What are Flavonoids?
Flavonoids are one of the many types of chemical compounds (or phytonutrients) found in virtually all plants. This class of phytonutrients is water soluble and is largely responsible for the variety of vivid colors that are found in fruits and vegetables.
These chemicals serve important protective functions for the plants of which they are a part. Depending on the type of flavonoid in question, they can help plants to attract bees and other pollinators, or protect plants from sun damage, ward off insects, prevent the growth of fungus, and serve a variety of other important purposes.
When ingested by humans or other animals, flavonoids also have the potential for beneficial physiological effects. Flavonoids are members of the polyphenol class of phyto-chemicals, which have long been used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Within these traditions, flavonoids have been valued for their supposed benefits to skin health, blood pressure and sugar regulation, brain function, anti-inflammation, and overall immune system function.
Because several of these beneficial properties are well-established and researched, some flavonoids have become vital components in a variety of nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, medicinal, and cosmetic treatments and products. Studies have shown that therapeutic use of flavonoids can aid in treatment of several disorders, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, and more.
Common Types of Flavonoids
Currently, we know of between 6,000 and 7,000 naturally-occurring flavonoids. Like most chemicals, these are divided up into a number of categories. The most common or important such categories include flavones, anthocyanidins, flavonones, isoflavones, flavonols, and flavanols.
Flavone examples: luteolin, apigenin
Flavone sources: vegetables like parsley and celery, hot peppers, various herbs
Flavone uses: antixodant effects, delayed metabolization of certain drugs
Anthocyanidin examples: malvidin, pelargondin, peoidin, cyanidin
Anthocyanidin sources: dark blue, purple, and red berries and grapes, plums, pomegranates, red wine
Anthocyanidin uses: antioxidant effects, promoting heart health, diabetes prevention
Flavanone examples: hesperetin, eriodictyol, naringenin
Flavanone sources: citrus fruits
Flavanone uses: antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory effects, promoting heart health, aiding relaxation
Isoflavone examples: genistein, glycitein, daidzein
Isoflavone sources: soybeans, legumes
Isoflavone uses: unclear (studies have shown mixed clinical findings, with some suggesting that isoflavones act as antioxidants and some suggesting they act as oxidants. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, meaning they act similarly to the hormone estrogen)
Flavonol examples: quercetin, kaempferol
Flavonol sources: tea, berries, beans, apples, onions, broccoli, kale, leeks, Brussels sprouts
Flavonol uses: antihistamine properties, anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant effects, antifungal
Flavanol examples: three broad classes of flavanols exist (catechins, dimers, polymers)
Flavanol sources: tea, grapes, cocoa, berries, apples, red wine, fava beans
Flavanol uses: lowering cholesterol, anti-oxidant effects, may promote cardiovascular and neurological health
Common Cannabis Flavonoids
Like most plants, cannabis has a variety of flavonoids that are naturally present in different proportions, depending on the strain in question. These flavonoids are directly responsible for the magnificent range of colors and hues seen in different cannabis varietals, and they range from different shades of green and yellow to oranges, reds, and even blue and purples. For the cannabis plant, these flavonoids help to ward off pests and to filter UV light and prevent sun damage.
Unfortunately, relatively little is known about the effects that cannabis flavonoids have when ingested. This is due largely to the decades-long legal prohibition on cannabis research and use in the US. As these restrictions are eased and lifted, however, more and more research onto cannabis flavonoids is now being done. As a better understanding of each of cannabis’s compounds develops, we will begin to have a full picture of cannabis’s therapeutic potential.
- Cannaflavins A, B, and C