And How Does It Differ from CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)?
If, like millions of others, you’ve made a point of trying to gain a better understanding of the many potential health and wellness benefits of cannabinoids -- or compounds found in cannabis plants, you’ve likely developed some level of meaningful appreciation for CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), since these two compounds have been the subject of much favorable scientific and medical research, not to mention prolific local, state and national media coverage.
However, one lesser known compound among the 140 identified in cannabis -- which appears to be acquiring prominence as a cannabinoid of note -- is CBG (cannabigerol).
Researchers have determined that CBG positively acts on specific physiological systems in the human body and shows great promise as a potential treatment for an increasing range of chronic or serious medical conditions and diseases. However, before we dive into the specific pharmacological benefits CBG may indeed provide, let’s first take a look at understanding what it is and how it differs from its familial relations, CBD and THC.
In cannabis plant species, CBG is considered a ‘minor cannabinoid,’ due to the fact that it is present in only trace levels – usually ranging somewhere between 0.1% and 1% in marijuana and 0.2% to 2.0% in hemp1.
Despite its seemingly insignificant mass, Cannabigerolic Acid, or CBGA, is actually the naturally occurring chemical precursor from which all other cannabinoids are synthesized, which is why it is often referred to as the “mother” or “parent” of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
It all begins with two chemical compounds – geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid – that create the first cannabinoid, CBGA, when combined. When CBGA then mixes with other specific enzymes, it turns into THCA and CBDA. Through exposure to heat or ultraviolet light, also known as decarboxylation, each of these cannabinoids are then converted to their non-acidic forms; e.g. THCA to THC, CBDA to CBD and CBGA to CBG.
1 420EvaluationsOnline Staff, “CANNABIGEROL (CBG) - BETTER THAN CBD?,” Get Medical Cannabis Card Online, January 16, 2017, https://420evaluationsonline.com/health-and-news/cannabigerol-cbg-better-than-cbd
Now you know your ABC’s, what impact does CBG have on the human body?
Cannabigerol, or CBG, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, like CBD, that does not produce the typical ‘high’ or euphoric feeling that is commonly associated with THC use. And, similar to CBD, CBG can help support your body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining “biological harmony in response to changes in the environment,” according to one 2014 scientific study2. Research initially suggested endocannabinoid receptors were only present in the brain and nerves, but it has since been confirmed by scientists that receptors are present throughout the body, including our skin, immune cells, bone, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, heart, blood vessels, kidney and gastrointestinal tract3.
Human endocannabinoid systems consist of several CB1 and CB2 receptors that are involved in a variety of processes related to both phytocannabinoids (plant-based) and endocannabinoids (produced by our body) to keep the body balanced – or in a state of homeostasis. Unlike CBD, which has a relatively low affinity for cannabinoid receptors and acts mostly through indirect interactions with the endocannabinoid system, CBG is believed to elicit its therapeutic effects directly through interaction with the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Consequently, many are coming to the conclusion that CBG could ultimately prove to be the most power-packed cannabinoid of them all, playing a significant role in future medicine.
2 De Laurentiis A, Araujo HA, Rettori V. Role of the endocannabinoid system in the neuroendocrine responses to inflammation. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(29):4697-4706.
3 Mackie K. Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do. J Neuroendocrinol. 2008;20 Suppl 1:10-14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x.
Potential medical uses of Cannabigerol
Over the past several years, there have a number of medical and scientific research publications shining a light on CBG’s pharmacology and giving voice to its many potential medical applications. According to the Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies, “Current literature offers evidence of its potentials as an anti-inflammatory and anticancer agent, to only cite a few, addressing interest on this phytocannabinoid as a potential starting material for new therapeutic agents.”
Other researchers have been actively engaged in studying CBG as a possible therapy for ailments that include:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – In the study titled “Beneficial Effect of the Non-Psychotropic Plant Cannabinoid Cannabigerol on Experimental Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” 5 researchers concluded that CBG attenuated murine colitis, reduced nitric oxide production in macrophages and reduced ROS formation in intestinal epithelial cells, further noting that CBG could be considered for clinical experimentation in IBD patients.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – one study, titled “A Cannabigerol Quinone Alleviates Neuroinflammation in a Chronic Model of Multiple Sclerosis,6 found that cannabigerol may have high potential for drug development against MS and perhaps other neuroinflammatory diseases.
- Glaucoma – in a study titled “A Comparison of the Ocular and Central Effects of Tetrahycrocannabinol and Cannabigerol, 7” results suggest that CBG and related cannabinoids may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of glaucoma through its vasodilator and neuroprotective effects.
- Huntington’s Disease (HD) – another study, titled “Neuroprotective Properties of Annabigerol in Huntington’s Disease, 8” reflect that its results open new research avenues for the use of CBG, alone or in combination with other phytocannabinoids or therapies, for the treatment of neurogenerative diseases, such as HD.
