Twenty 4:20 | #8 Flavonoids

A recurring theme of our ongoing series of 20-minute podcast episodes: Cannabis is a complex plant, with many compounds and constituents that we are just beginning to understand.

Fortunately Curt Robbins knows his stuff. In this episode Curt tackles the topic of flavonoids, what they are, how they affect our experience of cannabis, and much more.

Listen, learn and share!

Follow Curt on Twitter here.

Links to resources discussed in this episode: 

  1. Terpene Insight #1:
  2. Understanding Flavonoids:
  3. Biohacking Your Endocannabinoid System:
  4. Terpene Harvest:
  5. Understanding Newly Discovered Cannabinoids: THCP & CBDP:



Kannaboomers (00:00): Welcome back to Twenty 4:20, our ongoing series of 20 minute episodes designed to get you up to speed on all kinds of cannabis science with Curt Robbins, who really knows this stuff. And this is episode number eight. We're talking about flavins, canna-flavins, which as you might guess, have to do with flavor, but there's a lot more than that to it. So let's dive in with Curt. Welcome to Twenty 4:20 the bite-sized educational podcast from Tom at Kannaboomers and Curt Robbins, author of more than 500 articles about the science of hemp and cannabis. We're giving 20 cannabis topics 20 minutes each to help you get smarter about terpenes, cannabinoids, cultivars, and much, much more. And our show starts now.

Kannaboomers (00:46): Hey, it's Tom. We've got Curt Robbins back in the virtual studio. Hey Curt, how are you doing?

Curt Robbins (00:50): Hey Tom, how San Diego?

Kannaboomers (00:52): It's really nice -- spring has sprung and everything is happening. So glad to get you back on. We've been doing our 24 20 series. This is number eight. I know like number four, we touched on cannabinoids interpreting research right? Today, you brought up the topic of flavonoids.

Curt Robbins (01:09): All right, well, I figured it's a good time to talk about flavonoids. You know, we've covered a lot of the basic topics at, at a very basic level, albeit because we purposely make these brief sessions of only 20 minutes. So I wouldn't call them deep dives, but listeners who have consumed all of the episodes to date understand the basics of the endocannabinoid system and mammals and humans, right? And we have these phyto molecules from plants like hemp and cannabis, and that includes terpenes, which give cannabis and hemp their distinctive aromas. And it's all over the scale there, right? We have some interesting things going on biochemically and also the cannabinoids. And they're the most famous of all these molecules because they deliver psychoactivity like THC. And there's actually some others like THCV that under the right circumstances also deliver psychoactivity. Well, the terpenes do not directly deliver psychoactivity. But they have something in common with a smaller yet every bit of significant family of these phyto molecules called flavonoids. And flavonoids are kind of the redheaded stepchild of phyto molecules in the plant world because most consumers and even wellness professionals have never heard of flavonoids. Now let's give a little perspective to the whole situation. And I'm always, I like metrics and numbers, you know, and they're good for any science field like this, any science framework or argument. So we know that cannabinoids are exclusive as per their name to the hemp slash cannabis genome. So there's no other plants in nature that create cannabinoids. But terpenes, these terpene molecules are the exact opposite. And there are no terpenes that are exclusive to hemp. Slash cannabis genome. There's, there's not a single one. And in fact, put it in perspective. We've got roughly 150 cannabinoids, okay, produced by this plant, but there are about 40,000 different terpenes created by nature. And again, none of which are exclusive to cannabis, but the cannabis genome, how many of those terpenes does it produce? It can select from about 200 different terpenes including the most common terpene in the universe, or at least on earth. And that's called pinene. And as its name suggests, created by conifers and pine trees and such. So we've got some, especially for terpenes, that's a huge number. 40,000 right now..

Kannaboomers (03:55): That's crazy. I mean, that's sort of abundance of things that are out there all around us. Right?

