Legalisation in Canada allows research into cannabis molecules 30 times better than aspirin

The legalisation of cannabis in Canada has enabled scientists to research how cannabis produces pain- and inflammation-reducing molecules that are 30 times more powerful than aspirin.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada said they discovered how the molecule was produced using a combination of biochemistry and genomics. The findings were published in the journal Phytochemistry.

“There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids,” said Professor Tariq Akhtar, of the university’s department of molecular and cellular biology. “These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”

The molecules – cannflavin A and cannflavin B – are known as “flavonoids”.  They were discovered in 1985 and it has long been verified that they provide anti-inflammatory benefits nearly 30 times more effective gram-for-gram than aspirin.

Further research stalled due to prohibition – until it ended in Canada last year.

Professor Akhtar and his colleague Professor Steven Rothstein decided to analyse the plant to understand how the cannflavins were created.

“Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made, which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days,” said Prof 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.”

Prof Rothstein added: “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.”

Read more: The Exit Drug: Cannabis and the opioid crisis

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