Researchers discover how the cannabis plant creates pain-relieving molecules that are 30 times more powerful at reducing inflammation than aspirin.
As interest in medical cannabis continues to grow, experts at the University of Guelph, Canada have found chemical compounds in the plant (called flavanoids) which could be 30 times more effective than simple painkillers.
Flavanoids are the pigment (colour) found in all plants which contain antioxidants. In cannabis plants, two flavonoids, called cannflavin A and cannflavin B, appear to have anti-inflammatory properties.
The scientists applied various biochemistry techniques to find out which cannabis genes were required to create these chemicals. The findings are published in the journal Phytochemistry.
Cannflavins were first discovered as early as 1985, but only now has research emerged on how they are in made in the plant.
"There's clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids," said Professor Tariq Akhtar, lead author of the research. "These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers."
Cannflavins may have fewer side effects than strong painkillers such as opioids.
However, because cannabis plants only contain a small number of flavonoids naturally, patients would need to consume large amounts for the anti-inflammatory properties to work.
Professor Steven Rothstein who co-authored the research said: "We are now working to develop a biological system to create these molecules, which would allow us the opportunity to engineer large quantities."
The University of Guelph is now working with a biotechnology company to patent a way of extracting the flavonoids from cannabis plants to make a commercial form of pain relief.