Dr. Orser’s Viewpoint | Flavanoids

Dr. Orser’s Viewpoint | Flavanoids

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13 April 2015



The word flavonoid comes from the Latin word for yellow and that gives us a clue as to their role in plants. Flavonoids are a category of plant secondary metabolites found in cannabis as well as most plants to some degree, fulfilling a wide array of functions including as the basis for pigments in flower coloration to attract pollinators, UV filtration, chemical messaging and as physiological regulators. Flavonoids are aromatic, polycyclic compounds that have pharmacological activity in humans as well as plants, including anti-allergic, anti- inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-viral, inhibition of coagulation, and decreased hypertension as well; even though, the FDA has not approved any health claim for flavonoids.

Cannabis produces up to 20 different flavonoids, in addition to the myriad of cannabinoids and terpenoids. It has been reported that cannabis plant material can contain up to 1% flavonoids.1 Furthermore, flavonoids, because they are both volatile and lipophilic, can preserve their pharmacological activity in cannabis smoke.2 Flavonoids act in synergy with both cannabinoids as well as terpenoids to modulate the pharmacokinetics of cannabis. Modes of modulation include the inhibition of P450 enzymes that metabolize potentially toxic compounds into actively toxic compounds principally by way of the liver. In this way, flavonoids shield healthy cells from procarcinogens such as benzo-α-pyrene and aflatoxins, potentially found in cannabis smoke, from being activated to carcinogens.3

Specific flavonoids, such as apigenin, inhibit the production of tumor necrosis factor- alpha (TNF-α) that induces and maintains inflammation.4 Apigenin is also a strong anti- anxiety agent without the side effects of synthetic benzodiazepines such as sedation.5 Flavonoids also have significant anti-bacterial activity. In one study, the flavoinoid, quercetin, protected guinea pigs from the infection by Helicobacter pylori in the digestive tract, which has been shown to play a role in the manifestation of stomach cancer.6

Flavonoids, just one more reason to trust in the synergistic potential of medical cannabis to exact powerful health benefits!

1 Turner C.E. et al. (1980) Constituents of Cannabis sativa L. XVII. A review of the natural constituents. J Nat. Prod. 43:169-304.
2 Sauer M.A. et al. (1983) Marijuana: interaction with the estrogen receptor. J. Pharm Exper Therap 224:404-407.
3 Offord et al (1997) Mechanism involved in the chemoprotective effects of rosemary extract studied studied in human liver and bronchial cells. Cancer Lett 114:275-81

4 Gerritsen M.E. et al. (1995) Flavonoids inhibit cytokine-induced endothelial cell adhesion protein gene expression. Am J Path 147:278-92.
5 Russo E. et al. (2000) Pharmacology of the essential oil of hemp at 5-HT receptors. Poster at 41st Annal mtg of the Amer Soc of Pharmacognosy. July 22-26, Seattle WA.

6 Zamora-Ros R, Agudo A, Luján-Barroso L, Romieu I, Ferrari P, Knaze V et al. (2012). “Dietary flavonoid and lignan intake and gastric adenocarcinoma risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 96 (6): 1398–1408.


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