Sometimes the most minor of molecules are the ones with the greatest impact. Such appears to be the case with CBG—the “first” cannabinoid that develops in cannabis. This seemingly insignificant cannabinoid is actually responsible for the creation of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids catching the attention of scientists and consumers the world over.
Usually found in concentrations of <1% in most hemp plants, it’s no wonder this compound hasn’t received as much attention as others. However, that is quickly changing as more information is being unveiled about this once-overshadowed cannabinoid.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at CBG and the role it plays in the production of other cannabinoids. We’ll also explore its unique effects on the body, and how it differs from other hemp-derived cannabinoids.
What is CBG?
CBG, or cannabigerol, is a phytocannabinoid. Unlike endocannabinoids, which are produced by the body, phytocannabinoids are sourced from plants like cannabis. CBG is what's known as a non-intoxicating cannabinoid—it doesn’t get you high.
CBG: a not-so-minor cannabinoid
By the time cannabis is harvested, dried, and processed, it usually contains only trace amounts of CBG (below 1%). Hence, it is generally labelled a “minor” cannabinoid.
However, CBG—or rather, its acidic form, CBGA—is actually the first cannabinoid acid to develop in the cannabis plant. As such, it is sometimes referred to as the “stem cell” of cannabis. It is found in its highest concentrations in flowering cannabis plants. The acidic form is simply CBG with an extra carboxyl group—the “A”.
As plants continue to grow, enzymes convert CBGA into either THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), or CBCA (cannabichromenic acid).
Following harvest, plants are usually dried and processed. The heat or UV light used in these scenarios breaks down these acidic cannabinoids into their non-acidic counterparts, such as THC, CBD, and CBC. This phenomenon is known as decarboxylation—the removal of a carboxyl group.
Decarboxylation also produces many other cannabinoids (at least 100), all of which originally stem from CBGA.
Most of the cannabis strains on today’s market are bred to be high in THC and/or CBD; and the more THC or CBD present in a plant sample, the less CBG. Hence, strains usually contain only small amounts of CBG.
However, some breeders are experimenting with crossbreeding, genetic manipulation, and even unique harvesting patterns to create strains that contain higher levels of this cannabinoid.
Bedrocan BV Medical Cannabis in the Netherlands, for example, has began harvesting some of its plants earlier to create a final product with higher levels of CBG.
What are the effects of CBG?
As we mentioned earlier, CBG is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid. Therefore, it does not interact with the endocannabinoid system in a way that interrupts mental faculties. However, just like any other cannabinoid, CBG does interact with the endocannabinoid system in a variety of ways.
Some studies also suggest that CBG may inhibit the growth of some tumours, while others show it may have neuroprotective effects. A 2014 study published in the PLoS One medical journal also claims that some CBG-derived products could suppress the body’s immune response.
Dr Bonni Goldstein, a medical doctor specialising in medicinal cannabis, claims that CBG can inhibit GABA neurotransmission in the brain, as well as affect pain, inflammation, and more.
“When GABA [uptake] is inhibited, you actually have muscle relaxation and you have anti-anxiety effects, so it [CBG] appears to promote similar effects that CBD Oil has. It also appears to have antidepressant and some modest antifungal properties” said Goldstein in a video for WeedMaps.
In 2013, researchers from the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Naples Federico II (Italy) tested the effects of CBG on an experimental model of experimental Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The researchers found that CBG has potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
Unfortunately, because CBG has been overshadowed by cannabinoids THC and CBD, not a lot of research has gone into fully understanding this cannabinoid and its effects. However, that is slowly changing as people begin to realise the potential and importance of this compound.
CBG vs CBD. What is the difference?
Despite originating from CBG Oils, CBD Oil is completely distinct from CBG in both chemical structure and concentration within cannabis plants.
Because it is only found in trace amounts in dried plant material, it is only recently that manufacturers have begun to focus more attention on optimising CBG levels in products like CBD oils, supplements, and salves. It’s clear that CBG is an essential cannabinoid, but it’s yet unclear exactly how to use it to our benefit.
CBG (cannabigerol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are two of the many chemical compounds present in cannabis which can be used as medication. While they share similarities, there are important differences between them.
The main difference between CBG vs CBD is how the chemicals interact with our brain's cannabinoid receptors.
The cannabis plant contains at least 85 cannabinoids. These are chemical compounds which have an effect on the body by bonding with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The most widely recognized and well studied of these chemicals is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is famous for being the main psychoactive component of cannabis, producing the high that gives the plant its medical and recreational effects.
However, there are many other less famous cannabinoids which also produce a range of effects on the brain. Two compounds which we will be focusing on in this article are cannabidiol (both CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG). While both CBD and CBG can be isolated from the cannabis plant, the main difference between them lies in how they interact with cannabinoid receptors.
As a result of this difference in action on cannabinoid receptors, CBD and CBG produce different effects when isolated from each other and when combined together in a full spectrum cannabis extract or both CBD product.
CBG vs CBD: What is the difference in effects?
The primary difference between CBD and CBG comes from their unique interaction with cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body and brain, and modulate pain, inflammation, stress responses, mood etc. The way these chemical compounds interact with our cells is what gives them both their therapeutic and psychoactive effects.
Cannabinoid receptors are made up of many subunits. To date, scientists have identified two subtypes that play the largest role in our experience of cannabinoids: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 is mostly found in the brain, but also present in some other parts of the body. It has been linked to memory formation, reward seeking behavior, motor coordination, pain sensation, and more. CB2 is primarily found in the immune system where it regulates inflammation.
CBG vs CBD: What Is The Difference In How They Interact With Cannabinoid Receptors?
A 2010 study published by a group of scientists from Italy took a detailed look at the structure-activity relationships of CBG, CBD and THC.
The study found that both CBD and CBG interact strongly multiple cannabinoid receptors including the serotonin 5HT1a receptor. However, they differ in how they interact with cannabinoid receptors, mainly with respect to their effects on the endocannabinoid system (the biological system responsible for processing cannabinoids).
For example, CBD has no effect at all on the CB1 receptor, while CBG does. This is because CBD lacks affinity for CB1 due to an extra carbon atom in its molecular structure.
There was also found to be more CBG binding sites than CB2 binding sites throughout many parts of the brain and body, indicating that it's able to affect many different processes via its interaction with cannabinoid receptors.
CBG vs CBD: What Are The Benefits Of Each?
There are many differences between the effects CBG vs CBD produce, which also affects their therapeutic benefits. However, both CBG and CBD have potential uses as medication.
This cannabinoid is famous for its non-intoxicating nature. It's this quality which has made CBD useful in treating children and people who can't tolerate the 'high' associated with THC and other cannabis compounds.
Also, CBD has been found to be an effective anticonvulsant, effectively treating seizures and epilepsy. This has been demonstrated in both animal and human studies.
Another study found that CBD reduced psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia, such as delusions and hallucinations which are often difficult to treat. These promising results show that CBD could be a useful medication for people with psychosis resulting from conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
While CBG has been found to be non-psychoactive it does appear to improve the effects of THC. This is because, like CBD, it can modulate and reduce the negative side effects such as anxiety and paranoia that THC causes in some people.
As a result of this 'boosting' effect on THC, CBG appears to increase the pain relieving qualities of THC. This could make CBG useful in strains of cannabis used for medical benefits and purposes.