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Reading time - 10 minutes - May 11, 2023
If you’ve been using CBD products for a while, then you are probably aware that this is just one of many compounds known as cannabinoids. CBD, CBG and over 100 other cannabinoids are found exclusively in the Cannabis Sativa plant. Between them, these nifty compounds are largely responsible for all the weird and wonderful effects of cannabis, from the euphoric high to the anti-inflammatory effects. But while CBD and THC have become well-known in recent decades, the vast majority of cannabinoids get very little air-time – at least until recently.
While there is no doubt that CBD still takes the top spot when it comes to the popularity of cannabis ingredients (thanks to products like CBD oils, CBD gummies, and CBD E-liquids), another compound is slowly sneaking up behind it. Cannabigerol – better known by the acronym CBG – has now entered the consciousness of the wellness world, with many brands now choosing to incorporate it into their products. Similarly, research has traditionally focused on CBD and THC; however, in recent years, there is a growing interest in other common and minor cannabinoids, including CBG.
But what exactly is CBG? What are its properties and potential benefits? And, most importantly, how does it compare to CBD?
As mentioned above, cannabigerol is another member of the cannabinoid family – albeit on a more “minor” level. What does this mean? Simply that cannabigerol and other minor cannabinoids are present in cannabis at much lower levels than the more well-known cannabinoids like CBD and THC. In fact, these minor compounds are present in only trace amounts in most strains of cannabis.
As a result, CBG and other minor cannabinoids are difficult to extract in the same quantities as CBD. But this hasn’t stopped the wellness and medicinal world from paying attention. Despite only being present at low levels, CBG can actually be found naturally in a wide range of broad- and full-spectrum CBD extracts. Some manufacturers have even opted to boost the CBG in their products to tout a “CBD + CBG” formulation.
CBG was first synthesised, at the same time as THC, in 1964. While research into this cannabinoid has continued in the decades since, it is only in recent years that CBG has become recognised by consumers. But while a growing number of people may have heard of CBG, few are aware of what makes this cannabinoid so important.
Despite only being present in small quantities in many strains of cannabis, CBG actually plays an extremely important role in the entire biological makeup of the plant. Its importance has even earned it the nickname (among those in the know, at least): the “Mother of Cannabinoids”. And this nickname truly is a great fit.
You see, in young cannabis plants, the pre-cursor to CBG – also known as an “early-phase’ cannabinoid – CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid is present at much higher concentrations. But this compound is not only the precursor to CBG; it is also where all other cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, begin their lives. In fact, the majority of CBGA breaks down and converts into cannabinoids aside from CBG. Only plants that have been specifically bred to do so will contain more than trace amounts of CBG.
As a cannabis plant nears the end of its grow cycle and absorbs an increasing amount of sun or UV light, the CBGA compounds break down and are converted into THCA and CBDA – the acidic precursors to CBD and THC. These compounds then convert to THC and CBD when heated through a process called decarboxylation. For more information about how temperature can affect different cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds, check out our recent blog, ‘What is the Best Temperature to Vape Weed?’.
But that’s enough about the biology of the cannabis plant; let’s talk about the potential benefits and properties of CBG.
While the extremely low levels of CBG in mature cannabis buds make herbal cannabis a poor source of this interesting cannabinoid, once extracted and isolated, CBG has demonstrated a number of interesting and promising therapeutic properties. Perhaps one of the most desirable properties of CBG is its non-intoxicating nature. Like CBD (and unlike THC), CBG consumption is not associated with the “high” that largely helped to stigmatise cannabis use in the 20th century.
Aside from this, CBG is believed to interact with our bodies in a similar way to both CBD and THC – that is, via the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This receptor system, which is made up of both cannabinoid receptors (CB1R and CB2R) and endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) produced within our bodies, has been found to play an important role in a number of vital physiological processes. Research into various cannabinoids (including all those mentioned in this article) has shown that the ECS could be a target for treatments across a multitude of conditions and ailments. As such, CBG may well possess some interesting medicinal benefits.
But has any of this been proven?
A number of animal and human studies have demonstrated CBG’s anti-inflammatory potential. CBG has also been proven to possess anti-inflammatory properties in neurological models. For example, a murine study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), concluded that CBG could be considered for clinical experimentation in IBD patients. Furthermore, a 2021 study of respiratory inflammation in guinea pigs found that both CBD and CBG “exhibit anti-inflammatory activity [which] suggest that these non-psychoactive cannabinoids may have beneficial effects in treating diseases characterised by airway inflammation.”
Finally, another 2021 study of three CBG derivatives (HUM-223, HUM-233 and HUM-234) concluded that the compounds “have the potential for development as novel drug candidates for the treatment of inflammatory conditions.” Interestingly, HUM-234 also appeared to demonstrate potential for obesity.
Like CBD, CBG has also been investigated for its antibacterial potential. One study, published in 2021, assessed the anti-bacterial activity of CBG against planktonic growing Staphylococcus mutans, one of more than 700 different bacterial species that have been detected in the oral cavity of humans. Staphylococcus mutans is associated with dental caries (also known as tooth decay).
The researchers concluded that CBG demonstrated antibacterial properties against Staphylococcus mutans at several levels. These findings support further research into CBG as “a novel innovative way to combat dental caries.”
While clinical research into the potential of CBG remains in its infancy, the cannabinoid has been implicated as a potentially promising treatment for a number of other conditions. For example, one rodent study assessed CBG in two different in vivo models of Huntinton’s Disease (HD). The researchers concluded that the results “open new research avenues for the use of CBG, alone or in combination with other phytocannabinoids or therapies, for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as HD.”
Finally, another study found that CBG was able to inhibit the growth of xenograft tumours and chemically induced colon carcinogenesis in mouse models of colon cancer. This finding may promote future research into CBG as a potential compound for future colorectal cancer treatments and cures. However, much more research is needed to better understand the anti-tumour potential of CBG and other cannabinoids.
On the surface, CBD and CBG appear to have a lot in common. They are both non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant; they have a number of similar potential properties; and they are both being embraced by the wellness world. However, it is important to distinguish between these two compounds.
While both have demonstrated some impressive potential health and wellness benefits, the spread of research is far from even. CBG may have been synthesised alongside THC almost six decades ago, but research into the “Mother of Cannabinoids” has lagged significantly. This is likely due to difficulties accessing significant amounts of the compound, owing both to legal barriers and its presence in such small quantities in most cannabis strains.
To date, we are still in the dark when it comes to how exactly CBD demonstrates the promising benefits that it has been reported to possess. Despite an ever-growing body of clinical and laboratory research focusing on CBD in recent years, it is still necessary to acknowledge the lack of high-quality evidence in the case of many reported medicinal properties attached to the cannabinoid.
And if this is true of CBD, it is even more true of CBG. Much more research, at every level, is needed before we can fully understand the potential and therapeutic properties of this seemingly versatile cannabinoid. Still, both CBD and CBG have been found to be well tolerated and safe to be consumed both alone and in combination with other cannabinoids in the current literature. Both cannabinoids are also legal in the UK and many other countries around the world, thanks to their non-intoxicating nature.
While CBG may well be creeping into the public consciousness, it is likely that CBD products, including CBD topicals and extracts, will continue to rule the roost for a little while longer.
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