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What is CBG?

Keegan Williams

By Keegan Williams

June 18, 2022

marijuana on bright yellow background, medical cannabis plant

Yarygin via iStock

, CBD… CBG? The world of cannabinoids is broad, and with new compounds being discovered all the time it can be easy to get lost in the glut of incoming information.

Like

before it (and CBN alongside it), CBG is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant—Unlike THC, it lacks the capacity to get you high and is instead generally sought out for its potential medical benefits.

Though CBG is a relative newcomer to the cannabis marketplace there’s a lot of interesting information to pour through, and despite CBG research perhaps flagging a bit behind other, more familiar cannabinoids, there are good reasons the medical cannabis community is very intrigued by this unique molecule.

Today, we’ll dive into the non-intoxifying cannabinoid, CBG: What it is, what it does and where to (safely) find it. Let’s dive in.

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What is a Cannabinoid and the Endocannabinoid System?

Before we venture in too far down the rabbit hole, let’s look at the big picture. THC and CBD are two main cannabinoids, sitting alongside the increasingly lengthy list of others. The term references the chemical substances that work to join the cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells, found in different parts of the central nervous system. 

The human body has an endocannabinoid system, which is a unique communications network found in the brain and body that control the levels and activity of the other neurotransmitters. The body’s

regulates the body through immediate feedback, increasing or decreasing activity of whichever system needs adjusting. 

Where do cannabis and cannabinoids come in? Our bodies produce molecules called endocannabinoids, which are similar in structure to cannabinoids. These compounds of the cannabis plant have an effect on our brains and bodies because of its direct interaction with this bodily system when we consume cannabis, essentially hacking it and altering the way our body is innately using it.

The endocannabinoid system is comprised of CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are usually found in the nervous system and the brain, and CB2 receptors are typically found in the immune system.

leaf of marijuana plant
Yarygin via iStock

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What Cannabinoids Are There?

We can’t answer the question in full, because there are far too many to list out! More than 100 cannabinoids have been identified so far. 

Many cannabinoids are psychoactive, meaning they affect how the brain works, potentially altering mood, awareness, thoughts feelings or behavior. The most well-known cannabinoid, THC, is touted for its psychoactive effects and regularly sought after for them. 

Conversely, non-psychoactive cannabis compounds that don’t produce a stereotypical “high” feeling, like CBD and CBG, do not affect the brain but often have other effects on the body. Once again, folks who might be looking for relief without the feeling of being high, which psychoactive cannabinoids are responsible for, typically seek out cannabis products full of what is often referenced as the “non-psychoactive variety.”

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Cannabinoids and Their Acidic Form

Cannabinoids ending in -A, like THCA and CBDA, are the acidic forms of their counterparts, inactive precursors essentially. (Don’t worry, this information will help us here shortly!) 

When we talk about cannabis flower that contains THC, we generally are more referring to THCA. The chemical reaction of heating, or decarboxylating, these precursors removes one carboxyl group from the compounds and allow them to interact with our endocannabinoid receptors more effectively.

This is the reason why you won’t get high if you just eat a big bud of weed. Edibles are generally plentiful in activated CBD and THC, meaning that they have already been decarboxylated.

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What is CBG?

Now that we understand the big picture, let’s answer the question at hand, shall we?

, or cannabigerol, was first discovered in 1964 and is sometimes referred to as the “mother of all cannabinoids.” The nickname may spawn from the fact that that the minor cannabinoid CBG-A is the foundation of other major compounds.

CBGA is found across all cannabis strains as the acidic precursor of three other cannabinoids:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA
  • Cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA
  • Cannabichromenic acid, or CBCA
cannabis oils on yellow background with cannabis leaves in the background
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The Scarcity of CBG

Once a cannabis plant matures, a group of enzymes breaks down the CBGA to produce these three compounds. Once a harvest wraps, most cannabis plants will have converted most of the CBGA to THCA, CBDA and CBCA. Though, any precious, leftover CBGA can then be decarboxylated and turned into CBG. 

Because so much of the CBGA converts, it’s generally found in very low concentrations (less than 1 percent by dry weight), while strains rich in THC and CBD generally have levels ranging between 20-30 percent.

Though, breeders are experimenting with alternative methods to maximize CBGA contents in cannabis plants, crossing strains to maximize the cannabinoid. Others have looked at our ability to extract CBGA from budding and young cannabis plants to obtain higher yields.

How Does CBG Work?

