According to a study published by the journal Phytochemistry and conducted by the University of Guelph in Canada, when it comes to pain relief, cannabis molecules are 30 times more potent than aspirin. It seems incredible that, due to its situation of allegiance and illegality in many places and, despite having been cultivating 6,000 years, we still have so many things left to discover about the medicinal benefits of the plant.
In this article, we divert the focus of attention from CBD, the medicinal component that we know most about and that has the most headlines lately, to focus on flavonoids. These are other elements present in cannabis, which we can also find in fruits, vegetables, wine, flowers or tea. These natural substances could have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In addition, they serve to protect plants from UV rays and diseases and attract insects to promote pollination. They also make flowers and fruits look good and contribute to their colour pigmentation.
What are the best known flavonoids in cannabis? The researcher Marilyn Barnett, from the University of London, identified them for the first time in 1985. We talked about cannflavin A and cannflavin B, which already 34 years ago proved to have anti-inflammatory benefits 30 times more effective than the useful, universal and intergenerational aspirin.
Although scientists knew these anti-inflammatory properties they have not been able to investigate due to the ban. Now that legalisation is a reality in Canada and that science offers much more modern advances than in 1985, the time has come to inquire into these properties.
For the first time, a university has studied the route of flavonoids in cannabis. Researchers in Canada have reached a conclusion: the plant creates these important molecules to relieve pain.
"Our goal was to better understand how these molecules are created, which is a relatively simple exercise these days," said the molecular and cellular biologist at the University of Guelph, Tariq Akhtar.
"There are many sequenced genomes that are publicly available, including the Cannabis Sativa genome that can be extracted in order to obtain information. If you know what you are looking for, you can bring the genes to life, so to speak, and reconstruct the assemble molecules like cannflavins A and B, "Akhtar explained.
A low percentage of the weight of the plant
However, extracting and purifying these compounds is not very practical, since they only represent 0.014% of the weight of the plant. Therefore, to produce these anti-inflammatory benefits naturally, many cannabis fields would have to be cultivated. "The problem with these molecules is that they are present in cannabis at very low levels," said research co-author Steven Rothstein. "Now we are working to develop a biological system to create these molecules, which would give us the opportunity to design large quantities."
The research team has identified the genes responsible for creating these two cannflavins, combining genomic and biochemical techniques. Tariq Akhtar and his staff hope to use this new information to metabolically design their own medicine. Researchers are going to start working on this goal with Anahit International Corp., which already has a patent license from its university.
"Clearly, there is a need to develop alternatives for the relief of acute and chronic pain that goes beyond opioids," said Akhtar.
Other previous studies have made it clear that most patients prefer cannabis to opioids when they feel pain. Another positive effect is that these are non-psychoactive molecules, which are directed to the inflammation source directly and "make them ideal painkillers."
All the potential of the plant
It should be noted that this research has been carried out thanks to the legalisation of the plant in Canada. Therefore, activist work is key to continue investigating the therapeutic properties of the plant.
"We would not have been able to do this if it weren't for the current climate in this country that really drives people like us to do this research," said Akhtar.
”Many investigations have yet to be carried out and I believe that I am currently working in Canada, at a time when we are receiving government support and industrial and financial support available to investigate this plant. Really exciting times are coming.”
The study excerpt
“In addition to the psychoactive components that are typically associated with Cannabis sativa L., there are many other specialised metabolites in this plant that are believed to contribute to its medicinal versatility. This study focused on two of these compounds, known as cannflavin A and cannflavina B. These precursorised flavonoids specifically accumulate in C. sativa and are known to exhibit potent anti-inflammatory activity in various animal cell models, ”we can read in the study published in Phytochemistry extract.
The summary continues:
“However, we know almost nothing about its biosynthesis. Using a combination of phylogenomic and biochemical approaches, a C. sativa aromatic prenyltransferase (CsPT3) was identified that catalyses the regiospecific addition of geranyl diphosphate (GPP) or dimethylalkyl diphosphate (DMAPP) to methylated flavone, chrysoeriol, to produce it and B. respectively. Additional evidence is presented of an O-methyltransferase (CsOMT21) encoded within the genome of C. sativa that specifically converts the plant flavone known as luteolin into cryoseriol, which accumulates in C. sativa. Therefore, these results imply the following reaction sequence for the biosynthesis of cannflavins A and B: luteolin ►cryoserol ►canflavin A and cannflavin B. Together, the identification of these two unique enzymes represents a branching point of the pathway of flavonoids in C. sativa and offers a manageable route to metabolic engineering strategies that are designed to produce these two Cannabis compounds with medical relevance. ”