Curt Robbins (04:01): Exactly. It's like aroma therapy, whether we're engaging in it overtly or not. It's it's pretty crazy. And you know, there are a lot of people who not to get off track here, have testimonials, anecdotal testimonies of feeling a lift and depression or reduction in anxiety when they're in the middle of a, say a Redwood forest or a pine forest. And they are literally from a molecular perspective, swimming in terpenes like pining. So it gets rather interesting, but we're here to talk about flavonoids. So let's look at some of the numbers on flavonoids. Now. Throughout all of nature, there's about 6,000 flavonoids in the cannabis genome. There's about 20. Not that much, but here's where flavonoids are unique among these three different families of Fido molecules called cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids is that there are some cannabis specific cannabis exclusive flavonoids, and they're called Canna flattens and we know at least three of them. And that list is probably going to expand, but a, so we've got some cannabis slash hemp exclusive flavonoids called, again, we give them a special name, can't have flattens, but most of the flavonoids produced by cannabis and obviously a nature are not exclusive to, to cannabis. There's only a few. And so this is interesting. We find a hybrid of what exists for terpenes and cannabinoids, where again, cannabinoids exclusive to the plant, not produced by any other plant genome in the universe that we know of. And then terpenes not a single darn one is exclusive to cannabis or hemp yet. Flavonoids it's like a hybrid of that model. And we find both very interesting. It is, you know, when you crawl down to the biochemistry of it all now we won't you know, obviously this is a nice quick 20 minute session, so we're not gonna bury listeners and too much technology. But there are about six different types of flavonoids. Again, throughout nature they fall into six different categories. But I think what's more important for listeners and including industry professionals is understanding where does the rubber meet the road, what's the efficacy of flavonoids? And they have about half a dozen chief efficacies. And this is very consistent with the kind of medicinal and wellness efficacy we find in terpenes and cannabinoids where they are not limited to one particular benefit or benefit category. For example flavonoids act as antioxidants, anti inflammatories antifungals, antimicrobials and the one elusive, you know, the gold key. Everybody wants anti cancer. They have shown in research studies, anti cancer benefits. And by the way, anytime I mentioned, you know, anti-inflammatory benefits or antifungal, there is some peer reviewed research pointing toward that. That's not just anecdotal studies and it's not just taking that to the next level. You know, wellness professionals saying, gosh, we think it might be an anti inflammatory. No, we have some formal research studies that tell us these things.

Kannaboomers (07:24): So it's documented and obviously that's some series medicinal efficacy as you say.

Curt Robbins (07:30): Yeah, I mean, anytime you get into an anticancer zone and we want to be careful, we don't want to use terms like miracle and we don't want to use terms like cure and we don't want to use terms like prevent necessarily either. But we do know that if flavonoids are like terpenes and cannabinoids and these are Fido molecules that at a, at a high level improve the health of the human endocannabinoid system. By definition, if the ECS is healthier, you're going to be less likely to get cancer or less likely maybe to develop severe depression. Or you know, all of these more than dozens, hundreds of different diseases and dozens of disease categories show benefit from vital molecules like flavonoids and terpenes.

Kannaboomers (08:15): How far down the road are we to knowing where these are? And are we at a point where you can walk into a dispensary and say, look, I want this cultivar with this flavonoid in it.

Curt Robbins (08:26): No, a world of custom medicine, right, of, of, you know, medicine tailored specifically for a particular patient. And to take it even further for a particular patient under today's circumstances, right? Some arthritis patients are affected by barometric pressure. So are they having a flare up based on weather conditions and therefore need a treatment for that, but it's a treatment they either wouldn't need or they need a different treatment under different barometric pressures. Obviously there's a lot of co-mingling influences here, right? It gets complicated. And we, you know, don't want to indulge in too much of that complication, but hey, you want to talk about some of the specific flavonoids cause they show some really interesting benefits. Yeah, let's definitely dive in. Well, there's one called care Sutton and it has, research has shown that it's both an antifungal and antioxidant. And if you dig a little deeper in the science of being an antioxidant, when molecules do that, they actually can show many other kinds of ancillary related benefits.

