What is CBG (cannabigerol) & what does this cannabinoid do?
Do You Know CBG?
Introducing “The Mother of All Cannabinoids”
By this point, you’ve no doubt heard about CBD. Many people tout this cannabis-derived compound is as a panacea (although the research is trailing behind the claims). Now scientists and health enthusiasts are excited about yet another cannabis chemical: CBG.
Why is everyone so excited about this newcomer to the cannabis scene? It all has to do with early studies suggesting that it may be even more powerful than CBD.
What Is CBG?
CBG, short for cannabigerol, belongs to a class of compounds known as cannabinoids. You can find cannabinoids in two places: in cannabis plants and the bodies of humans and many other animals.
Cannabinoids from cannabis are termed phytocannabinoids—the prefix “phyto-“ meaning from plants. THC and CBD are the two most well-known phytocannabinoids. THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound that results in marijuana’s intoxicating effects. CBD (cannabidiol) is a phytocannabinoid that influences human health and wellbeing in many ways, without intoxication.
CBG, like CBD, does not lead to THC’s euphoric cognitive effects. As such, these two compounds are often termed non-psychoactive or non-psychotropic. However, this isn’t entirely accurate.
Psychoactive compounds are those that influence the mind or behavior, which includes our moods. CBD, well-known for its calming effects, does have psychoactive properties. Similarly, CBG may interact with receptors found in our brains (more on this later), which could impact mood. But remember, these psychoactive effects will not lead to your feeling “high.”
The Relationship Between CBG, THC, and CBD
CBG acts as the precursor to all other phytocannabinoids, meaning that CBG turns into other cannabinoids (like CBD and THC) during a plant’s lifecycle. As such, CBG is known as “the mother of all cannabinoids.”
Cannabis strains that are high in THC or CBD are very good at converting CBG into these cannabinoids. The result is that popular cannabis strains often contain low quantities of CBG. Thanks to CBG levels of less than 1% in most popular marijuana strains, it is known as a minor cannabinoid.
Fortunately, there are industrial hemp strains with high CBG levels. By definition, hemp strains must contain very little THC. Consequently, hemp strains contain large quantities of CBG—up to 90%! Additionally, with CBG’s potential for human health, some scientists have begun breeding cannabis plants to have high levels of CBG.
Cannabinoids and the Human Body
Our bodies, too, have cannabinoids. The cannabinoids that our bodies produce are known as endocannabinoids—the prefix “endo-“ meaning within.
Researchers believe that cannabis phytocannabinoids evolved to mimic endocannabinoids. Meaning, these plant chemicals are designed to act like the cannabinoids that our bodies produce.
Both types of cannabinoids influence human health primarily through interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vast system of receptors located in the cells of nearly every tissue and organ in humans and many other animals.
The ECS is responsible for balance within the body. It regulates diverse physiological processes, including the immune system, appetite, metabolism, pain sensation, cardiovascular function, mood, cognition, sleep, and more.
The way that the ECS works is similar to a lock and key. Cannabinoid “keys” fit perfectly into specific ECS receptor “locks.” Once a cannabinoid binds to a receptor, it will either activate or block its activity. For example, a cannabinoid binding to a receptor could either increase or decrease pain signaling.
The ECS has two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2. The central nervous system has more CB1 receptors, while the peripheral nervous system and the immune system have more CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are central to things like our mood, cognition, and brain health, while CB2 receptors are pivotal in processes like inflammation, cancer cell proliferation, and pain.
CBG and the Endocannabinoid System
CBG has shown a binding affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors. Meaning, CBG can interact with many of the ECS receptors found in the human body. By binding to these receptors, CBG alters ECS signaling and the resulting ECS function. With ECS receptors found throughout our brains, immune cells, and more, CBG could influence the health and function of many physiological processes.
The Potential Benefits of CBG
The same research team that discovered THC identified CBG in 1964. Since this time, scientists have conducted a multitude of in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies.
With no human clinical trials, we do not yet know how CBG will impact humans. All of the below studies demonstrate CBG’s potential but are not proof that CBG can help with these or other conditions.
CBG and Cancer
One of the most exciting avenues of cannabinoid research is how it influences cancer. Specifically, CBG has demonstrated the potential for inhibiting cancer cell growth in mice with colon cancer. It even promoted cancer cell apoptosis, which is when cells destroy themselves.
Another study examined the anti-cancer properties of CBG, CBGV, and CBD against leukemia. The results prompted the authors to conclude that phytocannabinoids like CBG may prove to be inexpensive anti-cancer agents.
CBG and Appetite
One of the most widely accepted uses for cannabis plants high in THC is to help boost appetite. Appetite stimulation is beneficial for some people with cancer, AIDs, and other conditions. However, THC’s intoxication can be an undesirable side effect.
CBG has demonstrated potential as a non-intoxicating appetite stimulant. In rats, daily CBG resulted in twice the food intake as no CBG. CBG was well-tolerated with no measurable neuromotor effects.
CBG and Bacteria
Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern within our medical community. One of the most worrisome bacteria is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA can cause staph infections.
