Cannabis and hemp plants have over 400 distinct chemical compounds. Of those compounds, over 100 are cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the therapeutic compounds primarily found on the buds of cannabis or hemp plants. While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol ( CBD) have been the most researched and commercially accessible cannabinoids, the future of the cannabis industry lies in its minor cannabinoids.
One of the most important minor cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant is cannabigerol (CBG). In mature plants, CBG levels are almost nonexistent. Limited CBG research has shown that the cannabinoid has potent anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and plenty more health benefits.
What is CBG?
CBG is a non-intoxicating compound that is believed to be crucial in treating debilitating medical conditions such as inflammation, cancer, glaucoma, gastrointestinal issues, memory issues, high blood pressure, and other debilitating conditions. CBG is often called a “stem cell cannabinoid” or a “mother cannabinoid” because its precursor acidic compound, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), is the building block for major cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
Traditionally, most cannabis plants have less than one percent CBG at harvest. Some breeders and hemp producers are employing innovative cultivation techniques to produce higher levels of CBG. Researchers believe that cannabis plants have peak CBG levels between six and eight weeks into their flowering cycle.
How CBG Works
During the cannabis flowering cycle, plant enzymes called synthases alter the cannabinoids in the plant. The CBDA synthase converts CBGA to CBDA. The THCA synthase converts CBGA to THCA.
Most cannabis strains are left to mature enough so that the CBGA is synthesizes into cannabinoids that are more in demand like THCA and CBDA. You’ll be hard-pressed to find strains with high-CBG concentrations in most dispensaries. If a marijuana plant is harvested earlier, during peak levels of CBGA, the CBGA can be decarboxylated into CBG.
Decarboxylation occurs when you apply heat to the acidic forms of cannabinoids such as THCA, CBDA, and CBGA. During decarboxylation, these compounds lose one carbon atom and convert into the active THC, CBD, and CBG cannabinoids.
Medical Benefits of CBG
CBG isn’t as extensively researched as other cannabinoids. We do know that our body has a network of endocannabinoid cell receptors that comprise the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS has two main cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. Modulation of these receptors restores balance in biological systems in the body.
CBG has been shown to interact with both CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBG is thought to reduce the negative side effects of THC such as paranoia. As a CB1 receptor agonist, CBG is believed to increase the endocannabinoid anandamide, which plays a vital role in sleep, mood, appetite, and immune system function. CBG also binds with CB2 receptors in the immune and gastrointestinal systems.
While CBG isn’t as widely research as other cannabinoids, some early research shows that CBG has multiple medical applications. More research must be done before we understand how CBG interacts with our body and other cannabinoids. For now, CBG has shown therapeutic potential in cases of glaucoma, inflammation, bladder dysfunction, and other conditions.
A 1990 study performed by the Department of Ophthalmology at the West Virginia University Health Services Center compared the effects of CBG and THC on intraocular pressure in cats and rats. Researchers found “that cannabigerol and related cannabinoids may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of glaucoma.”
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science tested the effects of THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG on inflammation caused by psoriasis. The study’s findings determined that all cannabinoids, including CBG, slowed the growth of keratinocytes on the skin’s outer layer. Psoriasis patients grow skin cells at a rapid pace, so slowing down cell growth can be beneficial.
In 2013, another study found that CBG had anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers investigated the effect of CBG in rats with induced colitis. CBG reduced colon inflammation in rats. The findings suggest that more research should be dedicated to CBG treatment for symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Natural Products found that CBG had antimicrobial and antibacterial characteristics. The study concluded that CBG could be used in the treatment for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a type of staph infection that’s harder to treat than most strains of the bacterium.
In a 2015 study published in Neurotherapeutics, researchers studied the effects of CBG in two different in vivo models of Huntington’s disease (HD). Surprisingly, researchers found that CBG was “extremely active as a neuroprotectant,” as well as “improved the levels of antioxidant defenses.” Researchers concluded that CBG could be used alone or in combination with other cannabinoids to treat neurodegenerative diseases like HD.
CBG has been shown to help with multiple aspects of traditional cancer symptoms and treatments. For example, a 2016 study found that CBG could stimulate appetite in chemotherapy patients. Another study published in the same year concluded that CBG and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids could inhibit tumor progression and enhance the efficacy of cancer treatment.
A 2015 study published in Natural Product Communications studied the effect of CBD, CBG, CBDV, THCV, and CBC on an animal model’s bladder contractility. Researchers discovered that CBG and THCV could reduce bladder contractions. CBD and CBDV also reduced bladder contractions, but not as effectively as CBG and THCV.
For now, there aren’t that many growers and retailers that offer CBG-forward cannabis products, but many companies are actively filing patents for new CBG-infused solutions. CBG remains a neglected byproduct of a successful harvest. Most cannabis and hemp growers aren’t harvesting their plants early when the demand is in THC and CBD-rich buds.
As more research trickles in on the efficacy of CBG and other minor cannabinoids on medical conditions, consumers will use a wide range of cannabinoids in varying ratios. Although CBG may not be the most popular cannabinoid around, studies suggest that it could be even more beneficial in certain situations than other major cannabinoids.