Curt Robbins (09:29): But you know, research on flavonoids because they appear so plentiful throughout nature. And these six different plants have 6,000 different plant genomes rather research has been going on with flavonoids. That has nothing to do with hemp or cannabis for decades. A 2013 study found that this flavonoid we're talking about quercetin was effective in treating a variety of lines of cancer and dig this good for. And again, we're not saying cure, we're not saying a preventative, we're saying it helps along with many other therapies. You know, this could be in conjunction with chemotherapy if we're talking about, you know, a human clinical trial for example. But anyway, this study and you know I invite readers to be cynical and to find these studies themselves are readily available online and to dig into, you know, the conclusions and the research criteria to convince themselves, quite frankly. In other words, I encourage people to be cynical about some of these claims because here we are, we're talking about this one flavonoid quercetin and it, this 2013 study shows that it's got efficacy for leukemia, gastric cancer, colon cancer, human breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and others. So it's just, you know, really what it comes down to is there's these anticancer mechanisms that are not always experienced in all types of cancer because different types of cancer are different, right? But sometimes we're finding efficacy that extends beyond this particular molecule being good for this particular type of cancer, especially if he gets into some of these mechanisms that we've learned about like apoptosis, which is when there are terpenes and cannabinoids that take a cancer cell and basically tell it to commit suicide and it listens to them and does. So that's kind of interesting, right?

Curt Robbins (11:26): While we're finding some of the same kind of efficacy and flavonoids, we've scratched the surface. And I guess, again, you can't talk about miracles, but are we close to knowing how to prescribe these or how to, how to go get them, you know, not really. And the people online, I have readers all the time who say you know, I'll post an article about back to pinene one of my, it's pinene alignment. Nene are two of my favorite terpenes personally, they have a ton of medical efficacy. So I'll post an article, say about pining and somebody will say, you know, Kurt, that's a great article. I love all your theory and research and, you know, logical deductions, but how do I actually get this terpene into my body? Right? And that's an excellent question and it's really an efficient answer for that question is hampered by the fact that, okay, here in the United States alone, we have 11 different adult use jurisdictions that we call states, right? For, for the adult use of recreational legal consumption and business of cannabis. But then we have 33 plus the district of Columbia that has said yes to limited, you know, highly regulated medicinal cannabis and they have medical dispensaries and such. So it's really, really tough for us to give listeners a, Hey, go down to your local seven 11 and pick up XYZ brand because you know, they've got some cool stuff. Now here's the good news about flavonoids and terpenes and some of the cannabinoids like CBD and CBG for example, and things that come into the label of hemp products is that they can be legally sold at least for the time being and all 50 states. And you know, different regulations apply, but within Canada, you know, and North America overall. Let's get back to the flavonoids. What is like the working definition of flavonoid?

Curt Robbins (13:16): Well, we know that we've got 20 that appear in the hemp slash cannabis genome, a few of which are exclusive and called [inaudible]. And then we've got 6,000 throughout nature. Well, okay, so what plant plant genomes rather in nature are producing them? What's interesting is it's the majority of non-green edible fruits and vegetables. So we're talking about some extremely common fruits and vegetables. Love to crank out the high quantities of flavonoids. Because from an evolutionary perspective, they help the plant propagate by encouraging pollinating insects. Cause these insects don't always work on aroma alone, which is something produced by turbines, right? They actually if you look up flavis, the Latin root of this, it means basically organic yellow. So it doesn't even mean pigment, which sometimes it's misinterpreted as I kind of see what people are getting at there logically and then it is sometimes totally misinterpreted as meaning flavor. Well that's just modern English. That's not the Latin root there, right? So it does, it doesn't, but here's where it gets confusing. And where I see the urban legend arising is that the flavor and the aroma, and they kind of have a zone where they co-mingle, right? With taste buds and olfactory. And we smoke and vape these products, right? But it is a commingling of flavonoids and terpenes that produce both the aroma and flavor. That is the most concise way I can say it.

Kannaboomers (14:59): So it's not purely, you know, essence of blueberry. It's some kind of central experience that includes both the aroma and the taste, I guess.

