As we continue to explore the health benefits of CBD and THC, other cannabinoids, such as CBG, are now starting to seize the interest of researchers and consumers.
According to preclinical studies, CBG may share many properties with CBD. Both compounds are non-intoxicating and exert antioxidative, neuroprotective, and discomfort-relieving properties. When put together in tandem, CBD and CBG may offer powerful health benefits, which are more pronounced than what you get from consuming both cannabinoids alone.
But what is the difference between CBD and CBG? How is CBG unique to its cousin?
Let’s have a deeper dive into this.
What is CBG?
CBG is an abbreviation for cannabigerol, one of over 115 cannabinoids found in cannabis. It was first synthesized in 1964, and since then, researchers have been exploring its potential health benefits. Studies into CBG are still at a preclinical stage, but our current knowledge of this cannabinoid suggests that it holds significant therapeutic potential (1).
CBG’s ability to reduce physical discomfort may be more potent than that of THC without the psychoactive buzz. There’s also research suggesting CBG may offer antibacterial, antidepressant, and anti-cancer qualities. (2)
CBG results from the conversion of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) — its chemical precursor. As a matter of fact, CBGA is sort of the mother of all cannabinoids, as it converts into cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). The higher the ratio of CBG in your strain, the higher the amount of the said cannabinoids.
When you decarboxylate cannabis, CBGA becomes CBG, enabling it to engage with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. Research indicates that CBG is a partial agonist of both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBG may also act on the receptors that control the immune response, pain, and sensitivity to heat (3).
CBD is considered a minor cannabinoid, as it usually appears in low concentrations in cannabis plants. However, selective breeding has resulted in high-CBG cannabis cultivars. Despite not being common in the cannabis market yet, they are actively being grown on a large scale for research purposes. Higher levels of CBG in cannabis will facilitate its extraction for therapeutic applications.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis — and also one of the best-researched ones.
CBD was first isolated from cannabis in the late 1930s and then neglected until the 70s it sparked the attention of medical researchers due to its anticonvulsant properties.
Research into CBD has come a long way since then. Research has confirmed that pure CBD — e.g. Epidiolex, an anticonvulsant drug approved by the FDA — shows great potential as a treatment for treatment-resistant forms of childhood epilepsy. CBD may also improve immune function, reduce physical discomfort, help with stress management, and boost cognitive performance.
Numerous studies have shown that CBD and THC generally provide more significant health benefits when teamed together than each of them alone. A similar interplay occurs between CBD and CBG; this phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system through an array of physiological pathways. It has a partial affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors but also binds to several other receptors that aren’t part of the endocannabinoid system. The mechanism of action is yet to be fully understood by scientists.
What is the Difference Between CBG and CBD?
CBG and CBD are different from each other in several aspects:
- Chemical makeup – CBG and CBD have different chemical structures. Their hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms — which constitute a cannabinoid — are arranged in different ways. In other words, they have different three-dimensional shapes, and thus have a different fashion of interacting with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. A cannabinoid’s chemical makeup helps determine the bioavailability of the compound.
- Pharmacology – In a 2011 study posted in the journal Psychopharmacology, the authors highlighted the differences between the mechanisms used by CBD and CBG on the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. CBD activates this receptor, while CBG blocks it. The findings from the study suggested that a pre-treatment with CBG inhibited CBD’s anti-nausea effects, concluding that despite binding to the same place, they had opposing actions on the 5-HT1A receptor.
- Effects on appetite – another considerable difference between CBG and CBD is how they affect appetite. A study on rats showed that supplementation with CBG encouraged the animals to consume more food than their normal intake. In another study, CBG didn’t cause any changes in eating behavior, but CBD significantly reduced total food consumption.
Therapeutic Effects of CBG
Although clinical trials have yet to examine the effects of CBG on humans, a number of preclinical studies shed light on some of the potential therapeutic effects of CBG. While the cannabinoid won’t get you high, it may provide other unique benefits that may help with the conditions we list below — although more human trials are needed to confirm them.
