, Fan Z, Yang Z, et al. Flavonoids-Natural Gifts to Promote Health and Longevity. Int J Mol Sci. 2022;23(4):2176. Published 2022 Feb 16. doi:10.3390/ijms23042176