Recently, some of the less well-known cannabinoids in cannabis have been getting some attention—mostly thanks to CBD. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis that tempers some of the side effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC.
But THC and CBD are just two of the over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis, and CBG or cannabigerol is another one you may be curious about. Other phytocannabinoids, found in smaller amounts in nature, still interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and contribute to the entourage effect—and they may also offer unique benefits of their own.
Even the US government is curious to learn more about CBG and has started to fund research into pain management and minor cannabinoids including cannabigerol. So if you want to learn more, here is the current research on CBG:
Table of Contents
- What is CBG?
- How Does CBG Work in the Body?
- CBG and the Entourage Effect
- CBG vs CBD
- Benefits of CBG
- Legal Issues
- How to Find CBG in Products
- Final Thoughts
The medical information on this page was reviewed by Ankush Patel, MD
What is Cannabigerol (CBG)?
Found in small amounts in cannabis, CBGA is the converted form of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). Typically, cannabinoids derive from either CBGA or CBG, which serve as parent molecules for synthesizing other compounds. Cannabigerol is a minor constituent of the plant.
Cannabis culture is becoming more common, and medical marijuana or recreational cannabis is at least partially legal in 46 states. This has prompted more and more interest in this plant’s unique benefits.
Due to the blend of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemical compounds, cannabis has special medicinal benefits. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the main non-psychotropic compounds that occur naturally in the Cannabis sativa plant, and increasing interest in using it therapeutically has prompted growers to create new CBD products for the market.
Other cannabinoids are also rousing consumer interest as CBD becomes more popular, including cannabigerol (CBG). So what is cannabigerol, what does it do, how does it work, and does it actually have any benefits?
How Does CBG Work in the Body?
All humans—and in fact all mammals—have an endocannabinoid system. This is a network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body that are involved in functions relating to the immune system, memory, sleep, and pain perception.
Although there are many cannabinoid receptors in human bodies, the two that are best understood are endocannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and endocannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). CB1 is more significant to the central nervous system, and CB2 primarily impacts the immune system.
Cannabinoids are something like messenger compounds that bind with cannabinoid receptors and other receptors as well. When cannabinoids bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, this signals them into service.
CBG interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but it appears to have a stronger affinity for the CB2 receptor. Although it is not yet fully understood, CBG seems to interact with the endocannabinoid system in a number of ways that are possibly therapeutic. CBG also may produce unique physiological effects that are different than those that THC and CBD produce.
CBG is classified as a minor cannabinoid because it is present in low levels in most cannabis strains—usually less than 1 percent. First, the plant creates cannabigerolic acid (CBGA): the parent molecule for most other cannabinoids. CBGA acts as the precursor to the three main cannabinoid lines as specific enzymes in the plant convert and “direct” it to create cannabinoids during the flowering cycle.
CBGA converts mostly to cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). This process also creates much smaller quantities of cannabichromenic acid (CBCA) which converts into CBC, another minor yet interesting cannabinoid.
Next, these acids are exposed to heat or ultraviolet light, and they become the better-known cannabinoids THC and CBD (and the much less prevalent CBC). CBGA immediately converts to either CBDA or THCA in most strains, rather than remaining to convert to CBG later.
After all of these changes, only trace amounts of CBGA remain in the cannabis plant. In fact, CBGA is available at higher concentrations a week or two before harvest. Biochemical changes, also referred to as decarboxylation, in the remaining CBGA forms and activates the CBG.
Some breeders—for example, Subcool Seeds—are working to obtain higher yields of CBG by cross-breeding plants and manipulating gene lines. Alternatively, technicians and scientists can extract more CBG from budding plants approximately six weeks into an eight-week flowering cycle. In fact, this is how Bedrocan BV Medicinal Cannabis makes the medicinal product Bediol.
CBG and the Entourage Effect
Each cannabinoid possesses its own singular pharmacologic qualities. However, when combined—like, for example, in whole-plant extracts—both direct and indirect interactions between cannabinoids and other phytocompounds can occur. These interactions are known as the entourage effect because they modify the overall clinical effect.
Among the benefits users report when they experience the entourage effect is a reduction in THC intoxication, which may help increase the therapeutic qualities of cannabis overall. Furthermore, leukemia research indicates that the entourage effect enhances anti-cancer activity.
CBG vs CBD
CBD is freshly famous in the wellness scene as well as in the cannabis world. Researchers are already learning a lot about the many therapeutic benefits of this non-psychoactive cannabinoid, but how do CBG and CBD compare?
The first difference is how CBG and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system. CBD acts mostly through indirect interactions with the endocannabinoid system because it has a relatively low affinity for cannabinoid receptors. In contrast, CBG interacts directly with the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors to elicit its therapeutic effects.
Because THC produces its psychoactive effects by interacting with these receptors, CBG can work as a buffer against THC’s psychoactivity. For example, consuming cannabinoids such as CBG may help reduce feelings of anxiety or paranoia caused by high levels of THC.
