The Ultimate Guide to CBG

The explosion of interest in CBD has gone so far as to involve FDA approval of CBD-based drugs[1]https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-indication-drug-containing-active-ingredient-derived-cannabis-treat-seizures-rare, such as Epidiolex. Impressive as that is, it's only the tip of the iceberg that is the massive and still-expanding hemp industry. With gradual decriminalization and legalization in recent decades, the trickle of new studies on cannabis and its derivatives has exploded. Year over year, hundreds of thousands of new people become CBD devotees who ascribe all sorts of healing qualities to it.

However, CBD is just one cannabinoid, and THC isn't the only alternative. To date, researchers have discovered hundreds of cannabinoids with their own unique chemical profiles. Cannabigerol (CBG) is one of the most interesting of these lesser-known cannabinoids, as it serves as the progenitor of both CBD and THC. Current studies suggest that these compounds may be able to treat conditions as diverse as poor sleep[2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/ and Huntington's Disease[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6200872/, so it goes without saying that the medicinal potential of CBG is fascinating.

What is CBG, What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a family of compounds that occur naturally in cannabis, broccoli, black pepper, and your own brain. While THC and some other cannabinoids such as CBN have psychoactive potential, the majority lack any such effect and won't produce any sort of high. What they may be able to do is replenish a shortfall in your natural cannabinoid production, boosting the function of your endocannabinoid system.

The molecular formula of cannabigerol (CBG)
The molecular formula of cannabigerol (CBG)

What exactly does that mean? The science isn't conclusive, but one of the leading theories is that it works to maintain the body's homeostasis. In layman's terms, that would mean the endocannabinoid system is a universal regulator[4]https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator that preserves the inner balance and stability of your body. This theory makes sense of the disparate benefits that many studies ascribe to various cannabinoids, such as neuroprotective qualities, stress reduction, relief from inflammation…

The Facts on CBG

As for CBG, it's one of more than 120 plant-based cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids)[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5345356/ that researchers have successfully isolated and identified. What makes it interesting is that young cannabis plants start out with relatively high levels of CBGA, the acidic form of CBG. Exposure to heat and sunlight as the plant grows continually converts more and more of this compound into the other cannabinoids within the cannabis plant.

CBG Scarcity is An Obstacle to Study and Usage

When CBGA breaks down into other cannabinoids, very little CBG remains. A mature cannabis plant typically contains as little as 1% CBG, and harvesting younger plants is inefficient with the smaller overall levels of cannabinoids you'll collect. This scarcity has held back public interest, research, and prevented businesses from creating commercial CBG products. Furthermore, these three facts serve to reinforce themselves.

While CBG could potentially have many benefits, the amount of research supporting this is virtually nil next to what's available on CBD. Given the expense and rarity of commercially available CBG, there's not much incentive to try them, and the lack of public interest further disincentivizes research.

CBG Is Growing More Popular

The role of CBG as the original cannabinoid has begun to pique the interest of growers as well as researchers. This has begun to reverse the historical neglect of cannabigerol, and it's likely that the amount of data surrounding it will grow dramatically in coming years.

CBG is Non-Psychoactive and May Lack Serious Side-Effects

Despite the fact that it produces both CBD and THC, existing studies indicate that CBG lacks psychoactive traits or abuse potential. Early animal studies[6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5021742/ indicate that that's not the only similarity to CBD, as CBG also lacked significant side effects within the tested doses. While this can't be taken as authoritative since it only involved rats, it is a positive indicator.

CBG Exists in a Gray Legal Area

For the most part, CBG is going to be just as legal within a given jurisdiction as CBD. THC remains a controlled substance in most of the world, but different states have responded to growing interest in hemp and cannabinoids in different ways. For instance, the UK has explicitly listed CBN, a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid, as a controlled substance. Others have legalized recreational cannabis entirely, which means that you most likely don't need to worry about the legality of CBG.

Effects Both Cannabinoid Neuroreceptors

The endocannabinoid system contains two neuroreceptors, CB1 and CB2. While CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids usually interface exclusively with CB2, cannabigerol has the unique ability to interact with both[7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021502/ without producing the psychoactive effects of THC, which primarily interacts with CB1. In the abstract, this means that it's possible CBG could carry the benefits of THC without the often-unwanted high that that cannabinoid produces. This theory finds some support in that animal studies indicate both of these cannabinoids result in better outcomes for victims of Huntington's Disease.

What Kind of Benefits Does CBG Offer?

It's impossible to say with certainty that CBG can treat any particular ailment due to the scarcity of studies. Of the studies that exist, very few involve human patients and many of the leading resources are over a decade old. While the rising prominence of CBG will eventually rectify these issues, the following studies paint a limited, but optimistic picture of the capabilities of cannabigerol.

May Be a Solution to MRSA

The widespread availability of antibiotics has been a wonder for the human race and saved untold millions of lives. However, the misuse of antibiotics has also produced one of the most dangerous epidemiological trends; the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains such as MRSA. Researchers tested the antibiotic capabilities of various cannabinoids and came to a shocking conclusion; CBG seems to be capable of killing MRSA[8]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18681481/, and may someday form the basis of an effective treatment for this and other strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Treat Bowel and Bladder Problems

The relationship between cannabinoids and inflammation is one of the mechanisms that has received the most attention over the years. CBD's ability to treat inflammation has found support in many studies, and this trait forms the basis of many of the benefits that people ascribe to cannabidiol. However, one early study in mice indicated that cannabigerol may be particularly effective at treating inflammatory bowel diseases[9]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23415610/. While researchers have yet to test these results on human patients, it is a promising avenue. Other, more recent studies also show that CBG could be effective at treating related bladder conditions.

In one of the few human tests that involved isolated CBG, researchers tested five cannabinoids and their effects on the human bladder. In short, their conclusion was that CBG had the greatest potential for treating common bladder problems[10]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26197538/.

Alleviate Glaucoma

Treating glaucoma is one of the areas where medical marijuana appears to be effective, although the exact mechanism behind this is not yet certain. A study in 2008 tested the effects of CBG and other isolated cannabinoids in treating glaucoma and found that cannabigerol reduced intraocular pressure[11]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19112869/, one of the main elements of the illness.

What's Next for CBG?

Whether or not CBG is going to be the next CBD is anyone's guess. For the time being, it has a relatively minor role in the hemp supplement industry despite the various things that make it such a unique, promising cannabinoid. When CBG becomes more readily available on an industrial scale and cannabigerol oils become price-competitive with CBD is when we'll see if it has the same outpouring of grassroots support.

While CBG is certain to continue staking out a larger share of public interest and scientific inquiry, only time will tell if it shall remain part of CBD's supporting ensemble or become a star in its own right. Little is certain about cannabigerol for now, but what is certain is that a greater understanding of CBG and other cannabinoids can only be a good thing.