You’ve probably heard of THC and its ever-popular cousin, CBD, but have you ever heard of CBG? CBG is short for cannabigerol. Though it’s not present in high quantities in most strains of cannabis (it’s typically below one percent by weight), it is still an important cannabinoid to consider due to its potential benefits. In fact, a few cannabis breeders are experimenting with genetic manipulation to create strains that are higher in CBG due to increasing interest in this cannabinoid. So, what does it have to offer and how does it compare to CBD? Here’s more on this emerging cannabinoid.
What is CBG?
Cannabis plants produce cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA is the precursor all of the cannabinoids present in cannabis. It breaks down into cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). These chemicals are then converted into THC, CBD, and CBC, respectively, through ultraviolet light or heat. Of the small amount that is not converted into THCA, CBDA, or CBCA, CBG is formed through decarboxylation. (It’s similar to how cannabinol (CBN), another byproduct, is produced.)
As you can see, CBG comes in quite short supply as compared to the other cannabinoids.
How Does CBG Compare to CBD?
Both CBG and CBD are non-psychoactive. That means they won’t make you high. One of the main differences between CBD and CBG is the difficulty in producing CBG. CBD is present in relatively high amounts in cannabis and is relatively easy to produce. CBG, on the other hand, is one of the most expensive cannabinoids to produce. It requires the use of specialized production equipment for extraction.
Due to the low levels of CBG in cannabis, the apparatus that is used to isolate and purify cannabinoid extracts needs to be as precise as possible, which means it’s much more expensive compared to those used to extract CBD or THC. That being said, researchers are experimenting with genetic manipulation to create strains that are higher in CBG. One particular method is to extract the cannabinoid when the cannabis plant is still immature, which results in a higher yield of CBG.
Another way CBD and CBG differ is in how they activate receptors in the body. Both CBD and CBG affect the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is the system of the body responsible for homeostasis. However, CBD and CBG appear to affect the main receptors differently. A 2011 study published in Psychopharmacology looked at the ways CBD and CBG effect the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. CBD was shown to activate the 5-HT1A receptor. It is through this activation that CBD produces most its effects. CBG, on the other hand, acts as an antagonist, or blocker, of the 5-HT1A receptor. The two cannabinoids appeared to produce opposite effects at this receptor.
Preliminary research also suggests the two cannabinoids may work in combination with one another to produce an increased effect. Researchers call this effect the entourage effect, which basically means that all of the cannabinoids in cannabis work synergistically to amplify the overall benefits of the plant.
Potential Health Benefits of CBG
Research is sparse regarding the potential health benefits of CBG, especially when compared to the growing volume of information available on THC and CBD. However, there are a few studies that show potential benefits:
- Treating glaucoma. A study published in 2008 suggests that CBG may be effective in treating glaucoma. The study suggests this is due to CBG’s potential ability to reduce intraocular pressure.
- Decreasing inflammation. A 2013 study conducted on mice found that CBG may help to reduce the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Researchers believe this is due to CBG’s possible inflammation-reducing effects.
- Fighting Huntingdon’s disease. Researchers believe CBG may hold neuroprotective effects. In fact, a 2015 study on mice found that CBG could have potential benefits in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Huntingdon’s disease.
- Killing drug-resistant bacteria. A 2008 study found that CBG and four other major cannabinoids “showed potent activity against a variety of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains of current clinical relevance.” Researchers noted that the high potency suggests “a specific, but yet elusive, mechanism of activity.”
- Fighting cancer. CBG may be able to reduce the growth of cancer cells. A 2014 study found that CBG inhibited colon cancer in rats.
- Reducing appetite. CBG may also be able to stimulate the appetite, which can be especially helpful to those with conditions such as HIV or cancer. A 2016 study on rats suggested that CBG may have appetite-stimulating effects.
CBG may not be as well-known as CBD, but it offers some potential effects on health and well-being, although more research is needed to fully explore CBG’s mechanisms of action and potential benefits for the treatment of specific health conditions or symptoms. As cultivators learn new and less expensive methods to extract this cannabinoid, you may start to hear about it a whole lot more.