What is CBG (Cannabigerol)?
If, like millions of others, you have sought to better understand the many potential health and wellness benefits of cannabinoids - or the compounds found in cannabis plants, you have likely developed some level of significant appreciation for CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), as these two compounds have been the subject of much favourable scientific and medical research, not to mention prolific local, state and national media coverage.
However, a lesser-known of the 140 compounds identified in cannabis - which seems to be gaining importance as a cannabinoid of interest - is the CBG.
Researchers have determined that CBG acts positively on specific physiological systems in the human body and shows great promise as a potential treatment for a growing range of chronic or serious conditions and diseases. However, before we dive into the specific pharmacological benefits CBG can provide, let's take a look at what it is and how it differs from its relatives, CBD and THC.
In cannabis plant species, CBG is considered a "minor cannabinoid", because it is only present in trace levels - typically ranging from 0.1% to 1% in marijuana and from 0.2% to 2.0% in hemp.
Despite its seemingly insignificant mass, cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, is actually the natural chemical precursor from which all other cannabinoids are synthesised, so it is often referred to as the "mother" or "parent" of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
It all starts with two chemical compounds - geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid - which when combined create the first cannabinoid, CBGA. When CBGA is mixed with other specific enzymes, it is converted into THCA and CBDA. Through exposure to heat or ultraviolet light, also known as decarboxylation, each of these cannabinoids is then converted into their non-acidic forms; for example, THCA into THC, CBDA into CBD and CBGA into CBG.
Now that you know the abc, 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 often associated with THC use. And, like CBD, CBG can help support your body's endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining "biological harmony in response to environmental changes", according to a 2014 scientific study.
Research initially suggested that endocannabinoid receptors were only present in the brain and nerves, but scientists have since confirmed that the receptors are present throughout the body, including in the skin, immune cells, bone, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, skeletal muscle, heart, blood vessels, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.
The human endocannabinoid systems are made up of several CB1 and CB2 receptors that are involved in a number of processes related to both phytocannabinoids (plant-derived) 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 primarily through indirect interactions with the endocannabinoid system, CBG is thought to elicit its therapeutic effects directly through interaction with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in the brain. As a result, many are concluding that CBG could end up being the most potent cannabinoid of all, playing an important role in the medicine of the future.
Possible medical uses of cannabigerol
In recent years, a number of medical and scientific research publications have shed light on the pharmacology of CBG and given voice to its many potential medical applications.
According to the Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies, "current literature provides evidence of its potential as an anti-inflammatory and anticancer agent, to name but a few, addressing the interest in this phytocannabinoid as potential starting material for new therapeutic agents".
Other researchers have been active in studying CBG as a possible therapy for ailments including:
Overcoming the challenges of CBG mass production
Given the growing understanding of the potential dynamic health and wellness benefits of CBG, one would assume that there would be a material increase in the number of growers and processors eager to bring CBG to market.
"Analytical Cannabis reports that "the biggest obstacle to CBG becoming a common therapeutic treatment is the cost of its production. CBG is believed to be one of the most expensive cannabinoids to produce, to the extent that it has been dubbed "the Rolls-Royce of cannabinoids".
Because of the miniscule amount of CBG found in hemp, it takes thousands of kilos of biomass to produce even small amounts of isolated cannabigerol - in fact, up to 20 times the amount it would take to produce the same amount of CBD. In addition, as a hemp plant matures, the CBGA and CBG present in the plant are converted into other cannabinoids, which takes place over six to eight weeks in flowering cycles. This means that to achieve optimal cannabigerol yields, farmers would have to harvest their hemp crops before this conversion occurs; or allow the crop to fully mature and then expect to extract only minimal amounts of CBG.
In addition, due to the low amount of CBG available in biomass, processors must invest in a high-performance chromatography apparatus to ensure that CBG extraction is as accurate as possible, thus avoiding the need to consume even more of the precious biomass to reach extraction volume targets.
To help make CBG more affordable and available to consumers, many product manufacturers are choosing to blend cannabigerol with CBD and other cannabinoids to produce "full-spectrum" CBD oils and tinctures for consumption. Full-spectrum CBD is increasingly available as a nutritional supplement or as a direct medical treatment as prescribed by doctors.
That said, it is important to note that there are several enterprising companies currently working on developing strains of cannabis plants that will stop their development into CGB, before it is converted into THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. If this is successful, plants could produce up to 100% of cannabigerol, which would change the entire future landscape of CBG as a viable and affordable ingredient for use in consumer products and in much broader medical research to confirm cannabigerol's numerous health and wellness benefits and its therapeutic value in addressing chronic diseases and ailments.
CBG Buyer beware!
As with the purchase of any hemp-derived cannabis product, it is vital that consumers first conduct their due diligence when searching for and purchasing cannabigerol (CBG) products.
Most of the so-called CBG products currently on the market are of low quality. And many manufacturers, unfortunately, rely on processors who use harsh and even harmful extraction methods to produce CBG distillates and isolates.
It should be noted that not all hemp flowers are the same. Since hemp (Cannabis sativa) is a bioaccumulator, it is important to know how it has been grown. This plant must be kept away from toxins throughout its growth cycle, so organic cultivation is the best way to grow it. The first step in organic hemp cultivation is to ensure great genetics, so care must be taken when selecting hemp chemotypes (chemotype is the term used to classify the different varieties of hemp according to their chemical components). Next, CBG-rich hemp should be grown in an environment away from heavy metals and other environmental toxins. Next, there is mould to consider. Mould and fungi are complex organisms that can contaminate hemp flowers, even when removed from the host, rendering the flower unsafe.
Hemp biomass for extraction should be high in CBG and low in CBD and THC, unless the aim is to produce a specific blend. It should also be free of contaminants, adulterants and microbial growth. When done well, hemp flower extraction 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.