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What is CBG (cannabigerol)?
Is CBG from a hemp plant

If you think the world of cannabis-based words and abbreviations is a confusing one, then you are not on your own. From sativas to percolators to tetrahydrocannabinols, unless you are fully ingrained within the culture, these terms are possibly going to fly right over your head.

The most important words within the cannabis dictionary are cannabinoids. They are the chemical molecules which are found in abundance exclusively within the cannabis plant and they are what make cannabis such a sought after plant.

Two famous cannabinoids are cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, or CBD and THC respectively. These two are found in abundance within cannabis and as such are the most extensively researched and understood. However, there are over 100 others that exist, all with a wealth of physiological properties that appear to have benefits to humans.

CBD vs THC
CBD vs THC

One such cannabinoid is cannabigerol, or CBG. A cannabinoid which is only present in minute quantities in a fully grown cannabis plant, yet initial research has shown it plays an important role in the pathway and creation of other cannabinoids as well as harboring a range of medicinal properties for humans.

What is CBG? What are the benefits? Will CBG get you high? And, could CBG be beneficial to you? Will we explain all the facts about this lesser known cannabinoid.

What is CBG?

CBG chemical structure - LeafScience
CBG chemical structure

Cannabigerol is one of 113 known cannabinoids that is produced by the cannabis plant. It is non-psychotropic, so just like CBD, it doesn’t cause any feelings of being ‘high’ or ‘stoned’ that are synonymous with the cannabis plant. 

It is classed as a cannabinoid antagonist, which means if it is in high enough quantities, it can reduce the mind-altering effects exhibited by THC.

To better understand the role of cannabigerol, we need to better understand the pathway of how some cannabinoids are formed within the cannabis plant. 

Cannabinoids and their acid precursors

Cannabinoids exist mostly in the cannabis plant as their acid precursors. So, until heat is applied, THC exists and THCA, CBD exists as CBDA and so on. The process of removing the acidic group, or the A, is called a decarboxylation reaction. So, this is why a cannabis user must first either smoke, vape or heat cannabis buds in some way if they want to use it recreationally. THC is psychotropic, whereas THCA isn’t.

You may have guessed that CBG exists within the cannabis plant as CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid.

CBGA is the precursor to both THCA and CBDA, which means it is the compound that will change into either of these compounds depending upon a number of factors that exist within the cannabis plant.

CBGA is the mother of both of the most sought after compounds within the cannabis plant, and without it cannabis would simply not be the same.

The speed at which CBGA converts into THCA is generally much quicker than the speed it converts into CBDA. Therefore, strains bred for low THC but high CBD will also have quite a high CBG content. Hence, you will more likely find CBG in hemp.

Cannabis research scientists are currently perfecting strains of cannabis which completely stop the conversion of CBGA into either THCA or CBDA, by stopping the production of enzymes which aid the conversion. This would allow for more CBG to be present in the final plant and plants bred in this way could become very important in future scientific research efforts.

hemp cbd field

What medicinal benefits does CBG have?

Out of the 100 cannabinoids that exist within the cannabis plant, some exist only when the plant is an infant. Others only form when the plant is fully grown and some only exist at the very end of the curing process.

As humans we understand very little about some of these cannabinoids. In fact, THC is still the most well researched cannabinoid. Next is CBD, and even though it was discovered in 1940, it wasn’t until the last ten years that it has become a focus on scientific research and since it has been heralded as a medical powerhouse.

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It is also known that cannabis has positive medical effects on the human body that cannot be explained by either THC or CBD. So, could these be explained by CBG, or any of the other cannabinoids within the plant?

The medical properties that are being associated with CBG, and for which it is currently under medical research for are:

  • Glaucoma
  • Reduction of cancer cells
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Auto-immune diseases
  • Epilepsy

The fact that CBG is non-psychotropic is a bonus for clinical research trial on humans. This is because isolated forms of CBG are scheduled and controlled in a different way to cannabis, meaning it can be more freely researched. Also, it means that if it is proven to hold medicinal value, doctors will seek to prescribe it over other drugs with strong side effects.

cannabis topicals products
(Photo: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance)

What does the future hold for CBG?

When breeding cannabis plants for high CBG, growers have only managed to hit levels of approximately 2.5%, which pales in comparison to the levels THC reaches in some strains of around 30%. 

Therefore, you would need around 10x the amount of cannabis plants to extract the same quantities of CBG as either CBD or THC. So, work is needed in order to up that percentage if CBG is going to reach anywhere near the same level that CBD industry is at currently. If not then it just won’t be an economically viable business model.

If this is possible, then it is almost inevitable that CBG will enter the major commercial market as its own health and wellness supplement. If it doesn’t, then we can just expect to find it advertised as an additional component to CBD oil, as it currently is in many hemp-extracted CBD oils on the market.

There is also a great possibility of CBG becoming a natural fungicide or antibiotic due to it being linked with having strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Whatever the outcome, the future is looking bright for the commercial properties of CBG, the newest cannabinoid to gain notoriety.

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