Cannabigerol, or CBG, is what is known as a minor cannabinoid—but don’t let that designation fool you. CBG is considered “minor” because it is found in low levels in most cannabis strains (one percent or less).
However, laboratory analysis has found that CBG exists in industrial hempin much higher levels.
Even though CBG isn’t as abundant as the major cannabinoids THC and CBD, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack some therapeutic punch. In fact, without CBG, there wouldn’t be any THC or CBD. Not so minor, huh?
CBG vs. CBD
Like CBD, CBG is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in cannabis plants, including marijuana and hemp.
While CBG is considered a minor cannabinoid, it’s actually the parent chemical to CBD and THC. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) is the first cannabinoid formed in cannabis plants. Through enzymatic actions, CBGA is transformed into cannabinolic acid (CBDA), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), or cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), thus giving life to all other cannabinoids.
So, CBG is the parent to CBD. They’re related, but different.
CBG was only discovered as recently 1964, and the significant role CBGA plays in the cannabis plant wasn’t discovered until 1975. So, our scientific understanding of the cannabinoid is still relatively new (even though humans have been using cannabis medicinally for centuries).
Speaking of understanding, this might be a good place to review some basics of cannabinoid science before we go further down the CBG path.
CBG and CBD are cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that have a wide range of therapeutic effects. They are produced in three main places:
- In plants, like cannabis (marijuana, industrial hemp). These are known as phytocannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBG, THCV, etc.).
- In the brain of all mammals (you, your dog, your cat). These are known as endocannabinoids (anandamide, 2-AG).
- In the lab. These are known as synthetic cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone).
Cannabinoids activate their own receptors (CB1 and CB2) in our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of receptors in your body involved in the function of the immune system, the central nervous system, and various organs. It’s responsible for regulating appetite, pain sensation, mood, memory, sleep, neuroprotection, and homeostasis (your inner balance and wellbeing). It is believed that when you address something out-of-whack in the ECS, you can get at the problem, not just the symptom.
The Difference Between CBD and CBG
Like CBD, CBG belongs to the non-intoxicating group of cannabinoids—i.e., it won’t get you high. Also like CBD, this up-and-coming cannabinoid exists in industrial hemp in much higher levels than it does in THC-dominant marijuana. And as many people know by now, industrial hemp can’t get you high, either.
Research has shown that the higher levels of CBG in industrial hemp may be caused by a recessive gene. The theory is that the plant prevents the formation of one of the cannabinoid syntheses (a chemical reaction).
How CBD and CBG differ is in how they take action in the body. Research suggests that cannabinoids have their own unique ways of working in the body, and this can make them especially beneficial in treating certain conditions.
CBG interacts with the ECS differently than CBD, and even THC. But the list of effects it is known for, and the evidence from studies so far, suggests that it just might be the new CBD.
How Does CBG Work?
There are two kinds of cannabinoid receptors–CB1 and CB2. CBG acts on both receptors. However, its effect on both receptors is weak compared to the effect of THC. (This could explain why it is not intoxicating.)
THC binds directly with both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, with a high affinity for CB1. This means that the THC molecule fits right into a cannabinoid receptor, interacting directly with it to produce an action that leads to a result, like relaxation or appetite stimulation.
CBG acts similarly to THC with cannabinoid receptors—but has very different effects. Remember, CBG cannot get you high like THC.
However, research thus far shows that CBD, unlike CBG and THC, acts mostly indirectly with cannabinoid receptors. Which means the CBD molecule blocks other molecules, like THC, from connecting with the receptor. That’s why high-CBD, low-THC strains of marijuana are known to be more relaxing; the CBD moderates the euphoria and paranoia that THC can cause.
So, CBG interacts with cannabinoid receptors directly at times, whereas CBD tends to act indirectly. This could explain why CBG and THC (famously) can stimulate appetite, but CBD does not.
Similar to CBD, CBG affects the body by causing an increase in anandamide levels. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that helps in the regulation of body functions. It occurs naturally in the body.
Functions regulated by anandamide include sleep, appetite, and memory. Anandamide, like the phytocannabinoid THC, acts strongly on CB1 and CB2 receptors to produce its effects.
In the brain, CBG inhibits the uptake of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for reducing excitability (anxiety and fear responses). In one particular study, it was discovered that the effects of CBG on GABA were far greater than those of CBD and THC.
