Cannabis is a complex plant with a complex history. It’s been cultivated for at least 6,000 years, but because of its modern legal status, we’re still learning new things about its medicinal benefits.

While most of us have heard of the plant’s pain-relieving cannabinoids, such as CBD, there’s a lesser known class of compounds that deserves our attention.

Flavonoids are a group of natural substances that are thought to hold anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties. These compounds are found in fruits, vegetables, flowers, tea, wine, and, yes, even cannabis.

In 1986, researcher Marilyn Barrett at the University of London was the first to identify two cannabis flavonoids, known as cannflavin A and cannflavin B, both of which were found to have anti-inflammatory benefits 30 times more effective than Aspirin.

But while the flavonoid pathway has been extensively studied in several other plants, for decades, there has been no specific data on their biosynthesis in cannabis. Now, for the first time, researchers in Canada have uncovered how the cannabis plant creates these important pain-relieving molecules.

“Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made, which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days,” explains Tariq Akhtar, a molecular and cellular biologist at the University of Guelph.

“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.”