What is cannabigerol (cbg)?

What is cannabigerol (cbg)?
Luke Sholl

CBD is a multifaceted cannabinoid, but it's not the only one worth paying attention to. In recent years, cannabigerol (CBG) has been shown to potentially aid with all sorts of health issues, from inflammation and glaucoma to neurodegenerative diseases.


Over the past few years, CBD has developed a reputation as a versatile aid for all sorts of people. Given the encouraging results of numerous preliminary studies, it has certainly earned its growing fan base. What many in that fan base don't know, though, is that there's another cannabinoid perhaps just as worthy of their attention. No, we're not talking about THC. There are well over 100 cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa. One of these, CBG, will be our focus today; and by the end of this article, you’ll see exactly why it deserves to be recognised.


Although there are hundreds of cannabinoids in cannabis, they're all linked in a family tree-type manner, with all the main cannabinoids we know rooting from one substance: CBGA. Once CBGA undergoes synthesis with one of four different dehydrogenase enzymes during plant growth, CBDA, THCA, CBCA, and CBG all form. These, in turn, become CBD, THC, CBC, and CBG (no change) respectively after undergoing decarboxylation. Don't get tripped up, though: decarboxylation simply means they get heated up.


CBG is one of the many cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp, and stems from CBGA. CBGA is just the acidic version of CBG. As cannabis grows, almost all of the CBGA in a plant converts to either THCA or CBDA. By harvest time, CBG content is around 1% or less in most strains. That, however, will be changing soon, as growers are working on making CBG-heavy strains. With research showing some significant potential benefits associated with CBG, the pace of experimental breeding in this area is expected to boom. Much like THC or CBD, CBG impacts our bodies with a number of effects, making it more and more desirable as we learn what it does.


Before we talk about the potential benefits of CBG, we should go over how cannabinoids like CBG are able to affect people. Whether it's THC, CBD, CBG, or any other cannabinoid, it's processed via the body's endocannabinoid system, and serves to imitate compounds our body makes naturally—endocannabinoids. There is, however, a difference in how each individual cannabinoid is processed. THC, for instance, binds to CB1 receptors, which are found in the brain. CBG, binds to CB2 receptors found in the gut, connective tissue, and nervous system. This distinction is best explained via a discussion of the effects.


The first thing to know about CBG is that it has no psychotropic properties, so consuming it won't get you high. However, as many of you also know, getting high isn't the only thing cannabinoids are good for. In fact, there is a fair share of conditions that research is suggesting can be tackled or eased with cannabigerol.


Even with the sparse amount of research out there, science points in a clear direction as far as CBG and pain relief. Back in 2010, a study performed on mouse brain membranes found cannabigerol to act as a potent alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist. This places it in a class of drugs known to, amongst other things, handle various forms of pain. A 2008 scientific review came upon a similar conclusion. During the review, they discuss a 1991 study where researchers found CBG to be an even stronger analgesic than THC.


Research on the potential role of CBG in fighting glaucoma goes even further back. The Department of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University looked into the matter back in 1990, testing both THC and CBG. In their study, they wanted to determine if either cannabinoid would decrease intraocular pressure in cats. Fascinatingly, when administered to their corneas via osmotic minipumps, they found both cannabigerol and its psychoactive counterpart to successfully drop intraocular pressure. The fact that CBG was able to accomplish this, researchers explain, is a sign that it could be used to treat glaucoma.


Inflammatory bowel disease affects millions of people around the world, and treatments are always in demand. In an effort to investigate how CBG might be able to fight inflammation, the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Naples conducted a study on mice. Published in 2013, their study concluded that CBG was able to debilitate murine colitis, along with "...reducing the nitric oxide production in [their] macrophages". Reflecting on the findings, the researchers suggest that CBG should be considered as an experimental inflammatory bowel disease treatment.  


Last, but far from least, scientists have discovered a link between CBG and neurodegenerative disease treatment. Published in the Neurotherapeutics journal in 2015, this study on mice suffering from Huntington's disease found cannabigerol to protect subjects from several symptoms of the illness. This was mainly shown in how it normalised the expression of various genes linked to the disease. It also improved the gene expression of insulin-like growth factor, brain-derived neuropathic factor, and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ. New research avenues have been opened, and the path for CBG as a Huntington's treatment is clear.


It has a lot of potential benefits, sure, but is CBG better than CBD? Well, that might not be the right question to start with, since they're two completely different cannabinoids. However, research suggests that both effect similar ailments like pain, glaucoma, and inflammation. Along with that, CBG appears more capable than other cannabinoids of handling issues like muscle contractions. Overall, one isn't necessarily better than the other, and your personal preference will depend on why you’re taking it. The research on CBD is much more extensive, and products are far more accessible, so we'd recommend that for the time being.


Outside of availability, we're sure you're also wondering whether CBG is even legal to sell or possess. Fortunately, it's not even listed by the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, nor is it prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States. Basically, while it's not easy to find, CBG is not considered illegal in most nations. However, you should always check the law where you live.


As of now, CBG products aren't too common on the average dispensary shelf. However, some specialised companies have the know-how to isolate and produce natural CBG oils. CBG oils are a relatively new concept—with CBD oils taking the limelight. But as more light is shed of CBG and it grows in popularity, expect to see more and more CBG oils appearing on the market.

Luke Sholl
Luke Sholl

Fascinated by the wellness potential of nature, Luke has spent over a decade writing about cannabis and its vast selection of cannabinoids. Creating, researching and writing content for Cannaconnection, alongside several other industry-related publications, he uses strong technical SEO skills and diligent research to bring evidence-based material to thousands of unique visitors.