This non-intoxicating cannabinoid is a CB1 receptor agent, meaning that it interacts with the the receptor and increases anandamine levels in the nervous system. Anandamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates a sense of happiness and mental wellness. CBG can also interact with CB2 receptors in the gastrointestinal and immune systems, though research is still catching up to how exactly CBG impacts CB2 receptors.

Research also shows that CBG is an adrenoceptor agonist, meaning it works by mimicking the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system and helping it to control the expression of noradrenaline and adrenaline in the central nervous system. 

What Does CBG Do?

When CBG binds to these cannabinoid receptors, it does not activate them. Like CBD, CBG is not psychoactive, though in the way it interacts with our endocannabinoid systems, it is known for therapeutic effects like increasing energy levels, enhancing productivity and relieving stress, just without the high we associate with THC.

While research is still catching up, current findings show there are a number of potential neuroprotective effects and benefits of CBG.

Specific CBG Treatments

CBG is thought to be effective in treating glaucoma because it can effectively 

. Experiments involving mice  that CBG is effective in decreasing the chronic inflammation characteristics of inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease.  have found that CBG could also help to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s disease.  have indicated the benefits CBG could offer to other neurological disorders as well.

It’s also been reported that for those looking for an appetite stimulant without the high of THC, CBG 

.

CBG is also being eyed for its potential anti-cancer properties and response to cancer cells. 

 that CBG was reported to reduce cancer cell growth in several cancer cell lines, including human breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.

The cannabinoid appears to have an effect on contractions in the human bladder and shows promise in treating bladder dysfunctions, according to a 

. After reviewing five compounds, including CBD, CBDV, THCV, CBC and CBG, researchers found that CBG was most effective in treating issues with the human bladder and reduced acetylcholine-induced contractions.

If that’s not enough, 

 that CBG works against bacteria and bacterial infections. The cannabinoid was able to prevent bacteria from forming biofilms, communities of microorganisms that attach to each other and to surfaces, along with destroying preformed biofilms and cells resistant to antibiotics.

What’s the Difference Between CBG and CBD?

CBG shares its non-psychoactive status with CBD, sure, but CBG interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors directly, and CBD doesn’t. The specific ways each cannabinoid interacts with the body’s cannabinoid receptors is a key difference.

Both CBG and CBD help users to manage anxiety and stress, though CBG is generally better for the specific conditions mentioned above, along with managing focus and stress. Alongside anxiety and stress management, CBD often helps users to tackle general pain and inflammation.

Though, just as CBD and THC together often provide more significant health benefits, a similar phenomenon occurs between CBD and CBG.

Hemp oil serum in glass dropper bottles with cannabis leaves. Cannabis leaf pattern with cosmetic product CBD oil on yellow background long web banner with copy space
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Where Do I Find CBG?

It’s becoming easier to access CBG, though because of its lesser-known status and the among of plant matter it takes to make CBG, the market is much smaller than the CBD market, for example. 

It’s easiest to find hemp-derived CBG oils in the form of a fast-acting sublingual tincture. Many tincture products also have different dose options and higher concentrations, depending on what the consumer might need. Many of these products are mixed with CBD, though the entourage effect of the two is by no means a disadvantage.

Our Favorite CBG/CBD Oils On the Market:

Other CBG Options:

NuLeaf also offers a few products solely enriched with CBG, including their 

. For those looking to avoid tinctures, the company also offers .

Extract Labs also offers 

 of CBG products, including their  and even pure CBD isolate, in  or .

Note About CBG Use:

To maximize the effects of CBG, it should be used sparingly, whenever you really need it. Because of the way CBG binds to CB1 receptors, it can desensitize them over time and make the effects of CBG less pronounced.

Final Thoughts

While we’ll surely continue to learn more about CBG – and it doesn’t have nearly the reputation its major cannabinoid cousins CBD and THC currently have – it’s already proving to be a force. We’ve already seen myriad benefits of CBG on mental focus and cognition, along with a slew of specific conditions and bodily systems.

As the precursor to other cannabinoids like CBDA and THCA, CBG and its related products are still a bit more few and far between because of the different production approach CBG extraction entails. While extraction methods are advancing, it still takes far more plant matter to produce even small batches of CBG.

Future research should help us to continue exploring the potential benefits of CBG, and, with all the cannabinoids present within this miraculous plant, it’s safe to say we’ll continue unearthing medicinal benefits of the additional compounds we have yet to tap into. 

As the market and our knowledge around the plant continue increasing, it’s only a matter of time before we start hearing more about CBG and its associated products. Who knows what other cannabinoids may follow in its path and the therapeutic potential they could carry?

Keegan Williams

About The Author

Keegan Williams

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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