Phytocannabinoids have demonstrated antibacterial properties. In a 2008 study, CBG and other cannabinoids exhibited antibacterial properties against MRSA. This study suggests that cannabinoids may one day offer an alternative to antibiotics.
CBG and Glaucoma
Glaucoma is an eye disorder marked by increased pressure behind the eye, known as ocular tension. Many people have heard about THC’s benefits for glaucoma. Fewer know that CBG, too, may offer relief from glaucoma.
In a study on cats, researchers discovered that topical CBD led to a reduction in ocular pressure. These findings offer evidence that CBG and other cannabinoids may be beneficial for those with glaucoma.
CBG and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is marked by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. It includes conditions like Crohn’s disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research has found evidence that cannabis may help those with IBD.
In 2017, researchers set out to examine the effect of CBG in murine colitis, an animal model of IBD. The results were positive, leading the researchers to conclude that “CBG could be considered for clinical experimentation in IBD patients.”
CBG and Neurodegenerative Diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, are becoming increasingly common. These devastating disorders have no cure and create a burden for both those affected and their caretakers. One core commonality shared between these diseases is damage to brain cells (neurons).
Animal research has examined the impact of cannabinoids on neurodegenerative diseases. In a 2015 study, researchers found CBG to protect brain cells in mice with Huntington’s disease. The researchers concluded that their findings provide new avenues to research the use of CBG in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
CBG and Autoimmune Conditions
Because of the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in immune function and regulation, scientists are researching the potential for cannabinoids as a treatment option for autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis (MS).
In mice with autoimmune MS, CBG reduced inflammation and enhanced immune system function. Further studies are needed to determine the potential of CBG in human autoimmune disorders.
Should You Use CBG?
In spite of CBG’s potential, there have not been any human clinical studies with CBG. This leaves consumers in a bit of a tough place. Questions like, “how much CBG should I take?” or “what are CBG’s side effects?” are impossible to answer with any certainty due to the lack of human studies.
Furthermore, products rich in CBG are harder to find and generally more expensive than those rich in CBD or THC. However, these downfalls have not stopped many people from trying CBG for themselves.
Finding a High-Quality CBG Product
Look for a Whole-Plant Extract
If you are familiar with CBD, you may have heard of the entourage effect. The entourage effect is a term used to describe how compounds in cannabis appear to work synergistically inside of the body. Meaning, it may be better to use a whole-plant extract than an isolate of THC, CBD, or CBG.
Whole-plant extracts are broken down into two categories: full-spectrum and broad-spectrum.
The difference between these two is that broad-spectrum products have had all of the THC removed from them. Removal of THC reduces your chances of testing positive for THC on a drug test and is important to people who want to avoid products with any THC. However, keep in mind that small amounts of THC may boost the overall benefits of any cannabis extract.
Ask for a Certificate of Analysis
Not every cannabis extract is the same. Even two full-spectrum hemp oils purported to be rich in CBG can differ. This variance is due to two primary factors: the hemp and the extraction method.
Every strain of hemp is unique. Each strain will contain different compounds in different concentrations. Even growing conditions and harvest time can influence the cannabinoids found within.
Additionally, to make a cannabis extract, such as a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum hemp oil, the oil must be extracted from the hemp biomass. There are many different ways to do this, each with their pros and cons.
During extraction, changes occur in the chemical composition. Compounds within, like cannabinoids and terpenes, can change their structure or be destroyed when exposed to heat, alcohol, or other things used in this process.
Because companies use different strains of hemp grown in different conditions and use varying extraction methods, every hemp extract will be different. The only way to know what you’re getting is to ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for the product that you purchase.
The COA will tell you many things. The best ones will test for the following:
- The concentration and variety of cannabinoids found within
- The concentration and variety of terpenes found within
- Any impurities, such as heavy metals, mold, pesticides, or bacteria
Before you purchase a CBG-rich oil, ask for and examine the COA. Not every company will offer a COA. Asking for one and examining it is one way to do your due diligence to ensure a high-quality hemp extract.
How to Take CBG
So, what should you do if you decide to try CBG in these early stages?
First, it is particularly important to follow the motto, start low and go slow. Begin with a low quantity of CBG and stick with it for at least one to two weeks. Only then should you increase how much you take.
Next, it is a good idea to consider your goals ahead of time. Why are you taking CBG? By outlining your goals, you can track your progress and see if you move closer—or farther—from them. Use a physical or digital journal to do this. Take notes and rate how you are feeling daily. Look out for possible side effects to ensure that your body responds well to CBG.
And if you find yourself unsure about whether CBG is right for you, contact a local cannabis expert to ask for help. The Society of Cannabis Clinicians keeps a database of healthcare professionals experienced in cannabis.
CBG is the new cannabinoid that everyone is talking about, and it is especially buzz-worthy in the scientific community. CBG will not lead to mind-bending effects like THC but may offer benefits to your health and wellbeing. While early studies have yielded exciting results, more research is needed to understand how CBG affects humans.