- Appetite stimulation – As mentioned above, preclinical research has shown that CBG can remarkably improve appetite in animals. A 2017 study underlined the therapeutic potential of these findings, suggesting that purified CBG may become a novel treatment for cachexia, appetite loss, and wasting syndrome in humans. Unlike THC, CBG can induce appetite without undesirable intoxication (6).
- Cancer – CBG may be able to inhibit malignant cell proliferation. Studies have provided evidence of the anti-tumorigenic properties of CBD by blocking the buildup of mouse skin melanoma cells (7).
- MRSA bacterial infections – CBG has demonstrated potent antibiotic properties. Researchers examined the antibacterial effects of 18 different cannabinoids, including CBG, against MRSA infections. CBD proved to be the best of all the cannabinoids tested, showing similar results to vancomycin, a very strong antibiotic (8).
- Gut inflammation – a 2013 study demonstrated that CBG was able to reduce inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in mice (9).
- Huntington’s disease – In a 2015 animal study, CBG provided neuroprotective effects to mice with a condition called Huntington’s disease. The authors concluded that CBG is a promising compound when it comes to treating neurodegenerative conditions (10).
- Bladder dysfunctions – some cannabinoids have the ability to affect bladder movements. A 2015 study investigated the effects of different cannabinoids on the bladder, concluding that CBG was the most promising cannabinoid in the treatment of bladder dysfunctions (11).
As more studies are conducted in this area, we may soon expect to see and hear more about CBG’s health benefits.
Why is CBG More Difficult to Produce than CBD?
Some people are wondering why CBG hasn’t experienced the same swell in popularity as CBD, with no intoxicating effects and a wide range of potential therapeutic applications.
The largest roadblock to popularizing CBG products is the manufacturing cost. CBG is one of the most expensive cannabinoids to extract; in fact, people from the industry call it the “Rolls-Royce of cannabinoids.” That’s because it takes thousands of pounds of biomass to create a small amount of CBG isolate.
Most hemp only contains negligible percentages of CBD, whereas some hemp strains may contain up to 20 percent of CBD. In contrast, the CBG content of the same strain is only 1 percent, meaning you need to use 20 times as much biomass to produce the same amount of CBG oil.
CBG is also problematic when it comes to cultivation. The more time cannabis spends in the soil, the higher the chance the CBGA and CBG will convert to other cannabinoids. Manufacturers are left with two options: either grow less cannabis with more CBD or more cannabis with less CBG.
On top of requiring larger amounts of plant matter compared to CBD or THC extraction, CBG extraction also calls for specialized production equipment. The low levels of CBG in cannabis strains require Swiss precision from the chromatography apparatus that manufacturers use to isolate CBG from other hemp compounds.
It goes without saying that this high-performance chromatography is more expensive than the regular one.
Experts predict that CBG will remain considerably more expensive than CBD for a long time, but if CBD prices go down, so will the prices of CBG.
Does CBG Cause Any Side Effects?
So far, the safety and efficacy of CBG oil or other forms of CBG have only been tested in rats; the studies concluded CBG was well tolerated by the subject. However, there’s not enough research to say the same safety profile applies to humans.
Does CBG Interact with Medications?
There is not much research on potential CBG-induced drug interactions. If you take any medication, it’s best to consult with your doctor before trying CBG products. Since CBG uses similar mechanisms as CBD, it may interact with a range of pharmaceutical substances, especially those that come with a grapefruit warning.
Here’s the list of medications that may interact with cannabinoids:
- Antibiotics and antimicrobials
- Anticancer medications
- Antiepileptic drugs
- Blood pressure medications
- Cholesterol medications
- Erectile dysfunction medications
- Gastrointestinal medications
- Heart rhythm medications
- Pain medications
- Prostate medications
How to Choose a CBG Product?
CBG extracts are relatively novel products due to the aforementioned low concentrations in hemp and high production costs. Neither CBG oil nor CBG oil is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so you have to do a bit more digging to ensure you’re getting a legitimate product.
