Flavonoids – the hemp’s secret

Flavonoids – the hemp’s secret

As we have already discussed the properties of cannabidiol in both its basic and acidic form and looked into those less popular cannabinoids, now is the time for some less known cannabis ingredients. Apart from terpenes and terpenoids, flavonoids (or bioflavonoids) are the most group of compounds responsible for the properties of CBD hemp oil as well as for enhancing the effects of natural cannabinoids. What are flavonoids, what are their properties and where can we found them?

Flavonoids – where to find them?

Although we will now primarily at flavonoids contained in hemp (and in its high-quality derivatives such as CBD hemp oils) it is worth knowing that the family of flavonoids is really large. They belong to the huge, over eight thousand representatives-strong, class of organic compounds common in the plant world – they are plant and fungus secondary metabolites. Bioflavonoids (as there are also synthetic ones) can be found in many plants, especially in citrus fruits, legumes, beetroot, pepper, wine, tea, onion and, of course – in hemp. Many of the flavone compounds are named after the plants in which they have been identified for the first time or in which they are especially abundant: it is not difficult to guess where, for instance, tangeritin or petunidin can be found.

As a noble, ancient plant with dozens of uses, hemp can take pride in hosting a bunch of flavonoids – most prominent being kaempferol, luteolin or quercetin – but it also contains a whole group of flavonoids unique to cannabis – those are called cannaflavines.

Properties of flavonoids

Although their name could suggest that flavonoids are primarily responsible for the taste and aroma of plants, its origins are actually quite different – it comes from Latin flavus, meaning „yellow”, as flavonoids typically contain a yellowish pigment. But apart of granting plants their intense tint, flavonoids display a much broader array of properties, including significant health benefits. There are probably as many specific properties of flavonoids as there are flavonoids themselves: diastolic and diuretic (in horsetail) or improving the blood flow by sealing the circulatory system (in ginkgo biloba), but the most important are the universal ones. Flavonoids work primarily as dyes (their abundance in wine and beetroot is no mystery), natural insecticides and fungicides and antioxidants. Especially the latter property is interesting and is one of the most valuable qualities of flavonoids.

Helth benefits of flavonoids

Antioxidant properties count among the most important health benefits of flavonoids. In addition to these, most flavone compounds also exhibit significant anti-inflammatory, antifungal and diastolic effects. The high content of flavonoids in herbs can be attributed to their prevalence in traditional medicine. Also, the widespread belief in the beneficial effect of red wine on the heart and skin can be largely linked to the high content of flavonoids in the vine.

In addition, the plants and their preparations rich in flavonoids support the treatment of haemorrhoids and subcutaneous haemorrhage, strengthen the immune system and facilitate the absorption of vitamins, i.e. by preventing the oxidation of vitamin C, thereby increasing its effectiveness. Furtherly, flavonoids protect against thrombosis, which is one of the main causes of stroke. Finally, the role of flavonoids in decreasing the risk of certain (particularly lung, breast and colon) cancers due to their antioxidant properties, is increasingly being discussed.

This glimpse of the properties of flavonoids is already impressive. And what are the qualities of the flavonoids unique to cannabis – the cannaflavins?

Flavonoids in hemp

A glance at the many properties of flavonoids helps to realise that they coincide to some extent with those attributed to cannabis. Leaving aside, for now, the synergy effects, this can tell us something important about cannabis as such – is it possible that many of the most important health benefits of Cannabis plant should be attributed to flavonoids?

Well, not necessarily. However, it is worth knowing that apart from the presence of “typical” flavonoids (the most commonly found in cannabis include beta-sitosterol, apigenin and quercetin) hemp contain specific sub-class of flavonoids called cannaflavines, group and the properties of cannaflavins are really promising.

Differentiating cannaflavins from the rest of flavonoids, as well as specifying their effects, is currently the subject of arduous work by researchers. It is already known, however, that, for example, cannaflavin-A is an inhibitor of the PGE-2 prostaglandin. To put it simply: the inflammatory PGE-2 usually responds well to treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin; now it appears that cannaflavin-A works in a similar way, but performs exponentially better than aspirin.

Currently, also cannaflavin-B and cannaflavin-C are being studied: especially interesting are their potential synergies with cannabinoids and other flavonoids and terpenoids. It is already known that flavonoids (it hasn’t been specified whether specifically cannaflavins or the whole class in general) show a similar relationship with THC as CBD, in a word: they inhibit its psychotic effect. This may not be particularly useful information for the consumers of CBD hemp oils, as, let’s remind it, the industrial/fibrous-grade hemp products are completely devoid of any psychoactive substances, yet it can be a valuable message for the enthusiasts of „recreational” marijuana… as well as an incentive to investigate the antipsychotic properties of flavonoids.

Flavonoids in hemp oils

Speaking of synergies … Flavonoids also come in handy in the discussion on the so-called “entourage effect”. In this context, the desired “entourage effect” is the overall effect of the plant with its whole potential – in contrast to pharmaceuticals that isolate single active cannabinoids, often leaving aside other cannabinoid, terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids… This is one of the stronger arguments in the discussion of supporters of medical marijuana with pharmaceutical companies offering products such as Sativex or Dronabinol.

Luckily, we do not have to go into details of this debate as it’s not medical marijuana what we are focusing on here. What is important here is that also in the case of dietary supplements, such as CBD hemp oils, the convergence of the extract with the full profile of the plant, the inclusion of not only the cannabinoids but also the accompanying substances, is nothing less than crucial.

Although the unique properties of cannabis’ cannaflavins are just getting discovered, the properties of well-known, “ordinary” flavonoids are extremely valuable in their own rights. At the same time, these are the treasures of the traditional pharmacopoeia, known to herbalists for centuries – and it is the best recommendation possible. Inconspicuous flavonoids are a fantastic complement to the properties of key cannabinoids – think about it the next time you contemplate the intense green colour of cannabis plant.