university of guelph researchers are the first to uncover how the cannabis plant actually creates pain-relieving molecules that are 30 times more powerful at reducing inflammation than aspirin. prof. tariq akhtar, dept. of molecular and cellular biology, who worked on the study with mcb prof. steven rothstein used a combination of biochemistry and genomics to determine how cannabis makes two important molecules called cannflavin a + cannflavin b.
known as “flavonoids,” cannflavins a + b were first identified in 1985, when research verified they provide anti-inflammatory benefits that were nearly 30 times more effective gram-for-gram than acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). “flavonoids” are chemicals found in all plant life, that are responsible for the pigment and antioxidant properties in fruits and vegetables and distinguish certain foods as superfoods.
with cannabis now legal in canada and genomics greatly advanced, akhtar + rothstein decided to analyze cannabis to understand how cannabis sativa biosynthesizes cannflavins. with the genomic information at hand, they applied classical biochemistry techniques using “in silico” genome mining to identify the genes in cannabis responsible for making the cannflavins in question which now makes it possible to metabolically engineer cannaflavin a + b without growing the whole plant.
but because cannflavins make up a tiny amount of the plant’s matter, you’d have to consume a lot to reap the chronic pain benefits. cannflavins present is approximately .014% of the fresh weight of the plant. extracting and purifying them is possible, but it’s not economically viable, nor is it that simple.
but given the opioid crisis, the possibility of an alternative method of treating pain is truly exciting and a great start. what’s interesting about the molecules in cannabis is that they actually stop inflammation at the source. this discovery unlocks the potential to create a naturally derived pain treatment that would offer potent relief without the risk of addiction of other painkillers.