The molecules investigated by the Canadian research team are flavonoids. There are many different flavonoids available in different plants including those which we eat.
Two specific flavonoids, cannflavin A and cannflavin B, were found to have the strong anti-inflammatory properties which could be used to develop pain relief with fewer side effects.
Previously, cannabis has been shown to have potential for treating neuropathy pain in people with diabetes.
Professor Tariq Akhtar, from the University of Guelph, said: “There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids. These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”
Cannflavins were first discovered more than 30 years ago, but research into cannabis was highly regulated. Now the drug is legal in Canada, more studies are being carried out looking at how effective it might be in treating health issues.
Chronic pain sometimes requires treatment with strong opioids which block the brains pain receptors. However, the use of opioids carries significant risk of developing addiction to the drugs.
Relying on cannabis plants to treat pain could provide a useful alternative. The university is proceeding to trying to find a way of extracting the anti-inflammatory properties from the plant. The researchers will also need to test different doses to see how effective the treatment may be.
Professor Steven Rothstein, who also worked on the trial, said: “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.”
The findings are published in the Phytochemistry journal.