Cannabigerol (CBG) is one of the many active compounds known as cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Most people are familiar with the cannabinoids Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is best known for its intoxicating effects, while people often use CBD for its medicinal benefits. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause its consumers to get high. Patients frequently use it to reduce the effects of pain and inflammation, nausea, seizures, anxiety, PTSD, and depression.
CBG exists in lower concentrations than THC or CBD. For a long time, it has been somewhat overshadowed by these other cannabinoids. However, in recent years, scientific interest in CBG has been growing at a steady rate.
In this article, we explore CBG in more detail. We look at what it is, how it works, and exactly how it could be useful.
What Is CBG?
CBG was first discovered in Israel in 1964. Marijuana researchers Yehiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam had just isolated CBG, THC, and CBD from the cannabis plant. They may not have realized how important this was at the time. However, this discovery went on to become the entire basis of our understanding of the plant today.
CBG occurs in lower concentrations than THC and CBD and differs from these compounds in several ways.
Despite people often overlooking CBG in favor of THC and CBD, it seems that it could also be potentially beneficial. However, CBG research is still in its infancy. There is no doubt that we still have much to learn about this compound.
Yet, thanks to scientists like Gaoni and Mechoulam, we now know more about cannabinoids. Research has shown that CBG and other cannabinoids have a potentially remarkable effect on the human body.
How Does CBG Work?
Like other cannabinoids, CBG works by influencing the endocannabinoid system within our bodies. The endocannabinoid system is a complex collection of receptors (CB1 and CB2 receptors), chemicals called endocannabinoids, and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids are compounds that our bodies produce. They bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors. Their role is to help regulate many of our physiological functions and maintain a state of internal balance.
CB1 receptors are primarily in the nervous system and brain. CB2 receptors are elsewhere in the body, mainly in the cells of the immune system. Many different endocannabinoids can bind with these receptors, but anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the best known.
AEA binds primarily with CB1 receptors and acts as a neurotransmitter, affecting our cognitive function and mood. On the other hand, 2-AG binds with CB1 and CB2 receptors, provoking an anti-inflammatory effect.
The cannabinoids in the cannabis plant also can bind with these receptors due to their similar shape. THC binds with CB1 receptors, altering the way we think and getting us high. CBD does not bind with these receptors easily but does influence how they react with other cannabinoids.
Research has shown that CBG binds primarily with CB2 receptors. It has also shown that, in high doses, it could block other compounds from binding with CB1 receptors. However, unlike CBD, CBG does not appear to alter the effects of THC.
This complex interaction between the various plant cannabinoids and the body’s endocannabinoid system is known as the ‘entourage effect.’ Scientists are only just starting to comprehend the full implications of this. Although, some have suggested that using these cannabinoids in combination is more beneficial than using any one of them alone.
What Is CBG Good For?
We still don’t fully understand the potential benefits of CBG. However, initial research suggests that it may be a useful tool in helping with a wide range of physical and psychological conditions. Let’s look at the existing research on how CBG works on the human body.
What Is CBG Used For?
The Anti-inflammatory Effects of CBG
CBG appears to have anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it could potentially help in managing the symptoms of many different chronic diseases.
One study on CBG for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) produced some interesting results. The researchers found that CBG reduced inflammatory markers in mice with induced IBD and relieved colitis. Based on these findings, the study’s authors suggest that CBG should be tested further in human subjects as a treatment for IBD.
If scientists can confirm the anti-inflammatory properties of CBG, it may have broad applications far beyond the treatment of colitis. Chronic inflammation is most often associated with painful conditions such as arthritis. However, it is also linked to many serious disorders, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer.
It is, therefore, highly desirable to find new ways of reducing inflammation to prevent and treat these potentially fatal conditions. Although more research is required, cannabinoids, including CBG, could offer one such hope.
The Neuroprotective Effects of CBG
Aside from anti-inflammatory effects, CBG may also act as an antioxidant and protect the nervous system from damage. It does this in a similar way to the endocannabinoid 2-AG.
Another animal study on the neuroprotective effects of CBG produced some interesting results. It found that CBG could help to improve motor deficits and preserve neurons in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s disease.
A 2021 review outlined the pharmacological case for cannabigerol. It analyzed previous studies and concluded that CBG had therapeutic potential for neurological disorders such as MS, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s.
The Antimicrobial Effects of CBG
CBG, along with some other cannabinoids, has demonstrated antibacterial effects. When researchers tested it against various strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacterium in a laboratory, CBG was found to have significant antimicrobial properties. This finding could be especially crucial in the future, as antibiotic resistance is becoming more commonplace.
CBG as an Appetite Stimulant
CBG also shows great promise as an appetite stimulant, as scientists discovered in a 2016 study on CBG for appetite. They gave rats either CBG or a placebo and observed their feeding habits. The rats who ingested CBG increased their number of meals and doubled their overall food intake. However, the amount eaten at meals and the duration of the meals was unaffected.
The researchers did not observe any adverse effects in rats treated with CBG. This potentially could make this cannabinoid a promising therapy for conditions such as anorexia and cachexia.
CBG for Bladder Problems
A 2015 study on cannabinoids for bladder dysfunction found that they can reduce acetylcholine-induced bladder contractions in mice. Among all the cannabinoids tested, CBG was one of the most effective, along with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). CBG has also been shown to reduce these contractions in human subjects.
Other Uses for CBG
CBG is just beginning to emerge from under the shadow of THC and CBD. Now research is shedding more light on its potential health benefits. It has been suggested that as well as influencing the CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBG may affect α2-adrenoceptors and 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in the nervous system.