Typically, CBD products like oils and tinctures come in either broad-spectrum or full-spectrum form. Both usually contain CBG, but full-spectrum products always do. The difference between broad spectrum and full spectrum products is actually THC. Broad spectrum products have other cannabinoids like CBG, but no THC, while full spectrum CBD products have all of the cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids, including a trace amount of THC.
As mentioned above, the entourage effect is the main reason people seek out full spectrum CBD oil. Science proves that although each cannabinoid, including CBG, offers its own benefits, together those benefits are enhanced. No noticeable psychoactive effects come from the THC in full spectrum hemp products, which is present in such negligible amounts that it does not cause a psychoactive reaction. Broad spectrum CBD oils may lose some of the entourage effects, but they retain cannabinoids such as CBG while removing any trace of THC.
Benefits of CBG
There is plenty of rumor and speculation out there about THC, CBD, and everything else connected to cannabis, but the existing research on the effects of CBG is actually very promising. Here is what scientists know so far:
Both oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. CBG protects against oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, and it serves as a neuroprotectant. CBG may also help treat an overactive bladder.
CBG is an anti-inflammatory like other cannabinoids, and it can help with symptoms related to inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) symptoms, other signs of chronic inflammation of the bowel or digestive tract, and overactive immune responses and inflammation caused by autoimmune disorders.
CBG promotes colon cancer cell death and has tumor-inhibiting properties in animal studies.
People coping with appetite loss often experience cachexia and weakness as well as nausea. THC can boost the appetite but is psychoactive; CBG has some of the same appetite-stimulating effects yet is non-psychoactive.
Antiseptic and antibacterial
CBG, along with other cannabinoids, possesses antiseptic and antibacterial qualities that are a promising treatment against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
A powerful neuroprotectant and vasodilator, CBG demonstrates effects that may help in the treatment of glaucoma by helping to lower intraocular pressure.
Although each of these results is certainly exciting on its own, researchers are eager to conduct future research with CBG—both acting alone and in combination with other terpenes and cannabinoids. This non-psychotropic cannabinoid has a promising spectrum of possible applications.
The United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 does not list CBG on its schedules, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances also omits this cannabinoid. As a result, signatory countries to these drug control treaties need not restrict CBG to remain on the right side of international law. Mostly, countries regulate cannabis and everything in it together, if they recognize cannabinoids at all.
In the United States, state and federal laws covering hemp and cannabis products are confusing and even contradictory. However, CBG is not listed as a controlled substance in the US. For a detailed discussion of the legality of CBD and THC, see our post here.
How to Find CBG Products
Lots of people want to give CBG-rich products or cultivars a try, but it’s easier said than done. Although more people are seeking ways to make the most of cannabis and its full spectrum benefits, and are finding out how more obscure cannabinoids work in the body, it’s not easy to find CBG products.
For one thing, CBG is seriously expensive to produce. To create just a small amount of CBG and isolate it takes thousands of pounds of biomass because, unlike CBD which might comprise up to 20 percent of a hemp plant, most hemp only contains trace amounts of CBG.
Furthermore, the decision to extract as much CBG as possible means extracting less of other cannabinoids. That’s because if you intervene early to get more CBGA to decarboxylate into CBG, you lose the other cannabinoids like CBC and CBN. Also, since growers have generally bred cannabis plants to produce as much THC as possible—or in some cases, as much CBD—there’s a ceiling to what the plant can produce, and many cannabis plants contain less CBG by volume overall.
CBG production also demands highly specialized, costly chromatography equipment.
The solution to these issues for growers may be selecting for plants with high CBG genetics. High-CBG cannabis cultivars are called Type IV cannabis. Type I cannabis is the classic THC-dominant variety that most of us know and love, while Type II is the blended ratio of CBD and THC that is popular with many medical marijuana patients. Type III cannabis is CBD-dominant.
The process takes time and effort, but some growers are tackling the problem already. For example, EcoGen Laboratories has been developing a CBG cultivar since 2017 that has a CBG content of 22 percent weight by volume.
Destroyer, Stem Cell, The CBG Blend, White CBG, Mickey Kush, Magic Jordan, and Panakeia are also commercially available CBG-dominant cultivars. Stem Cell and White CBG can produce up to 20 percent CBG. Panakeia is a no-THC cultivar that was developed for a high CBG content of around 18 percent.
Final Thoughts on CBG
One of the most amazing things about cannabis is how much it can differ—and not just from strain to strain, but from plant to plant. This is mostly true because of the plant’s unique chemical makeup. It’s still unclear what the full range of terpenes and cannabinoids does in the human body, and, though THC and CBD are the compounds we know best, we are learning more about cannabinoids such as CBG every year. It will be exciting to see what therapeutic benefits cannabigerol can give us.