No, that’s not a spelling mistake. Meet Cannabigerol: the matriarch of the cannabinoid clan. Without her, cannabis would not be the plant that we know and love. She also has lots of promising medical benefits that are just beginning to be uncovered.
What is CBG? Is it right for you? Read on to find out.
Since its discovery in 1960, CBG has patiently taken a backseat while her wonder children CBD and THC take centre stage, but now we are starting to learn more about the mother of cannabinoids.
CBG is naturally present in cannabis plants in its acidic form, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid). As the cannabis plant grows, enzymes within the plant convert CBGA into some combination of the three major cannabinoid precursors: THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), and CBCA (cannabichromenic acid).
These acids just hang out in the cannabis plant until they get a blast of heat (decarboxylation) from a vaporizer, lighter or oven and voila! They turn into the active chemical compounds of cannabis that we all know and love: THCA becomes THC, CBDA becomes CBD, and any leftover CBGA is turned into CBG, which is non-psychoactive. Since CBG itself turns into a combination of THC and CBD, that means there isn’t usually much leftover by the time the plant is matured, but usually low-THC and high-CBD cannabis strains and hemp end up containing more of it.
Because CBGA is converted into these other cannabinoids, it’s often called the “stem cell” of the group, which means it has the possibility for incredible therapeutic benefits.
Cannabinoids interact with our bodies through a series of receptors (named CB1 and CB2), molecules, and enzymes called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). It’s essential for maintaining a healthy balance between the systems in our body and making sure everything is just right. This process is also called homeostasis.
Cannabis works as medicine because the cannabinoids it produces mimic the endocannabinoids already produced by our body to promote healing and homeostasis. When we consume cannabinoids, they bind to cannabinoid receptors in our body and produce different physiological effects depending on the cannabinoid and which receptors they bind to.
Research has also shown that CBG acts like an antagonist in the brain, buffering the psychoactivity of THC and helping to reduce feelings of paranoia that sometimes happen after consuming a product with high THC.
This is because of The Entourage Effect. The cannabinoids present in cannabis really are like a family: each one has its own part to play, and they work best when they’re together. Scientists believe that cannabinoids in the body synergize with each other and our ECS and work differently depending on their combination.
Unlike CBD, which interacts mostly indirectly with cannabinoid receptors, CBG binds directly to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain. It’s thought that this helps it more easily administer its therapeutic benefits.
Research into CBG is definitely in its infancy right now, but that may change soon since the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the US has just begun a major push for cannabinoid research. The few studies published have shown incredibly promising results for a myriad of diseases and disorders. Cannabis can be incredibly helpful, but it’s not for everyone. Always make sure to talk to your doctor before you start anything new.
Due to the endocannabinoid system being an expert at homeostasis, one of the things it combats best is inflammation. Inflammation is usually a helpful process that fights off invading bacteria and repairs injured sites, however, sometimes our immune system can go a little bit crazy and stay in an area too long or even start attacking itself. That’s where CBG comes in. Along with the ECS, it very tightly regulates our immune response, calming it down when it gets overactive.
Not only is this great for patients with chronic inflammation, but it has shown to be helpful with other inflammatory disorders, as well. In a 2013 study, researchers observed that mice with inflammatory bowel disease showed marked improvement after receiving CBG treatment. They found that it reduced inflammation and the formation of cell-damaging oxidants in the mice’s intestines.
Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a great pain reliever, but it has other mechanisms that help with that, too. According to research, because it inhibits GABA reuptake and dilates blood vessels, it has greater pain relief potential than even THC.
After it was observed that CBG could slow down the growth of tumor cells, scientists started exploring other applications and discovered that CBG could be beneficial in the treatment of psoriasis. Not only are most cannabinoids anti-inflammatory, CBG included, but it also inhibited keratinocyte production, which is what causes the inflamed, scaly patches of skin that people with psoriasis experience.
A study conducted on mice with Huntington’s Disease showed that CBG is neuroprotective, meaning it helps to protect neurons in the brain and may help to repair them. After having been given CBG, the tiny patients had improved motor function and it even showed the ability to at least partially normalize the altered gene expression that is responsible for the inherited disease.
CBG’s neuroprotective properties have applications with other disorders as well, such as glaucoma and even mental disorders such as depression.
Researchers aren’t quite sure how it works yet, but CBG, along with CBD, THC, CBC, and CBN, appears to be powerful antibiotics as well. They showed remarkable strength against Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains that are usually resistant to most drugs. They have also been gaining more traction as a possible treatment for other skin infections.
