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The Chemistry of Cannabis: Those Gnarly ‘Noids


Out of the thousands of flavonoids identified throughout nature, several can only be found in cannabis, so they’re called “cannaflavins.” With more than 200 bioactive compounds in marijuana plants, it’s not surprising that these molecules would be represented. Anyone who loves really rich dark chocolate, or drinks tea for it’s anti-oxidant properties is already familiar with them. As part of the entourage effect, they play a role in the overall beneficial effects, as well as providing color variations to different strains.

Unique to cannabis

Flavonoids “account for roughly 10% of” the known compounds in pot, “with around 20 varieties known to exist in cannabis” exclusively. In previous weeks, we’ve untangled the terpenes and calmed some of the confusion around cannabinoids like THC and CBD. This trip out, we’ll focus the spotlight on the unfamiliar subject of cannaflavins. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD provide the main effect, predominantly either a good buzz or pain relief.

Terpenes add the flavor and contribute the “effects” which characterize the buzz according to strain. Some make you anxious, some relieve it. Some relax you enough that you can’t get out of the chair. Some are good for sleep, while others are good for motivation.

According to Leafy, flavonoids “share a role in how we perceive cannabis through our senses. But there’s a lot more to flavonoids than what meets our nose and taste buds.” They’re in all sorts of plants “from flowers to fruits and vegetables,” but cannaflavins “are among the most understudied compounds found within the plant.” They’re made up of polyphenolic compounds which play a secondary role as metabolites.

Their biggest function is to affect the pigmentation. The orange hairs and purple hues are the direct result of flavonoids. That’s because flavus is Latin for the color yellow. They do affect flavor, but not nearly as much as the terpenes.

One of the most important jobs flavonoids do is “provide color pigmentation to plants, notably in flowers, for the purpose of attracting pollinators.”

Not only do they give cannabis strains individual character, they help protect the plants against things like UV rays, insects, and disease. The terpenes and flavonoids end up affecting odor and flavor in “due to the synergistic qualities” they share with one another.

Any color you like

The next time you notice that beautiful, deep purple hue in your cannabis you can be sure it’s loaded with anthoxanthins or anthocyanins. Those contribute red, purple and blue to many plants. What makes the difference is pH level.

While different flavonoids trigger different colors, they have more significant effects as well.

All flavonoids are considered pharmacologically active compounds. The flavonoid quercetin is “a known anti-fungal and antioxidant.”


The one found in cocoa and tea, Catechins, is “known to be an antioxidant with cardiovascular health benefits.” Cannabis cannaflavin A has been shown in studies “that it has anti-inflammatory properties that might be stronger than those found in Aspirin.” On top of that, “Cannaflavin B and C are also being studied for their potential medical benefits.”

As you get your brain chemistry custom adjusted to your personal tastes, you’ll be glad to know that as an extra added bonus, “highly active flavonoids found in cannabis include Orientin, Quercetin, Silymarin, and Kaempferol, all with anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anti-cancer potential.”

The way these active compounds all work together is called the entourage effect. The term was coined to reflect the “synergistic nature of the many pharmacologically active compounds.”

What do you think?

Written by Mark Megahan

Mark Megahan is a resident of Morristown, Arizona and aficionado of the finer things in life.

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