It is also possible that CBG could block the reuptake of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline by cells. If this proves to be accurate, then CBG could also be useful in combating the symptoms of depression.
How Is CBG Made?
One of the issues facing makers of CBG products is the relative lack of the cannabinoid in cannabis plants. It is unusual for any strain to have up to 1% cannabigerol unless specially bred, compared to 25+% of THC. There are even strains specifically developed to have a CBD content of over 20%. Also, hemp contains high levels of CBD but minuscule amounts of CBG.
Indeed, CBG is regarded as one of the most expensive cannabinoids to produce. It takes thousands of pounds of biomass to create tiny amounts of cannabigerol isolate. Creating CBG involves heating cannabigerolic acid to ensure it goes through the decarboxylation process. Companies may use hydrocarbon, ethanol, or CO2 extraction to take the CBG from the biomass.
The best time to extract CBG is early in a plant’s life cycle. The longer the plant matures, the more likely the CBG and CBGA present gets converted to other cannabinoids. After all, THC and CBD begin as CBGA. Therefore, cultivators have to decide whether to harvest the crop early to maximize CBG content or allow it to mature. The best time to harvest plants for CBGA is about six weeks into the eight-week flowering cycle.
The process of CBG extraction also requires sophisticated and expensive equipment. The chromatography apparatus used to isolate and purify cannabigerol extracts must be extremely precise. The high initial production cost for processors ensures there are relatively few CBG products on the market. However, some breeders have developed the following high CBG strains:
- White CBG
- Lemon Diesel CBG
- Super Glue CBG
- Sour G CBG
- Goliath CBG/CBD (50/50 hybrid)
Barring the Goliath hybrid, which has 5% CBG, the rest of the strains contain at least 10%. What can you expect if you elect to use one of these strains?
Those who use CBG sometimes report feeling a sense of calm. However, most users acknowledge that the benefits of CBG creep up on them rather than being immediately noticeable.
As for side effects, there are reports that excessive CBG consumption could lead to the following:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite – while CBD may reduce appetite, CBG could increase it
However, there is practically no research into whether CBG has adverse effects on humans. A study published in Psychopharmacology (Berlin) in 2016 showed that rats tolerate the cannabinoid well, though.
Does CBG Get You High?
No. Cannabigerol is non-intoxicating, so you will not experience a high. That is, as long as the strain in question doesn’t also contain THC. This is because CBG doesn’t affect the brain’s CB1 receptor like THC. This is one of the similarities between CBD and CBG. However, they are not quite the same.
How Is CBG Different From CBD?
It is easy to assume that CBG and CBD are almost identical. After all, both are non-intoxicating, anti-inflammatory, and can potentially help with medical conditions such as pain, anxiety, and depression. However, they have slightly different chemical formulas:
- CBG: C21H32O2
- CBD: C21H3oO2
As you can see, there is a slight difference between how their hydrogen atoms are arranged. Their 3D models have different shapes and interact differently with the body’s cannabinoid receptors.
It also seems likely that CBG and CBD use different mechanisms for interacting with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. While CBG blocks it, CBD activates it. There is even a possibility that CBG could block CBD’s anti-nausea benefits.
There is a suggestion that CBG is even more effective and direct than CBD because it is effectively the ‘parent’ cannabinoid. Every other cannabinoid, including CBD, starts as CBG before being converted. Yet, because there is so little CBG in cannabis and hemp, it is challenging to create products containing the cannabinoid. Moreover, there is far more research into CBD than CBG.
Reducing the cost of extraction would ensure CBG becomes more widely available and perhaps better studied. As the range of products grows, it begs the question: Is CBG legal?
Using CBG & Legality
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growth of industrial hemp as long as it has a maximum THC content of 0.3%. This was great news for the CBD industry, even though the legislation didn’t legalize the cannabinoid.
The assumption is that, like CBD, hemp-derived CBG is legal as long as the plant doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC. Cannabigerol from cannabis remains federally legal, although it is available in adult-use states and locations with MMJ programs if you have the card.
The assumption is that, like CBD, hemp-derived CBG is legal as long as the plant doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC.
However, the FDA has not approved CBG as a legal drug and forbids companies from marketing it as a dietary supplement or food additive.
CBG is not scheduled as an illegal substance according to the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. It is also absent from the 1971 UN convention on Psychotropic Drugs. Therefore, CBG is seemingly legal if purchased along the same lines as CBD.
As CBG’s availability grows, so does the number of products. You can purchase it in many of the same forms as CBD, including:
- Dry flower
- Chewing gum
- Sublingual tablets
It is advisable to discuss CBG usage with a doctor, especially if you are on medication. As CBG has similarities with CBD, there is a possibility it could interact with drugs that carry a grapefruit warning. This can include the following medications:
- Blood thinners
- Blood pressure medications
- GI medications
- Erectile dysfunction medications
Although it is unclear whether CBG has the same effect as CBD on these drugs, it is best to use it with caution.
Final Thoughts on CBG
Indeed, CBG is not the most well-known of all the cannabinoids. However, it appears to have a dramatic influence over many of the body’s vital systems. There is still so much more to learn about this cannabinoid and how it affects us. However, the initial research is extremely promising.
Although its chemical structure resembles that of CBD, it has some dissimilar effects. It seems to interact differently with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, for example.
Ultimately, we need to perform more research to understand the endocannabinoid system fully. This will help us understand the role that cannabis plays in human health and disease. However, we are getting closer all the time. Hopefully, we will have a fuller understanding of how these cannabinoids impact our health and well-being soon.
At present, CBG is legal with a growing range of products. Yet, until companies can reduce the cost of extraction, cannabigerol will remain a niche cannabinoid.