CBG is also known to antagonize the serotonin receptors, meaning it could help treatdepression. When a molecule is an antagonist, it blocks a receptor.
CBD is known to interact with serotonin receptors as well, but when it does, CBD acts directly, or as an agonist. In doing so, it has the potential to relieve anxiety.
The pharmacology of cannabinoids is still being studied. But as you can see, researchers are discovering that each cannabinoid—like THC, CBD, and CBG—seems to have a unique way of carrying out its effects. And yet, they are similar.
Think of basketball players on a team. They’ve likely learned the same skills, but each brings a kind of natural refinement of those skills which they perform a little differently, in their own way.
What Are the Potential Benefits of CBG?
It’s important to remember that the majority of cannabinoid research has been done in the lab—in test tubes and on animal models. Human trials have been done on some cannabinoids, but much more are needed. (Research was stalled for decades by prohibition of all things cannabis).
That being said, the amount of anecdotal evidence suggesting that cannabinoids have real game-changing medical applications is likely unprecedented and should not be ignored.
If many parents of children with intractable forms epilepsy had waited for CBD to be tested in human trials, their children may not have survived. Some of them even moved to states where CBD was legal to be able to treat their children without being harassed by child services or being arrested.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who changed his mind about medical marijuana in 2013, admitted what many doctors, legislators, and average Joes do once they see how cannabinoids can help patients.
“I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis. … Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high.”
Thankfully, we’re moving past that now. High-quality cannabinoids are known for their favorable safety profile, but there is so much more that can be learned from clinical trials. If cannabinoids are helping so many people now, imagine how we’ll be able to fine-tune them with more human testing.
So far, here are some of the therapeutic effects that researchers have discovered about CBG in laboratory testing:
- Neuroprotective effects: A study conducted in 2015 on animal models of Huntington’s disease showed that CBG served effectively as a neuroprotectant.
- Treatment for depression and anxiety: It has been proven that THC can have positive effects on patients suffering from depression. CBG has shown similar effects, but without the accompanying psychotic effects that THC is known for. A 2016 report has suggested that CBG and other non-psychotic cannabinoids could effectively treat depression and anxiety.
- Slows the growth of tumors: A review article published in 2009 showed that CBG and other cannabinoids inhibited the growth and progression of various cancer cells and tumors.
- Stimulation of bone growth: Results from a 2007 study showed that CBG can stimulate the stem cells of bone marrow. Therefore, CBG could be helpful in healing fractures and forming new bone.
- Treatment of glaucoma: A study conducted in 1990 has shown that when treated with CBG, animals with glaucoma had a 2-3 times increase in their aqueous flow, which can relieve glaucoma.
- Reduction of inflammation: CBG may reduce inflammation by acting on special molecules that trigger the inflammatory processes in many disease states such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and pain syndromes.
Other therapeutic benefits include:
- Treatment of overactive bladder
- Skin treatment
Can CBG Help Fight Aging?
Should aging be considered a disease?
Experts are having the debate. Some believe it should be officially classified as a disease, while others insist that aging is the contributor to many age-related diseases and not the disease itself.
In June of 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified old age in its 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases. This, some believe (and hope), could open the door to use particular drugs to specifically target aging—before some of those terrible age-related diseases, like Parkinson’s, occur.
Cannabinoids—ones that are legal, all-natural, non-intoxicating, and don’t require a prescription—have anti-aging therapeutic effects, and are already being used to treat age-related diseases.
Some cannabinoids seem to be especially packed with these age-fighting benefits. Cannabigerol (CBG) is one of these amazing cannabinoids.
Preclinical studies show that CBG could potentially help with some of these age-related conditions:
- Slowing tumor growth (According to Cancer.Net, “Age is the greatest risk for developing cancer.” Sixty percent of people with cancer are 65 or older.)
- Healing of and formation of new bone
- Sleep conditions
- Depression, anxiety, and mood
- Bladder issues
How to Use CBG?
Hemp-derived CBG will soon be available in tincture and flower forms. Tinctures are simply CBG oil that are taken orally. CBG flowers can be vaped, smoked, or used in baking (so many fun ways to get the benefits of CBG!).
CBG can be added to your daily full or broad spectrum CBD regimen to really round out the synergistic power of your cannabinoids.