Follow these three steps:
- Don’t buy “cheap CBG oil” – cheap CBG oil is an oxymoron because the production process involves serious investments in cultivation and extraction. Since the product is more difficult to obtain, companies usually price it higher than CBD oils. Therefore, if a company is trying to sell you CBG on the cheap, it’s an instant red flag.
- Check for Certificates of Analysis (COA) – companies that sell CBG products should have them tested by an independent laboratory. Third-party testing is important because it checks the potency of CBD, the sample’s cannabinoid profile, and looks for potential contaminants. Before you buy CBG, make sure that your company’s products are third-party tested, and be sure to read the lab report top to bottom. It should be available on the company’s website or via email.
- Try full-spectrum CBD oil – full-spectrum CBD contains a small amount of all cannabinoids and terpenes. They’re also more available than CBG-only products. Some hemp cultivars are particularly high in CBG; you can check the CBG content in your product by reading the said lab reports.
CBG continues to make big headlines in the cannabis market. Although the research around is still pretty limited, researchers are very optimistic about its potential health benefits. Studies have yet to determine its safety and potential side effects, as well as the possibility to interact with certain medications.
Before CBG becomes more common and its prices drop down, it might be easier to find high-quality full-spectrum CBD extracts from hemp strains with a higher-than-average CBG content. Just make sure to read third-party lab reports, and if you take any medications or have an underlying condition, check in with your doctor first.
Have you had a chance to try CBG? Let us know in the comments!
- Rock, E.M. “Chapter 72. The Role of 5-HT1A Receptor and Nausea and Vomiting Relief by Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA), and Cannabigerol (CBG)” (2017). The University of Guelph.
- Evans, F J. “Cannabinoids: the separation of central from peripheral effects on a structural basis.” Planta Medica vol. 57,7 (1991): S60-7.
- Navarro, Gemma et al. “Cannabigerol Action at Cannabinoid CB1and CB2 Receptors and at CB1-CB2 Heteroreceptor Complexes.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 9 632. 21 Jun. 2018, doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00632
- Mechoulam, Raphael et al. “Cannabidiol: an overview of some pharmacological aspects.” Journal of clinical pharmacology vol. 42,S1 (2002): 11S-19S. doi:10.1002/j.1552-4604.2002.tb05998.x
- Gray, Royston A, and Benjamin J Whalley. “The proposed mechanisms of action of CBD in epilepsy.” Epileptic disorders: international epilepsy journal with videotape vol. 22,S1 (2020): 10-15. doi:10.1684/epd.2020.1135
- Brierley, Daniel I et al. “A cannabigerol-rich Cannabis sativa extract, devoid of [INCREMENT]9-tetrahydrocannabinol, elicits hyperphagia in rats.” Behavioral pharmacology vol. 28,4 (2017): 280-284. doi:10.1097/FBP.0000000000000285
- Baek, SH., Du Han, S., Yook, C.N. et al. Synthesis and antitumor activity of cannabigerol. Arch. Pharm. Res. 19, 228–230 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02976895
- Farha, Maya A et al. “Uncovering the Hidden Antibiotic Potential of Cannabis.” ACS infectious diseases vol. 6,3 (2020): 338-346. doi:10.1021/acsinfecdis.9b00419
- Borrelli, Francesca et al. “Beneficial effect of the non-psychotropic plant cannabinoid cannabigerol on experimental inflammatory bowel disease.” Biochemical pharmacology vol. 85,9 (2013): 1306-16. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2013.01.017
- Valdeolivas, Sara et al. “Neuroprotective properties of cannabigerol in Huntington’s disease: studies in R6/2 mice and 3-nitropropionate-lesioned mice.” Neurotherapeutics: the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 12,1 (2015): 185-99. doi:10.1007/s13311-014-0304-z
- Pagano, Ester et al. “Effect of Non-psychotropic Plant-derived Cannabinoids on Bladder Contractility: Focus on Cannabigerol.” Natural product communications vol. 10,6 (2015): 1009-12.