Flavonoids are widely understudied compared to cannabinoids and terpenes, yet their importance in cannabis has been recognized. Flavonoids account for roughly 10% of the biological compounds found in the trichomes. Around 20 varieties have been identified in cannabis, while thousands more are found in fruits, vegetables, and flowers. In all plants, the main function of flavonoids is to provide the colors or pigments that attract pollinators.
Specifically, flavonoids provide non-green pigments, like the bright yellow, red, and blue hues we see in many flowers, leaves, fruits, and vegetables. The deep purple pigments found in many cannabis strains are due to flavonoids known as anthocyanins.
Flavonoids have importance beyond attracting pollinators. By capturing certain
wavelengths of light, they are able to block free-radical formation. Flavonoids offer a plant
protection from strong UV rays, pests, and disease. Flavonoids help regulate the plant’s cellular
cycle, and affect the transport of auxin, a plant hormone involved in regulating plant growth. A
plant’s particular flavonoid concentration depends on many factors including genetics, and
growing conditions such as light cycle and temperature.
In cannabis, flavonoids provide character in terms of color, flavor, and aroma. They also
have known pharmacological or medicinal values. Of the 20 flavonoids identified in cannabis,
some are exclusive to the plant and are referred to as cannaflavins. Research has shown that
Cannaflavins A, B, and C act on the prostaglandin inflammatory pathway in the body providing
a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Some labs have shown these cannaflavins provide more pain
relief than aspirin. Some other flavonoids consistently found in cannabis are detailed below.
Vitexin is not unique to cannabis and naturally occurs in other plants like passionflower,
chasteberry, and bamboo leaves. It is found in higher concentrations in seedlings and young
plants. Medicinally it is useful as a treatment for gout, a form of arthritis caused by excess uric
acid in the bloodstream. Vitexin inhibits the production of thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme
involved in thyroid hormone production, and by doing so can help treat hyperthyroidism from
an over production of thyroid hormone.
Apigenin is a flavonoid that, like some cannabinoids and terpenes, acts on the GABA
receptors in the body providing for a sedative and anti-anxiety effect. Apigenin is the primary
anti-anxiety factor found in chamomile. It has been shown to decrease the side effects of the
immunosuppressant drugs administered during an organ transplant to prevent organ rejection.
Studies have shown Apigenin has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties as well. Like many
flavonoids, Apigenin is active on estrogen receptors, and several studies have shown it to inhibit
breast cancer growth.
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in nearly all vascular plants, including cannabis.
Quercetin inhibits viral enzymes making it a potent anti-viral. Quercetin is known to be an anti-
fungal and an anti-mutagenic as well. It also acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory by inhibiting
prostaglandin production. Current research of Quercetin hints it may be showing promise as a
treatment for fibromyalgia. Like other flavonoids, Quercetin has antioxidant and anti-cancer
Kaempferol is a flavonoid known to have value in the treatment of depression. Limited
studies show, consuming Kaempferol may be a preventative action against cancer and coronary
heart disease. It is also an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. When a treatment combines
the flavonoids Kaempferol and Quercetin it is much more powerful at inhibiting the
proliferation of cancer growth.
Orientin is a flavonoid common in cannabis and tea plants, and it is the most commonly
extracted flavonoid from plants. Comprehensive studies of Orientin show it to have great
medicinal value in fighting cancer, as it is a potent antioxidant, a scavenger of free-radicals, and
powerful inhibitor of cancer cell growth. Orientin is also known to be anti-aging, anti-bacterial,
anti-inflammatory, a vasodilator, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, an anti-depressant, anti-
adipogenesis (prevents formation of fat cells), and a potent pain reliever.
Beta- Sitosterol is a flavonoid found in cannabis, avocados, and nuts. It is a phytosterol
found in the cell membrane that structurally similar to cholesterol molecules in the body, and
when consumed fights with cholesterol for absorption through the digestive tract. Consuming
Beta-sitosterol can reduce a person’s cholesterol level and help prevent coronary heart disease.
Beta-sitosterol has shown value in the reduction of acute inflammation and chronic edema.
Much like cannabinoids and terpenes, flavonoids have synergistic abilities and
potentiate the pharmacological value of each other when combined. The easiest way to
consume multiple flavonoids at once is to stick to whole plant cannabis consumption, like
smoking or vaporizing flower.