Terpenes and Terpenoids and Flavonoids, Oh My!

Focus in the cannabis industry is expanding beyond the realm of just THC and CBD.  Recently, much more attention is being paid towards the classes of compounds that are responsible for the exciting aromas, flavors, and colors that cannabis is capable of producing, commonly known as terpenes.  As we continue to discuss this topic elsewhere on the site, its a good idea to set a good foundational understanding of what these compounds truly are and how they can eventually form much more complex molecules that are required for life to exist on this planet.

Terpenes are simple hydrocarbons, meaning they are comprised of nothing but hydrogen and carbon, and can be thought of as a basic building block, like a brick.  The most basic building blocks that form terpenes are called isoprene units and, much like a brick, they can be stacked and arranged in various orientations to create larger and more complex structures.  When terpenes begin to arrange in a manor like this, and additional functional groups or elements are introduced, the resultant products are known as terpenoids.  

If things continue to stack up and if even more functional groups are attached to terpenoids, flavonoids are the basic result.  Within the flavonoid group of compounds are subgroups that include anthocyanins, anthocyanidins, flavanols, flavones, cannaflavins, etc.  Many of these compounds are expressed as purple, blue, red, or orange pigments, and serve a purpose similar to chlorophyll in some ways.  Further, if things continue to stack up the compounds found within flavonoid subgroups are capable of forming things like vitamins or steroids.

In addition to the vibrant colors that they produce, flavonoids hold vast therapeutic potential.  

Some are produced only by cannabis, and thus, are referred to as cannaflavins.  Cannaflavin A and B have been shown to have analgesic and antiplatelet properties that are 20 times more potent than aspirin.  The idea that compounds like terpenoids or flavonoids have medicinal value is not nascent.  From their recorded use in ancient Chinese medicine to their more modern use, plant produced compounds like these are commonly used.  A more recent example, however, is the terpenoid Taxol.  Which is a fairly well known and widely employed chemo therapy drug.

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