Flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients most remarkably known for providing vivid non-green color pigments to the plant kingdom—think blue in blueberries, red in roses, the purple in your Grandaddy Purp. Alongside cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and terpenes like myrcene and limonene, flavonoids in cannabis also produce a range of effects. Commonly grouped together, flavonoids combine with each other and other cannabis phytonutrients to play a highly bioactive role in both the plant’s consumption and cultivation.
As cannabis grows, various flavonoids are expressed, operating in areas of plant-growth like UV light filtering and pest and fungi deterrence. When we consume cannabis, those same flavonoids contribute to the color, taste, smell, entourage effect, and overall sensory experience. While contributing a wide variety of health benefits to the cannabis plant itself during cultivation, flavonoids also have a great reputation among the wellness community for providing a range of health benefits to humans.
Although understudied in the cannabis plant due to federal prohibition, flavonoids are one of the largest nutrient families known to scientists. Over 6,000 unique flavonoids have been identified in research studies. Many of these flavonoids are found in the edible plants we eat and cook everyday, like vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Of all the plant kingdom, common edible foods can be especially nutrient-rich in flavonoids, especially when grown properly. With more researchers studying cannabis every day, new findings show the cannabis plant can also be a flavonoid-rich resource, kicking it right up there with our broccoli and mashed potatoes.
Consider “catechins,” a type of flavonoid found in green tea and cacao. Researched extensively, catechins are known to provide antioxidant and cardiovascular health benefits, and also produce favorable effects on cholesterol levels in humans. Another flavonoid, “quercetin,” a nutrient readily present in many fruits and vegetables, as well as cannabis, is known for having potent antioxidant and antiviral properties. Sometimes flavonoid names are fairly easy to deduce, basing them by the name of the food in which they’re increasingly present, like “tangeretin,” found in tangerines and most citrus fruit. Some, like kaempferol, luteolin, and quercetin, naturally occur across a variety of plants, but flavonoids truly unique to the cannabis plant are now referred to as “cannaflavins.”
Research is underway to distinguish cannaflavins from more common flavonoids. For example, it was recently discovered that cannabis flavonoid “cannaflavin-A” inhibits “PGE-2,” a prostaglandin responsible for inflammation known for responding well to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin. The study showed that cannaflavin-A reduces inflammation and is exponentially more powerful than aspirin.
Cannflavin-B and cannflavin-C are being studied, too, while researchers are still learning how the presence of more common flavonoids in cannabis like β-sitosterol, vitexin, isovitexin, apigenin, kaempferol, quercetin, luteolin, and orientin work in conjunction with—or resistance to—cannabis cannabinoids and terpenes.
Because many flavonoids have high antioxidant properties that support the detoxification of tissue-damaging molecules, flavonoid consumption is often—although not always—associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers, most notably lung and breast cancer. Still today, more research is required on flavonoids’ role in these specific conditions.
While the distribution of flavonoids in the cannabis plant varies on genetics, growing conditions, and the flavonoid itself, the compounds are found readily in cured cannabis leaves and flowers, reaching concentrations large enough for us to enjoy them. Soon, through extractions, or possibly synthesis, we might be twaxing joints with a dab of terp oil and a ribbon of “flav” oil.
More research is required to fully understand flavonoids in cannabis, but what we know is this: In addition to their contribution to cannabis plant growth and the human sensory experience, there are numerous benefits to be gained from their consumption—just like the flavonoids in our food.
To get you started vaping flavonoids, here are some flavonoids in cannabis and their corresponding effects and vaporization temperatures:
Beta-sitosterol: 273 °F (anti-inflammatory)
Apigenin: 352 °F (estrogenic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory)
Cannaflavin A: 360 °F (anti-inflammatory)
Quercetin: 482 °F (antioxidant, antiviral)