You’ve probably heard a lot about the benefits of CBD, from pain-relieving effects to help with mental disorders such as PTSD. You’ve probably also heard about the controversial THC, with psychoactive properties that aid marijuana users both medicinally and recreationally. With so much media attention given to CBD and THC, another group of essential chemical compounds found in cannabis is often overlooked. They’re called flavonoids, and they pack a pretty powerful punch.
So what is a flavonoid exactly? Flavonoids are phytonutrients found in plants that are responsible for the vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables. They are antioxidants, and they are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and immune system support (1). Most of the “superfoods” that get all the buzz in the nutrition and fitness communities are full of flavonoids, and cannabis is no exception. Flavonoids are the largest group of phytonutrients, with over 6,000 different varieties. But the ones found in marijuana are recently getting a lot of research attention, now that many countries and states in the US have legalized the plant.
One research study found that the cannflavins A and B located in Sativa strains have 30 times the anti-inflammatory power of aspirin (2). This knowledge could point to the development of drugs that don’t have the long term side effects of many NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Another study found that using flavonoids to target pancreatic cancer tumors may increase the life expectancy of patients considerably (3). Seeing that pancreatic cancer has a 5-year survival rate of around 9%, this research could give patients more time and hope than they had before.
Unfortunately, the amount of beneficial flavonoids in freshly grown marijuana is a meager percentage (about .014%). So to gain the amazing benefits of these compounds, you would need to smoke or digest record amounts of cannabis. And although a lethal dose of marijuana has never been identified, you would probably spend more money than it’s worth to consume enough to get rid of that headache. You’d also need to grow a lot to extract a little, so it isn’t economically viable unless the compounds are made synthetically. Luckily there are already companies trying to do just that, and many are making headway. And with more acceptance legally to fund research, the next decade may show us groundbreaking discoveries in the medical cannabis industry.