- Cancer – One colon carcinogensis study 9 showed CBG hampered colon cancer progression in vivo and inhibited colorectal cancer cell growth. Cannabigerol also exhibited the high growth-inhibitory activity against cancer cell lines reported in a human oral epitheloid cancer study 10.
- Stimulating Appetite and Reducing Weight Loss in Cancer Patients – CBG is also noted for stimulating appetite in chemotherapy-induced cachexia rat studies 11 12, and helped increase food intake and robustly attenuate cisplatin-induced weight loss.
- Overactive Bladder Disorder – Scientists tested bladder contractility in specimens of mouse bladders as well as human bladders and found CBG reduced contractions. Lowering bladder contractility improves symptoms of those suffering from urinary incontinence 13.
Based on the evolving compendium of scientific research being published on the potential therapeutic benefits of CBG, it appears to offer notable hope and promise to those who suffer from a growing range of medical conditions.
The U.S. government is also demonstrating its interest in CBG’s therapeutic promise. In September 2018, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) announced its intent to research minor cannabinoids, including CBG, that may help to address pain management 14.
4 Deiana, S. 2017. “Potential Medical Uses of Cannabigerol: A Brief Overview.” Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies. Academic Press.
January 6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128007563001150.
5 Borrelli, Francesca, Ines Fasolino, Barbara Romano, Raffaele Capasso, Francesco Maiello, Diana Coppola, Pierangelo Orlando, et al. 2013. “Beneficial Effect of the Non-Psychotropic Plant Cannabinoid Cannabigerol on Experimental Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Biochemical Pharmacology. Elsevier. February 12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006295213000543.
6 Granja, A.G., Carrillo-Salinas, F., Pagani, A. et al. A Cannabigerol Quinone Alleviates Neuroinflammation in a Chronic Model of Multiple Sclerosis. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol 7, 1002–1016 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11481-012-9399-3
7 BRENDA K. COLASANTI.Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics.Jan 1990.259-269.http://doi.org/10.1089/jop.1990.6.259
8 Valdeolivas, S., Navarrete, C., Cantarero, I. et al. Neuroprotective Properties of Cannabigerol in Huntington’s Disease: Studies in R6/2 Mice and 3-Nitropropionate-lesioned Mice. Neurotherapeutics 12, 185–199 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-014-0304-z
9 Borrelli F, Pagano E, Romano B, et al. Colon carcinogenesis is inhibited by the TRPM8 antagonist cannabigerol, a cannabis-derived non-psychotropic cannabinoid. Carcinogenesis 2014;35(12):2787-97.
10 Baek SH, Kim YO, Kwag JS, et al. Boron trifluroide etherate on silica-A modified Lewis acid regent (VII). Anti-tumor activity of cannabigerol against human oral epitheloid carcinoma cells. Arch Pharm Res 1998;21(3):353-6.
11 Brierley DI, Samuels J, Duncan M, et al. A cannabigerol-rich Cannabis sativa extract, devoid of [increment] 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, elicits hyperphagia in rats. Behav Pharmacol 2017;28(4):280-4.
12 Brierley DI, Harman JR, Giallourou N, et al. Chemotherapy-induced cachexia dysregulates hypothalamic and systemic lipoamines and is attenuated by cannabigerol. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle 2019.
13 Pagano, Ester, Vittorino Montanaro, Antonio Di Girolamo, Antonio Pistone, Vincenzo Altieri, Jordan K. Zjawiony, Angelo A. Izzo, and Raffaele Capasso. “Effect of Non-Psychotropic Plant-Derived Cannabinoids on Bladder Contractility: Focus on Cannabigerol.” Natural Product Communications 10, no. 6 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1177/1934578x1501000653.
14 “NIH to Investigate Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes for Potential Pain-Relieving Properties,” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), accessed June 12, 2020, https://www.nccih.nih.gov/news/press-releases/nih-to-investigate-minor-cannabinoids-and-terpenes-for-potential-painrelieving-properties)
Overcoming challenges in the mass production of CBG
Given the growing understanding of CBG’s potential dynamic health and wellness benefits, one might assume that there would be a material swell in the numbers of growers and processors anxious to get CBG to market. Afterall, with the passing of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, the cultivation of hemp – from which CBG is extracted – is now legal in all 50 states, U.S. territories and tribal nations (presuming compliance with specified regulations to grow hemp is met). But, not so fast.
Analytical Cannabis15 reports that “the largest stumbling block to CBG’s realization as a common therapeutic treatment is the cost of its production. CBG is thought to be one of the most expense cannabinoids to produce, so much so that it has been dubbed ‘the Rolls-Royce of cannabinoids.”
Because of the miniscule amount of CBG found in hemp, it takes thousands of pounds of biomass to produce even small amounts of cannabigerol isolate – in fact, up to 20 times the amount it would take to yield the same CBD amount. Moreover, as a hemp plant matures, CBGA and CBG present in the plant convert to other cannabinoids, which takes place six to eight weeks in the flowering cycles. This means to achieve optimal yields of cannabigerol, farmers would have to harvest their hemp crops early before this conversion takes place; or permit the crop to fully mature and then expect to extract only trace amounts of CBG.
