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Cannabinoid-like anti-inflammatory compounds from flax fiber


Flax is a valuable source of fibers, linseed and oil. The compounds of the latter two products have already been widely examined and have been proven to possess many health-beneficial properties. In the course of analysis of fibers extract from previously generated transgenic plants overproducing phenylpropanoids a new terpenoid compound was discovered.

The UV spectra and the retention time in UPLC analysis of this new compound reveal similarity to a cannabinoid-like compound, probably cannabidiol (CBD). This was confirmed by finding two ions at m/z 174.1 and 231.2 in mass spectra analysis. Further confirmation of the nature of the compound was based on a biological activity assay. It was found that the compound affects the expression of genes involved in inflammatory processes in mouse and human fibroblasts and likely the CBD from Cannabis sativa activates the specific peripheral cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) gene expression. Besides fibers, the compound was also found in all other flax tissues. It should be pointed out that the industrial process of fabric production does not affect CBD activity.

The presented data suggest for the first time that flax products can be a source of biologically active cannabinoid-like compounds that are able to influence the cell immunological response. These findings might open up many new applications for medical flax products, especially for the fabric as a material for wound dressing with anti-inflammatory properties.



α-linoleic acid


cannabinoid receptor 1


cannabinoid receptor 2




cannabichromenic acid




cannabidiolic acid


cannabigerolic acid




chalcone isomerise


chalcone synthase


cAMP response element-binding


differentially expressed genes


dihydroflavonol reductase


Dulbecco’s Modified Eagle Medium




glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase


gas chromatography-mass spectrometry


geranyl pyrophosphate


high-performance liquid chromatography


interleukin 1β


interleukin 6


interleukin 8


interferon γ


isopentenyl diphosphate




monocyte chemotactic protein 1


nuclear factor κB


normal human dermal fibroblasts


olivetolic acid


phosphate buffered saline


protein kinase A


polyunsaturated fatty acids


relative quantification


real-time polymerase chain reaction


standard deviation


secoisolariciresinol diglucoside


standard error


suppressor of cytokine signaling 1


trifluoroacetic acid




Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid


Toll-like receptor 4


tumor necrosis factor α


TNF receptor


ultra performance liquid chromatography


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Correspondence to Anna Kulma.

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These authors contributed equally to this work

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Styrczewska, M., Kulma, A., Ratajczak, K. et al. Cannabinoid-like anti-inflammatory compounds from flax fiber. Cell Mol Biol Lett 17, 479–499 (2012).

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Key words

  • Flax
  • Linum usitatissimum
  • Linen
  • Cannabinoid
  • Inflammation
  • Terpenoids
  • Flax fibers
  • Cannabinoid signaling