Curt Robbins (15:07): Correct. And it at the molecular level, you almost have to have a Ph.D. In biochemistry to understand it because it gets into like macro compounds where these compounds all hang together and you know, and then we take these flavonoids and these terpenes and they're kind of bunched together. And from a perceptual, human or mammalian perspective, yeah, we sniff, we put our nose in a bag of hemp and we smell it and we get kind of a singular perception. Right? Oh, that's sweet. That's musky and earthy. And, but then once we dig a little deeper, we start saying, Oh, and it has tones of bark or you know, cause we talk about wine like this, right? Well, again, you know, we're, we're talking about terpenoids and flavonoids. There are other molecules in there, but as far as, you know, the, the science of hemp and cannabis that we're trying to cover in the series we could spend a whole lot of time digging into just flavonoids and terpenes and then, Oh wow. We also have cannabinoids.

Kannaboomers (16:12): You have heard when you walk into a dispensary, I mean, that's why they opened the jars and let you smell because your body's going to know what you favor. What's going to work well for you.

Curt Robbins (16:21): Yeah, true. Well, there's a lot of kind of old school people in the cannabis and hemp culture who believe that what is the best medicine for you, and I know this isn't very scientific, is you know, if you had five bags of hemp or cannabis in front of you and you're stuck your nose in each, the one that put the biggest smile on your face is the one that's the best medicine.

Kannaboomers (16:39): Maybe there's some truth to that.

Curt Robbins (16:41): Yeah. Maybe we can prove the science to that over the next few years.

Kannaboomers (16:44): There's all kinds of efficacies that you outlined, say anti-inflammatory properties. How does that work in a flavonoid?

Curt Robbins (16:53): Well, a good example of a flavonoid that is anti-inflammatory and several of them are, but let's focus again on the cannabis specific that can have flattens and these don't have extremely romantic names. They can't have flavin a [inaudible] and see, you can tell we put the scientists in charge of the naming nomenclature. But so a can of flavin a multiple studies have revealed it has got anti-inflammatory properties. Now, there are different mechanisms behind that, but it, it, shows that we might have efficacy even in neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. But when you get into a powerful anti-inflammatory mechanism, there can be benefits. Cancer involves inflammation at the cellular level, so there can be benefits there at a more systemic level. Certainly arthritis, bursitis fibromyalgia, MS, certain types of conditions involving chronic pain all involve inflammation. So we see that of phyto molecule I can't have, by having any anti-inflammatory mechanism of merit whatsoever can help a lot of different things.

Kannaboomers (18:09): And this is true for humans as well as like the birds and the bees. I mean, do other species in nature benefit from the access to these flavonoids and other substances?

Curt Robbins (18:20): Really what we need to do is learn more about how flavonoids interact with the endocannabinoid system. Like we know the most about how cannabinoids like THC and CBD and CBN and CBC and all those, how they interact with the CB one and the CB two receptors of the endocannabinoid system. By the way, just as kind of a side here that I think is important is there are thought leaders like Dr. Ben Kaplan in Boston who make some pretty bold statements and say that CB one and CB two receptors, a lot of people treat that like the world of the endocannabinoid system. But he's like, no, we've barely scratched the surface. He thinks we're going to just discover, okay. Many other receptor types and we already have many receptor types we've discovered, but we just haven't officially classified them as ECS receptors, but they play very, very important roles. It turns out we're actively researching [inaudible], you know, are we going to discover, you know that eventually there's cause with cannabinoids we keep discovering new ones. Right? There was an Italian study as recently as December 30th, 2019 that discovered two new cannabinoids and it seems like that happens a couple of times a year. Right? You and I have been doing this for a while and it seems like every six, eight months or something, we discover a couple of new cannabinoids if we start focusing research dollars and effort on these more esoteric molecules like terpenes and flavonoids that just like cannabinoids have shown so much medical benefit potentially, right? If we're throwing research dollars and effort at THC and CBD, especially cause it's kind of a market darling right now, CBG is an up and comer THCV CBC, CBN for sleep and anxiety. Those are up and comers. We're throwing all this money at them based on what this initial research has shown. We should also be investing in terpenoids and flavonoids equally just based on the potential payoff for medical science.

