The Chemistry of Colorful Cannabis

Consumer demand for eye-catching flowers has prompted growers to produce some stunningly colorful strains of cannabis. Various shades of blue and purple have become highly desirable and widely available traits. Grandaddy Purple (GDP), Blue Dream, Purple Urkle, Blueberry Yum Yum—the list is practically endless.

Not only are these strains rich in color, they are also rich in chemistry. The beautiful blues and purples come from a class of small molecules known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins help to protect plants against stress, especially light-induced stress. While light helps cannabis grow, too much light can actually be harmful. Anthocyanins help to mitigate the harmful effects of UV radiation, a phenomenon known as photoprotection. When plants are exposed to high levels of light, anthocyanin production increases. In fact, studies have shown that shining UV light on fruits after they are harvested can increase anthocyanin levels and improve color. Low temperatures and low water also promote anthocyanin accumulation in plant cells.  

Anthocyanins clearly have a beneficial impact on plant health, but what effect do they have on humans? Blueberries, as you might expect, are rich in anthocyanins. Extracts from these fruits have been shown to have powerful antioxidant properties which may be beneficial to humans. Certain colorful strains of cannabis likely share these properties, a hypothesis that ought to be addressed in future research.  

A thorough quantification of anthocyanin levels in different cannabis strains has yet to be carried out. Moreover, it is unclear whether the anthocyanins present within cannabis products effectively enter the bloodstream following inhalation or consumption. It is feasible that anthocyanins in many strains of cannabis harbor countless benefits both to the plants and to the humans who consume them. At the very least, they make for some awesomely beautiful flowers. 

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