Studies have shown that CBG has the ability to inhibit GABA reuptake and block serotonin receptors in the brain. GABA is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and works to calm your system down. Sometimes, GABA can block nerve impulses and offset the delicate hormone balance in your body, so when GABA is inhibited, it can result in lessened anxiety and muscle tension. Same thing for serotonin.
Most anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication work in a similar way, so CBG could have the potential to be a great natural alternative, or at least supplement, to your mental healthcare routine.
It may sound sensational, but according to a 2014 study, CBG may have the ability to slow the growth of cancer cells. When administered to mice with colon cancer, researchers found that CBG encouraged apoptosis (cell death) and oxidation in the colorectal cancer cells (which, in this case, is a good thing), in addition to hampering the progression of the cancer.
Patients with glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease, often feel immense pressure in their eyes. Due to the prevalence of cannabinoid receptors in the eye region, CBG has shown to be excellent at dilating blood vessels to improve blood flow and reduce that pressure.
A 2007 study showed the CBG has the potential to help our bones heal faster. In an experiment with a petri dish and some bone marrow, researchers found that CBG stimulated the formation of bone-building cells. This suggests that it could be used to help patients with broken bones heal faster, and perhaps even help those with degenerative bone diseases.
For those going through chemotherapy, the side effects of the treatment can sometimes seem worse than the disease being treated. Patients often experience nausea and loss of appetite, leading to weight loss and muscle wasting. For years, patients have been using the cannabis plant to soothe their side effects, however, clinicians weren’t completely satisfied because it didn’t seem to help with gain weight and some patients didn’t appreciate the psychoactive effects.
A study conducted in 2019 found that CBG on its own stimulated the appetite in rat subjects and greatly reduced chemo-induced weight loss from 6.3 percent to 2.8 percent. It may even help to reverse muscle wasting.
In addition to all of these amazing benefits, CBG encourages your body to produce more of a cannabinoid called anandamide, which helps regulate normal body functions like sleep, appetite, memory, and pain sensation. This means that CBG could help you get a better sleep at night and maybe even improve your memory.
As far as researchers know, there are no known side effects to CBG when taken in therapeutic doses. Side effects start to show up with doses in excess of 300 milligrams per kg of body weight. When the average person only needs about 25 milligrams to feel relief, the chances for side effects are a long way off.
As previously mentioned, because CBG converts into other cannabinoids as the cannabis plant matures, there isn’t much of it left by the time harvest comes. Sometimes the CBG content is as little as 1 percent by weight, meaning that if that same plant had 20 percent CBD, it would take 20x as much raw plant matter to get the same amount of CBG as CBD. Scientists have figured out, however, that if the crop is harvested early, at around six to eight weeks, the plant may have a higher concentration. This presents a tough ultimatum for producers of the product: either grow their crops strictly for CBG and harvest them early, sacrificing any potential CBD or THC, or they can harvest when the crop is mature and get significantly less CBG.
On top of that, extracting CBG from the plant is a complicated and expensive process. Specialized machinery is used to perform a process called chromatography. Chromatography is a way of separating a mixture of chemicals, which are in gas or liquid form, by letting them creep slowly past another substance, which is typically a liquid or solid. Each chemical, or cannabinoid, in this case, will move at different speeds over the stationary surface, thus separating the CBG from the others.
There are cheaper ways to do it, but producers say that it won’t be cost-effective until the plant genetics catch up. Most strains are being bred for maximum CBD or THC, and therefore have low CBG, but labs are working towards producing a high CBG strain. Hemptown USA has already produced a 10 percent CBG strain, and EcoGen Laboratories has just produced a 22 percent strain.
As people discover CBG and its promising medical potential, the already high demand for CBG is bound to go up, so it might be a little while before CBG is on the shelf for a price similar to CBD.
In the meantime, if you are looking to add a little more CBG to your life, then pay attention to strain profiles. Usually, reputable companies will have a third-party lab analysis of their strains so that you can see which cannabinoids are present.
When it comes to flower, try looking for a higher CBD strain, as hemp usually has higher levels of CBG. If you prefer oil or capsules, then lab analysis is even more important. You want to make sure there are no nasty solvents leftover and that you are getting a Full or Broad-spectrum oil, meaning that you’re getting some other cannabinoids in there, too. Remember The Entourage effect: cannabinoids work best as a family.
As more and more research is done on cannabis, scientists are beginning to recognize the natural connection that our body has to this healing plant. CBG is just another note on the long list of reasons to welcome cannabis into your life. Everyone’s health needs and bodies are different, but cannabis is showing us that it has something for everyone.