Kannaboomers (20:21): What an exciting time. I mean we have a body of knowledge that's growing, but my sense is like we're a car with the headlights going down the road and we can only see what's in the headlights. But there's a lot out there that we're going to discover. I mean you mentioned Dr. Kaplan, who we've had on the show. You know, I talked to the chemist last month, Andrea Holmes, who was so excited about new cannabinoids, as you mentioned, being discovered all the time. Thank you for opening our eyes to this body of knowledge. And it's continuing to expand. Is that right?

Curt Robbins (20:50): Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. There's, I mean there's so many roadblocks to studies, but it really is a largely kind of a political tactic of prohibitionists and a people opposed to legalization. I have been cannabis when they say not enough research, not enough research. Now it is true that we don't have enough faced, FDA approved human clinical trials that I would agree with completely. But saying there's not enough research. We have thousands of research studies, some of them from very impressive research organizations like Harvard, Stanford, et cetera you know, and others around the world and they stand up to peer review over the years. So yeah, too. It's just disingenuous to the fact that we have such a large body of data collected. What I think we need to do is we need to throw more dollars at analyzing the existing data while simultaneously gathering more data. That's cause that's called research,

Kannaboomers (21:44): Right? There's lots of work to do. And then this is sort of an aside, but do we still rely on on one university down in Louisiana to provide all of the cannabis that gets studied in this country

Curt Robbins (21:57): For the time being, yes. Now there are rumors and non rumor valid information that might change in the near future. I would encourage listeners to check out maps Rick Doblin and Sue Sisley, Dr. Sue Sisley. These are people involved in all of that. And it may very well work out that in the next 12 to 36 months researchers in especially in the United States are able to use cannabis that is produced outside of the University of Mississippi. And there's been, I don't want to be one of the haters, but there's been some really negative feedback from researchers based on what they are calling extreme low quality of that cannabis. And therefore they're saying, okay, it's kind of a rig system because if you use low quality medicine, you can't anticipate good quality results, right?

Kannaboomers (22:53): Yeah. Some kind of Mississippi skunk weed, right. Not to be a hater, but yeah, I mean if we're going to study it, there's all sorts of cultivars and varieties to be studied, right? You're really shutting off all kinds of avenues.

Curt Robbins (23:07): Now everybody in Mississippi's unfollowing us, I just want you to know.

Kannaboomers (23:12): Well thanks for giving us an overview of this and giving us some vocabulary and some knowledge about what to look for is some more of these scientific discoveries rollout. It's very exciting stuff.

Curt Robbins (23:22): Exactly. I would agree. And flavonoids can also be studied and you know, Leafly and other organizations have written about this in terms of the entourage effect. And typically we frame the entourage effect as cannabinoids and terpenes and the endocannabinoid system all kind of mixing together synergistically to get these enhanced and different benefits. But flavonoids are part of the entourage effect also we're learning. So yeah, there's several different layers or perspectives to research about flavonoids. And I think what matters is what kind of context in which we frame that research if it has to do with the context of the mammalian endocannabinoid system. And how that affects our wellness, then I think it gets pretty exciting. Anything else about flavonoids we need to know? I will be writing about them more in the future. And I am developing a training curriculum right now, a series of seminars and classes for the science and biochemistry of hemp and cannabis.

Curt Robbins (24:21): And I'm going to be spending some time on various parts of that curriculum, doing deep dives on flavonoids, including individual flavonoids.

Kannaboomers (24:30): Cool. Well, whatever you have, let us know. We'll get it in the show notes and people can find it there and learn more about this.

Curt Robbins (24:36): You bet. And I do have kind of an overview, shallow dive article about it's great for people who've never heard of flavonoids before. It's called Understanding Flavonoids. It's in the show notes. I wrote it for a StrainPrint in Toronto and it's a nice little overview. Doesn't, it doesn't take two hours. It's not like a white paper, you know, it doesn't take two hours to read it. And when you get to the end of it, you know, 10 minutes later, you know, a whole lot more about flavonoids.

Curt Robbins (25:01): Perfect. We'll look for that.

Kannaboomers (25:02): Thanks so much, Kurt. Thank you, Tom. You've been listening to 24 20 a special edition podcast series from Kannaboomers and Curt Robbins. Want to learn more and help spread the word about the cannabis movement, follow us on your favorite podcast platform or at Kannaboom dot com.