What is CBG (Cannabigerol)
Chemical structure of cannabigerol (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
CBG is the building block for many compounds in marijuana, including THC and CBD.
Cannabinoids are the active chemicals found in marijuana. They are specific to the cannabis plant and are known to affect the human body in many ways.
While you may have heard of cannabinoids like THC and CBD, not many realize how important CBG is when it comes to marijuana.
In fact, THC, CBD and many other cannabinoids all begin as CBG. CBG is non-psychoactive and can be thought of as the “stem cell” or “parent” of other cannabinoids.
After being synthesized, CBG is quickly converted to other cannabinoids through natural processes that occur within the cannabis plant. This explains the low CBG content of most cannabis strains.
What is CBG and CBGA?
Upon their discovery, further studies were conducted to understand the marijuana plant’s biology. In 1975, researchers isolated cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the acid version of CBG.
The researchers found that CBGA is broken down by the plant’s natural enzymes into other acidic cannabinoids, namely THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. These acids are then converted to THC, CBD, and CBC when the plant is heated or aged (also known as decarboxylation).
In other words, CBG comes from CBGA, which is essential to the production of all other cannabinoids.
However, CBG is not found in high concentrations in most strains. Certain strains of hemp may have higher CBG content, but in general, most cannabis plants contain less than 1% CBG.
CBG is important because of its numerous health benefits, especially for people with disorders affecting the central nervous system, including neurological diseases, skin disorders, chronic pain, and others.
Effects of CBG
Generally speaking, cannabinoids work by interacting with cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the human body.
CBG acts on both cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) as a partial agonist. However, the effect that CBG has on CB1 and CB2 receptors is very weak compared to CBd or THC.
CBG can also affect the body by increasing anandamide levels. Anandamide is a naturally-occurring cannabinoid that helps regulate many biological functions, including appetite, sleep and memory. Like THC, anandamide acts on CB1 and CB2 receptors to produce its effects.
CBG also inhibits the uptake of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), a brain chemical that regulates the activity of neurons. The effect of CBG on GABA uptake was found to be greater than both THC and CBD in one study.
CBG has been shown to block serotonin receptors as well, which suggests a role for CBG in treating depression.
Since CBG can act on the central nervous system without causing a high, the potential benefits and medical uses of CBG have attracted significant interest.
Benefits and Uses
The medical benefits of CBG are still under investigation, but the list thus far is impressive and growing.
It’s important to note that most of the evidence comes from pre-clinical studies, meaning that the safety and efficacy of CBG has yet to be proven in humans. That being said, studies on CBG have revealed a wide range of possible benefits.
Stimulates bone formation and healing. In a 2007 study, the effects of CBG and other cannabinoids on bone marrow cultures were investigated. The results showed that they could stimulate bone marrow stem cells indirectly through the CB2 receptor. This suggests that CBG and other cannabinoids may help with the healing of bone fractures by promoting new bone growth and formation.
Slows tumor growth. In a 2009 review article, CBD, CBG, and CBC along with other cannabinoids were reported to slow the progression and growth of various tumors and cancer cells. By slowing tumor growth, these cannabinoids could extend the life of people who are battling cancer.
Antifungal and antibacterial treatment. The antifungal and antimicrobial properties of various cannabinoids, including CBG, are currently under investigation. CBG was shown to be highly effective against MRSA in a 2008 study. MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a highly prevalent antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria.
Relieves pain. CBG and other cannabinoids are known to have analgesic effects in various conditions, including pain caused by multiple sclerosis and cancer. According to a 2008 review article, clinical trials have shown that synthetic cannabinoids are well tolerated and effective, and may have an added analgesic effect when combined with other pharmaceuticals for pain treatment.
Reduces inflammation. Cannabinoids like CBG have the ability to reduce inflammation by targeting specific molecules responsible for inflammation in various disease states, including pain syndromes, cancer, and even inflammatory bowel disease. For example, studies show that CBG can act as a COX-2 inhibitor, similar to widely used pharmaceuticals called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Overactive bladder treatment. Cannabis and cannabinoid preparations have been used to treat various bladder dysfunctions. In a 2015 study, researchers tested the effects of CBG and other cannabinoids on experimentally-induced bladder contractions. CBG and THCV were found to have the strongest ability for reducing bladder contractions.
Psoriasis and skin treatment. CBG and other cannabinoids could be helpful for treating various skin disorders, due to the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the skin. In a 2007 study, CBG was shown to inhibit keratinocyte proliferation, which suggests a role for CBG in the treatment of psoriasis.
Glaucoma treatment. In a 1990 study, treatment with THC and CBG increased aqueous flow by two to three times in animal models of glaucoma. Increased aqueous flow can help reduce intraocular pressure in cases of glaucoma.
Depression and anxiety treatment. It is well-known that THC can help patients who suffer from depression and anxiety. CBG has been found to have similar effects but without causing the high that THC is known for. A 2016 report suggests that non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBG could be a possible alternative for treating anxiety and depression.
Neuroprotective effects. In a 2015 study on animal models of Huntington’s disease, CBG was found to be “extremely active as a neuroprotectant.” Treatment with CBG improved movement and recovery in mice with Huntington’s and protected neurons from degeneration. CBG also showed possible anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The researchers concluded that CBG should be studied further as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders.