While many are aware of cannabinoids and terpenes, flavonoids tend to end up taking a back seat despite their importance in the life and well being of the cannabis plant.

Flavonoids may sound unfamiliar but as you’ll learn here, they are present in most everyone’s day to day life and the tissue of various plants beyond cannabis.

So what are flavonoids? They’re a type of plant produced compound. They’re what’re known as poly-phenolic compounds and they come in a variety of subclasses. Six of these are sometimes known as dietary flavonoids and are encountered commonly by most. These dietary flavonoids are as their name suggests primarily found in foods, many of which contain benefits not explained by the absorption of fats, vitamins, etc.

Here are those six and an explanation of what they are.

  1. Anthocyanins - These are compounds which are know for their hues of blue, red, purple, and even black. They often change color as a reaction to changes in P.H. and sometimes other factors like temperature. They are also well known to be high in antioxidants and are commonly found in many berries, wines, and grapes. These are generally odorless.

  1. Flavan-3-ols- These are most abundant in cocoa and its products as well as some berries,  white and green teas, and grapes.

  1. Flavanols - These are found in onions, cabbage, broccoli, kale, berries, and teas.

  1. Flavones - Found in parsley, thyme, celery, and peppers

  1. Flavanones - Citrus fruit and juices

  1. Isoflavones - Soy Beans, soy based foods, and legumes.

The benefits provided by these compounds to both you as a cannabis consumer and the cannabis plant as a living creature is, in my opinion, indispensable. Those benefits also extend to other plants rich in these compounds.

We are still studying the totality of the range of benefits offered by flavonoids but there has already been evidence that they can help with a host of issues and are generally beneficial. The details to this are quite fine and depending on your query, I don’t suggest getting too deep into it if you don’t have to.

So what do they do with cannabis?

Well, for starters they make up a lot of the distinct non green pigments in cannabis.  In the same vein, the compounds help to provide essential UV protection and light filtration. They are also capable of managing fungal issues, inviting pollinators, creating scents and flavors, and more. 

Another important role of these chemicals is the modulation of growth and development. They are especially important in the germination of seeds as well.

There are also a subgroup of flavonoids found more or less exclusively in cannabis (save for a few rare exceptions) called cannaflavins

They are:

Cannaflavin A

Cannaflavin B

Cannaflavin C

These compounds have been established to have neuroregenerative qualities, antioxidant qualities, anti tumor properties, pain relief, and more. The first two were discovered in 1980 but the third wasn't identified until 2008. There is still much work to see how they function in vivo but in vitro preliminary study shows much promise for the capabilities of these compounds.

Though testing for these compounds is not standard, I think it should be and even though it’s not there a few things that can be used to determine the presence of some of these compounds can be determined by the color of your cannabis.

There is not a standard area for these compounds to manifest and as they are distributed in various tissues of the plant including but not limited too: leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, and occasionally roots.

These compounds in food are part of what makes food and nutrition more than just the basics like fats, sugars, vitamins, minerals, etc and account for the complex benefits found in indigenous plant medicines and intentional food preparations. Although it may seem as though there is no importance to such specific details of foods chemical composition it is these minute details that impact bioavailability, ongoing metabolic processes, and overall define and distinguish the experience of one food (or cannabis) over another. 

I would also like to take a moment to add a brief aside about colors other than greens, reds, blues, and purples in cannabis.

We know green is caused by chlorophyll and the reds, blues, and purples are primarily caused by anthocyanins but where do the other colors come from?

Well, there are some tetraterpenoids called carotenoids. These compounds are distinguished by their orange, yellow, and sometimes bright red hues. They are most well known and abundant in carrots but can be found in squash, pumpkin, yams, and a plethora of other things.

In cannabis they create oranges and yellows primarily and can appear as accents in pistils, calyxes, stigmas, etc. They also appear in leaves although in some cases yellow leaves can be a sign of overfeeding, nutrient deficiency, or stress as well.

Carotenoids include over 700 hundred compounds including Beta carotene, Lycopene, and many more. 

Carotenoids are considered one of the 4 types of plant pigments as well !

Depending on where a flavonoid is located and in what concentration and the P.H. they can determine the color of everything from leaves to within the trichomes heads themselves. 

Because of the low quantities they are found in and in some cases low bioavailability, there has been ongoing research and experimentation to produce greater levels of these compounds.

One such method is the use of “Hairy Root Cultures” ; this is a type of culture which involves infecting the roots of an organism with a specific root based bacteria. The vigor which this bacteria  has and its ability to hack the biology of other plants makes it a perfect candidate to use to create high concentrations of specific secondary metabolites. But hairy root cultures don’t work in all plants and offer varying results.  In cannabis, this could be used to produce flavonoids, cannabinoids, terpenes, or other compounds in high quantities needed to study these metabolites in depth. The complete implications of this work remains to be seen but I think the suggested implications are clear.

Though the door is still widening on our understanding of these compounds, I believe that we should be informed about them and try to stay up to date.

I also believe that they are an important key to understanding the truth behind what makes something medicine or food or what have you, not just for cannabis but in general.

I hope this is a helpful introduction to these largely mysterious molecules which make our treasured cannabis more of what it is.