A new study deciphers for the first time the cannabis plant’s biological blueprint for producing two molecules thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, a discovery that could pave the way for expanded use of cannabis as medicine.
That study, which is published in the August 2019 issue of the journal Phytochemistry delineates for the first time the biosynthesis pathway outside of the actual cannabis sativa plant that allows reproduction of the molecules cannflavin A and cannflavin B.
Those cannflavins belong to the class of plant flavonoids, plant chemicals found in almost all fruits and vegetables, known as flavones, which occur in several plant lineages.
The study shows the medicinal versatility of the cannabis plant: Beyond the intoxicating ingredient THC and therapeutic oils that often contain cannabidiol (CBD), there exist many other specialized metabolites requiring further research.
The researchers at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, unlocked the blueprint for producing the cannflavins, which were discovered in a 1985 study and were found to display “potent anti-inflammatory activity in various animal cell models.”
The new information in the Phytochemistry study opens a pathway to figure how to engineer plant metabolism to make medicine from the cannflavin A and B enzymes.
Tariq Ahktar, lead author and assistant professor of plant biochemistry at Guelph’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, told Weedmaps News that “for almost 30 years nobody touched these molecules or worked extensively on them. We thought it was a good time to look at these very promising molecules more closely.”
Ahktar said his laboratory utilizes plant chemistry and genomics to determine how plants produce certain molecules and compounds that have medicinal or industrial uses.
He said the cannaflavins A and B were discovered in the United Kingdom more than 30 years ago by researcher Marilyn Barrett. Her study also introduced the name cannflavin. Barrett’s research also showed that cannflavins A and B have nearly 30 times the power of aspirin to inhibit inflammation in cells.
Yet that discovery is just the beginning. Ahktar explained that the two cannflavins are present in cannabis in very low amounts.
“So if you want to gain the anti-inflammatory benefits, you would have to consume copious amounts of cannabis, which is both unlikely and impractical,” he said, necessitating the need to reproduce the molecules outside of the cannabis plant.
He said cannflavins are “definitely encouraging news” for people suffering from acute and chronic pain, who have few effective alternatives to opioids, which work by blocking the brain’s pain receptors. These cannflavins appear to take a different path by attacking cells that encourage inflammation, a primary cause of much pain.