Further, due to the low amount of CBG available in the biomass, processors must invest in a high performance chromatography apparatus to ensure that CBG extraction is as precise as possible, thus avoiding the need to consume even more of the precious biomass to achieve extraction volume objectives.
To help make CBG more affordable and available to consumers, many product manufacturers are opting to blend cannabigerol with CBD and other cannabinoids to produce “full spectrum” CBD oils and tinctures for consumer use. Full spectrum CBD is becoming more readily accessible as a nutritional supplement or as a direct medical treatment pursuant to physician guidance.
With that said, it is important to note that there are several entrepreneurial companies currently working to develop cannabis plant strains that will stop their development at CGB – before it converts to THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. If this is successful, plants could yield up to 100% of cannabigerol, which would change the entire future outlook for CBG as a viable, affordable ingredient for use in consumer products and in much more pervasive medical research to confirm the many health and wellness benefits of cannabigerol and its therapeutic value to addressing chronic illnesses and diseases.
15 Alexander Beadle, “CBG vs CBD: What Are the Differences?,” Analytical Cannabis (Analytical Cannabis, March 31, 2020), https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/cbg-vs-cbd-what-are-the-differences-312232)
As applicable to the purchase of any hemp-derived cannabis product, it is vital that consumers first conduct their due diligence when seeking out and purchasing cannabigerol products. Most of the alleged CBG products being sold on the market today are of low quality. And many manufacturers unfortunately rely on processors which use harsh and even harmful extraction methods to produce CBG distillates and isolates.
Bear in mind that not all hemp flower is the same. Since hemp (Cannabis sativa) is a bioaccumulator, it is important to learn how the hemp was grown. This plant must be kept away from toxins during its entire growth cycle, so organic cultivation is the best way to grow it. The first step in organic hemp cultivation is ensuring great genetics, so care must be used in selecting hemp chemotypes (chemotype is the term used to classify different hemp varieties based on their chemical constituents). Then, CBG-rich hemp must be grown in an environment far away from heavy metals and other environmental toxins. Next, mold must be factored. Mold and fungi are complex organisms that can contaminate hemp flowers, even when they are removed from the host, causing the flower to become unsafe.
Hemp biomass for extraction should be high in CBG and low in CBD and THC, unless the goal is to produce a specific blend. It should also be free of contaminants, adulterants and microbial growth. When done right, extraction of hemp flower produces a very high quality and potent CBG extract, marketed as CBG oil, which can be further concentrated by removing impurities such as waxes, pigments and unnecessary chemical components.
When doing your homework, look for independent third-party lab testing certification (referred to as a Certificate of Analysis, or COA) attesting to high quality, all natural ingredients; safe extraction in keeping with best industry practices to avoid heavy metal and pesticide content; high purity levels; and potency. The most ethical product manufacturers post their lab reports to their websites or make them available upon request.
Upon review of the COA, make a point of ensuring that the CBG concentrations reflected on the report match what is stated on the product label. Labeling inaccuracies have proven common among industry bad actors. In fact, one study16 showed that only about one-third of CBD products on the market are labeled accurately, so it is safe to assume that CBG products are subject to the same mislabeling issue.
Is CBG the next big thing?
Though the verdict is still out on the efficacy of CBG in humans due to the fact that the prevailing body of scientific and medical research has focused on animal studies, to date, there is a growing number of people providing convincing testimonials on the positive impact that CBG is having on their health and well-being. Recognizing that we live in a world where consumer ‘reviews’ carry great influence with the masses, it is not a stretch to assume that CBG’s popularity and demand will inevitably rise as it becomes more widely available.
About Bespoke Extracts, Inc.
Bespoke Extracts, Inc. was formed in 2017 to introduce a proprietary line of premium quality, all natural cannabidiol (CBD) products in the form of tinctures and capsules for the nutraceutical and veterinary markets. All Bespoke Extracts’ flavor-infused tinctures and capsules are formulated using pure, all natural, zero-THC phytocannabinoid-rich (“PCR”) hemp-derived CBD sourced from one of the largest, fully and vertically integrated producers of PCR hemp oil. All CBD isolate and oils are authenticated by an independent third party via issuance of a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which cannabinoid content and profile, microbiological content, heavy metal content, pesticide content, and residual solvent content. Bespoke recognizes the importance of compliance and is partnered with one of the industry’s leading CGMP certified extraction facilities. This ensures the consistency and quality of Bespoke’s product line and brand. Bespoke’s products are distributed through its direct-to-consumers ecommerce store, found at www.BespokeExtracts.com, and through select specialty retailers, pharmacies/dispensaries and care providers.
12 Bonn-Miller, Marcel O. “Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online.” JAMA. American Medical Association, November 7, 2017. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2661569.