The journal Phytochemistry published a paper where researchers at the University of Guelph showed how the Cannabis sativa L plant produces two molecules, cannflavin A and cannflavin B, that was shown in 1985 to be approximately 30 times more powerful at reducing inflammation than Aspirin.

What are cannflavin A and cannflavin B?

Cannflavins are a group of chemical compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannflavins A and B were first identified in the 1980s and cannflavin C was identified in 2008.

Both cannflavin A and cannflavin B inhibited prostaglandin 2 (PGE2), a potent inflammatory mediator, production by human rheumatoid synovial cells in culture.

What does research say?

The discovery unlocks the potential to create a naturally derived pain treatment that would offer powerful pain relief without the risk of addiction to opioids.

“There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids,” said Prof. Tariq Akhtar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, who worked on the study with MCB professor Steven Rothstein.

“These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”

What happened to cannflavin A and B research?

Further research into the molecules was inhibited for decades due to cannabis being illegal in many countries.

Akhtar and Rothstein decided to analyze cannabis to understand how Cannabis sativa biosynthesizes cannflavins after Canada legalized cannabis along with the advancement of genomic research.

“Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made, which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days,” said Akhtar. “There are many sequenced genomes that are publicly available, including the genome of Cannabis sativa, which can be mined for information. If you know what you’re looking for, one can bring genes to life, so to speak, and piece together how molecules like cannflavins A and B are assembled.”

“Being able to offer a new pain relief option is exciting, and we are proud that our work has the potential to become a new tool in the pain relief arsenal,” said Rothstein.

The research team has partnered with a Toronto-based company, Anahit International Corp., which has licensed a patent from the University of Guelph to biosynthesize cannflavin A and B outside of the cannabis plant.

Reference: Kevin A Rea, et al. Biosynthesis of cannflavins A and B from Cannabis sativa L. Phytochemistry (2019) DOI:

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