Chemistry matters – Know the cannaflavins

Dr Sona A Pungavkar
Cannabinoids and terpenes are relatively well known constituents of the Cannabis plant. The plant also contains a considerable amount of less known constituents, the flavonoids. Flavonoids, also called as color chemicals, are found in many plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables and are known for the non-green, colors they impart and are a type of phytonutrients. The name is derived comes from the Latin word for ‘yellow’, called as ‘flavus’, as most flavonoids contain a yellow color. It is an indicator for the intended function of the molecules, present in pigments (non- green such as yellow, blue or red) in the floral parts of the plants.Cannabis flowers have several colors, including green, yellow, orange, red, blue and purple. In the Cannabis plant, these provide color, aromaand  flavor, along with terpenes. Flavonoids are estimated to represent 10% of the total components produced by the plant, and 2.5% of the dry weight in leaves and flowers and some can be exclusive to the plant.
The flavonoids are produced throughout the plant’s life cycle, and play key roles such as
· Attracting pollinator insects
· Capturing certain wavelengths of light
· Protecting from UV Rays
· Regulating the cellular cycle
· Modulating auxin transport
· Defence against herbivores
Like cannabinoids and terpenes, they have several nutritional and therapeutic effects.
Cannaflavins: The Cannabis Specific Flavonoids
Flavonoids unique to Cannabis plant are called as Cannaflavins, and were discovered in 1986 by Marilyn Barrett.
Few of theCannaflavins are listed below.
Cannaflavins A, Band C –These are exclusive to cannabis and havean inhibitory effect on “PGE-2,” and leukotrienes, substances which cause inflammation and respond to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),such as aspirin. Cannaflavin-A has been shown to reduces inflammation and the effect is 30 times stronger than aspirin.
• Vitexin and isovitexin: is found in higher concentrations in seeds than infull grown plants. It may be useful in treatment of gout.
• Apigenin: is also found in chamomile. It provides sedative and anxiolytic effects.
• It has been found useful during organ transplants to reduce the unwanted effects of an immunosuppressant such as, Cyclosporin A. Rodent studies have shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, inhibiting tumour growth.It is also useful to induce restfulness and neurological health.
• Kaempferol: is found to treat symptoms of depression. It is also known to have antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties and a preventive effect against coronary heart disease and cancer.
• Quercetin: found in almost all cannabis plants, providing anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antiviral, antifungal, antihistaminic and antioxidant effects.It can relieve symptoms of hay fever and hives and in treatment of fibromyalgia.
• Orientin: common in cannabis and tea plants, it is a potent antioxidant with antibiotic anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.
• Luteolina: similar effects to Orientin, it also appears to enter into synergy with the other compounds.
• Beta-sitosterol: isolated for the first time precisely from cannabis, it reduces the level of cholesterol and helps to prevent coronary heart disease.
Because many flavonoids have high antioxidant properties, flavonoid consumption is thought to decrease risk of certain cancers, especially lung and breast cancer. Researchers have also found evidence that flavonoids can have neuroprotective effects, antibacterial and antiviral effects as in treating hepatitis, treating glaucoma and as anti-anxiety agents.
Interacting With Other Chemicals in Cannabis
Along with cannabinoids and terpenes, flavonoids participate in the entourage effect, which means that these have a synergistic effect that individual compounds cannot produce alone. Flavonoids can inhibit certain enzymes involved in the metabolism of THC, blocking the pathway, thus altering the effect of THC on users.
Potential uses of flavonoids.
1. Easing Inflammation
When it comes to cannaflavins, one big therapeutic benefit is their anti-inflammatory effect.  Cannflavin A and cannflavin B were both found to have anti-inflammatory benefits, without theside effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents. This can be very important for treatment of chronicinflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, to avoid the side effects of the conventional treatment.
2. Preventing and Fighting Cancer
There is also growing evidence that flavonoids may aid in cancer prevention and treatment. 
Studies are showing that flavonoids can prohibit cancergrowth and metastases throughout the body.  Cannaflavins show promising signs as a treatment for pancreatic cancer in rats, both in terms of shrinking tumors and preventing secondary tumors. These can also be used as radio-sensitisers, increasing the effect of radiotherapy. Use of the Cannaflavins in patients requires more research.
3. Promoting Skin Health 
The intense anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of the flavonoids is protective for skin and useful in treating skin disorders, such as depigmentation, sun damage and the effects of aging on the skin. Topical formulations can be effective as the flavonoids are easily absorbed through the skin.
4. Neuroprotection
“Flavonoids cause inhibition of fibrillation of amyloid â which results in the amyloid tangles and are the culprit in Alzheimer’s disease, causing neurotoxicity and neuronal loss.
Current limitations in making Cannaflavins available for research and treatment is the legal status of Cannabis, in addition to the low quantity available within the Cannabis plant. As the initial studies are promising, there is an interest in genetic modification of the plants to grow Cannaflavin specific plants, so that targeted flavonoid based treatment can be offered. Although, present in very low quantities, these are small armymen making big noise.
The author is a Cannabis researcher, a senior radiologist and Vice President, Cannabis Health and Sciences.