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What Is Kaempferol? Everything to Know About It

various vegetables - a cut of cabbage and spinach leaf, a scoop of beans, broccoli and a seed packet

Kaempferol is a natural flavanol, a type of flavonoid. Flavonoids have several beneficial effects on human health and are found in various foods such as fruit, vegetables, and tea.

Kaempferol is also found in the cannabis (Cannabis sativa) plant in comparatively large quantities compared to other plant components. It plays a vital role as a secondary metabolite, with protective effects that support the functioning of the cannabis plant and can interact with other parts of the plant. Cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver injury and colitis are just some of the conditions kaempferol may treat.  It may also provide protective effects on the heart and cranial nerve, which could give kaempferol the ability to treat nerve pain.

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What Is Kaempferol?

Kaempferol is a bitter-tasting flavonoid with a yellow hue. Flavonoids are pigments and are part of a diverse group of plant chemicals called polyphenols, found widely across the plant kingdom.

Kaempferol has several pharmacological properties and therapeutic uses, most notably due to its role as an antioxidant and one of the most active and essential anti-inflammatory compounds. This makes it a promising candidate for many inflammatory medical conditions.

How Kaempferol Works in Cannabis

The cannabis plant comprises about 26 flavonoids, of which Kaempferol is one. Kaempferol is the flavonoid with the highest concentration in the cannabis plant.

Kaempferol, like other flavonoids, is a secondary metabolite, and this is because it’s not directly involved in critical plant growth, development, and reproduction processes.

Instead, it has other essential functions within the cannabis plant beneficial for its growth. This includes mediating ecological interactions, promoting seed development, enabling better protection from environmental stresses such as bacteria and UV rays, and providing an overall defense mechanism for the cannabis plant.

Flavonoids such as kaempferol are also believed to take part in what is known as the entourage effect. One component of the cannabis plant, such as flavonoids, interacts with other plant components to produce physiological compounds, such as cannabinoids or terpenes.

Health Benefits and Uses

Antioxidant properties

Kaempferol is an antioxidant, and studies show that it’s a better antioxidant than vitamins C and E, both well known for having potent antioxidant properties.

As an antioxidant, kaempferol scavenges free radicals in the body and neutralizes them.

Free radicals, such as reactive oxygen species, are unstable molecules that react with other molecules to cause oxidative stress, a phenomenon where there are too many reactive oxygen species in comparison to the number of antioxidants available to neutralize and detoxify them. Oxidative stress leads to cell damage and can cause several chronic inflammatory diseases.

By neutralizing free radicals and preventing further reactive oxygen species production, kaempferol prevents oxidative stress, preventing inflammation. This is an essential part of why antioxidants such as kaempferol are protective against stroke, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Anticancer properties

Epidemiological studies show an inverse relationship between kaempferol intake and having cancer in general. Another study showed that people who consume kaempferol-rich foods have a lower risk of developing skin, liver, and colon cancer.

Kaempferol interferes with signaling pathways associated with the survival of cancer cells, including those of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, gastric cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and blood cancers.

This is achieved through several mechanisms.

  • Kaempferol is a potent promoter of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in breast cancer cells, which is achieved through the different signaling pathways.
  • Kaempferol may have anti-angiogenic properties, which prevent tumors from growing blood vessels.
  • Kaempferol may have antimetastatic properties, which prevent tumors from spreading into other places in the body.
  • Kaempferol is less toxic to healthy cells than other interventions, such as chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, a fundamental limitation of using kaempferol as an effective anticancer agent is its low bioavailability and is poorly absorbed into the body. However, this limitation could be outweighed if kaempferol is combined with other anticancer drugs. This increases the anticancer properties of kaempferol and increases the bioavailability of the drug it’s paired with.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Kaempferol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory activities, and treatments using kaempferol have beneficial effects on inflammatory conditions such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders.

In a review of several studies, it was shown that the anti-inflammatory activities of kaempferol are primarily achieved through an inhibitory effect. This is achieved either by directly inhibiting the function of inflammatory cells or by inhibiting the expression of the pro-inflammatory chemicals associated with inflammation, such as cytokines and chemokines.

This anti-inhibitory function includes:

  • inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes, which prevents them from producing inflammatory mediators called prostaglandins
  • inhibition of matrix metalloproteinases
  • modulation of the gene expression involved in inflammation
  • inhibition of transcription factors
  • modulation of cellular mechanisms
  • activation of antioxidant mechanisms

Several cell- and animal-based studies that looked at the anti-inflammatory properties of kaempferol have shown it to be effective against various inflammatory diseases or conditions. Some of these include:

  • hepatotoxicity
  • alcoholic liver injury
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • atherosclerosis
  • thrombosis
  • cardiac hypertrophy
  • diabetes
  • neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • ischemic stroke
  • liver fibrosis

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is kaempferol good for?

Kaempferol has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities, which have been shown to protect against many chronic diseases, including cancers, neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, and more.

What foods contain kaempferol?

Kaempferol is one of the most widely distributed flavonoids found in many plant-based foods, especially vegetables.

Some examples of the foods exceptionally high in kaempferol are:

  • Vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and Chinese cabbage.
  • Fruit, such as cherries and blueberries.
  • Herbs and leaves, such as dill, fennel leaves, and chives.

Is kaempferol an anti-inflammatory?

Yes, kaempferol has anti-inflammatory activities achieved through an inhibitory effect.

Kaempferol directly inhibits the functioning of cells involved in inflammation. It also indirectly prevents inflammation by inhibiting the chemicals or enzymes that promote inflammation.

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