As cannabis becomes more widely embraced, the deeper the niche becomes. As people continue to explore what this group of plants is capable of, both through clinical research and personal experimentation, the demand for more specific products has exploded.

For decades we were terrified of THC, but now states are standing up for the substance in defiance of the federal government. When hemp became de-scheduled in the 2018 Farm Bill, we started putting CBD in everything. With cannabis so mainstream, there is finally the possibility to explore the lesser-known cannabinoids, cannabigerol (CBG) being one of them.

So what is CBG? What do we know about this cannabinoid and what are the potential benefits of using it?

What is CBG?

Cannabigerol is a cannabinoid, one of over 120 different compounds found in the genus of plants that we call cannabis. You can find CBG in both of the main cannabis camps, being present in hemp and marijuana. It’s classified as a minor cannabinoid because harvested plants contain only 1% CBG.

If you want to get technical, CBG is the non-acidic form of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) the precursor for all other cannabinoids. If you don’t want to get technical, think of it like this, CBG is the mother of all other cannabinoids. It is the molecule that cannabis plants use to create all other cannabinoids.

All three of the main cannabinoid lines, or groups, are produced from CBG. That includes tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA). Different enzymes in the plant will break down CBGA and turn it into whichever cannabinoid it chooses.

Cannabigerol is not psychoactive and will work similarly to CBD to antagonize the CB1 receptors that THC binds to, causing its mind-altering effects.

How do you get CBG?

CBG is found in all cannabis plants in tiny amounts. With mounting interest for the compound, the race is on to try to get our hands on more of it.

There will be small amounts of CBG in full-spectrum hemp extract because the entire plant is used. There may not be enough CBG in these products to receive a targeted dose, but it is still present. CBG is one of the compounds that give full-spectrum hemp extract its reported synergistic benefits like the entourage effect.

With targeted cultivars of hemp and marijuana reaching 20% by dry weight in their respective cannabinoids, the percentage of CBG in most plants is disheartening. In a field that already demands thousands of pounds of hemp to be processed to pull out the cannabinoids, processing CBG requires 10 or 20 times that amount.

Because it is so hard to produce in any quantity, CBG is expensive. The difficulty to produce it and the high price tag has caught the attention of many hemp producers. In an industry that is flooded with CBD, and which doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to process it all, finding specialized niches are profitable ways for growers to differentiate themselves.

Plant breeders are currently working to develop high CBG strains of hemp. Using the same techniques they used to grow plants that have much higher CBD content, they can produce plants with a much higher yield. For these hopeful breeders, it can take up to three years to develop the specific genetics needed.

Until there are stable cultivars available that target CBG, some extractors are also looking to optimize the growing cycle for CBG and harvesting the plants when they are producing the highest percentages. Scientists have found that six weeks into an eight-week flowering cycle is ideal.

This process yields higher amounts of CBG, but it’s still nowhere near the numbers for CBD or THC. Once everything is optimized, growers can end up with plants that are up to 5% CBG. Harvesting so early means that the other cannabinoids didn’t get a chance to fully develop, making the plants only useful for CBG extraction. So growers have to completely optimize the process, watch it closely, and they will still need to extract four times as much biomass to get an equivalent amount of CBG.

What are the conditions that could be benefited by CBG?

Much of the excitement around CBG revolves around the potential medical benefits we could get from it. Once again, this is a place where consumers have jumped ahead of scientific research. People are anxious to try the cannabinoid out for themselves, which has driven demand for CBG exponentially in the past few years.

As far as what we can say definitively about the benefits of CBG, there isn’t much. That doesn’t mean that cannabigerol doesn’t do anything, it just means that it will take some time to find out. There are several different fields that look promising for CBG. Multiple studies have started to investigate using CBG to treat certain ailments.

Glaucoma – The condition damages the optic nerve, putting the patient at risk of losing their vision. The damage is caused by high pressure in the eye. CBG is being looked at because it is an excellent vasodilator and has neuroprotective effects as well. It’s promising for glaucoma because the cannabinoid is effective at reducing intraocular pressure.

Inflammatory bowel disease – Term encompasses several diseases that are involved with inflammation in the digestive tract. Conditions that fall under this umbrella include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both of these diseases usually include symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss which can be debilitating. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids like CBG are why it’s being looked at to help treat the symptoms of this ailment.

Huntington’s disease– The disease is a rare genetic condition that causes nerve cells in the brain to break down. It is degenerative and there is no cure. CBG is being looked at because it demonstrated effectiveness in protecting neurons in mice with Huntington’s.

Colorectal cancer – Also known as bowel cancer, this refers to cancer that affects the colon and the rectum. CBG is promising because it can block receptors that cause cancer cell growth. It’s been shown in mice to stop the growth of cancer cells, inhibiting tumors and colon carcinogenesis. The possibility that CBG could stop cancer from spreading or starting in the first place is exciting.

Cachexia– This disease is a wasting disorder that shows up as severe muscle wasting and weight loss. Cachexia is different from other forms of weight loss in that it is involuntary. People become weak and vulnerable to infections. Patients with the disorder are usually in the late stages of another serious disease like cancer, HIV, AIDS, COPD, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure. A loss of appetite is one of the biggest reasons for these symptoms. CBG has been shown to help stimulate people’s appetites.

Bladder contractions – These contractions are when the bladder muscle spasms without warning, giving the sufferer an urgent need to relieve themselves. CBG has was shown to be better than other cannabinoids at stopping muscle contractions.

Antibacterial agent – CBG is being researched as an antibacterial agent. It has been shown to be effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is already resistant to several drugs.

Other applications for CBG are being looked at as well including using it as an analgesic, for treating psoriasis, and an antidepressant.

Side effects

The specific side effects of CBG aren’t well understood at this time. There isn’t enough research on the compound to be able to identify any conditions with certainty. This may change as more effort goes into studying cannabigerol.

It’s also unknown whether CBG interacts with different over the counter medications. There isn’t any research that says that there is a problem, but again that is due to a lack of reliable data. To be on the safe side, be cautious when mixing CBG with any medication that has a grapefruit warning.

CBD is thought to possibly affect how the human body metabolizes certain medications as well. While there isn’t anything saying that CBG would have the same issues since the two compounds are so similar it’s best to be cautious.

Conclusion

Cannabigerol is a cannabinoid that has a lot of potential. Being the mother of all cannabinoids, it can offer some interesting insight into how cannabinoids affect our health.

Since it’s such a minor cannabinoid, CBG can be expensive to grow and extract. While producers scramble to grow and extract CBG for a growing market, prices remain high. Breeders are already working on developing CBG forward cultivars of cannabis and optimizing harvesting to get the most CBG out of plants.

Scientists and consumers are eagerly exploring the possible benefits that CBG has to offer. Promising research is being done that could show CBG as an effective treatment for half a dozen diseases including cancer, glaucoma, and Huntington’s disease among others.