The hemp plant is full of compounds that are extremely beneficial to our health. By and large, these compounds can be divided into two categories: cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabinoids are chemical substances produced by resin glands in the hemp plant. They interact directly with the human endocannabinoid system to produce different effects on the body. Similar to cannabinoids, terpenes also induce positive bodily effects; however, they are aromatic compounds that do not interact with the endocannabinoid system.
Two of the most well-known cannabinoids are CBD and THC. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has gained mainstream appeal in recent years due to its versatile health benefits. It was legalized alongside hemp with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychotropic compound present in the cannabis plant. Though this cannabinoid is controversial due to the “high” it produces when ingesting marijuana, legal hemp is permitted 0.3% THC by weight. This amount is extremely low, so those consuming federally legal hemp or CBD products containing 0.3% THC will not experience any notable psychoactive effects.
CBD and THC are certainly the most popular cannabinoids on the market, but they are not the only cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. In fact, the hemp plant contains at least 113 known cannabinoids, and researchers believe there may be more to discover!
The list of known cannabinoids can be divided into ten categories:
- Cannabinols and cannabinodiols
- Miscellaneous cannabinoids
Each of these classes of cannabinoids carries a wide range of potent effects and benefits. Today, we’re focusing our attention on CBG.
What is CBG?
CBG, or cannabigerol, is often referred to as the “mother of all cannabinoids.” This is because CBG is central to the biosynthesis, or chemical compound production, of other cannabinoids.
All cannabinoids are derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the acidic form of CBG. Cannabis plants synthesize enzymes to convert CBGA into other cannabinoids, including CBD, THC, and CBG. In doing so, CBG essentially determines whether a cannabis plant falls under the classification of hemp or marijuana: hemp plants contain more enzymes that convert CBG to CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), whereas marijuana plants carry more enzymes that convert CBG to THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). CBDA and THCA are later converted to CBD and THC, respectively, when decarboxylated via heat exposure.
As a starting compound, CBGA and CBG are only produced in young cannabis plants. Only very small amounts of CBG are present in mature plants, so young plants are the ideal source of this cannabinoid.
As interest in CBG as a therapeutic compound grows, hemp farmers have begun to breed CBG-rich strains of the plant in order to meet increasing demand for this cannabinoid.
How is CBG different from CBD?
Similar to CBD, CBG is not intoxicating and does not produce the high associated with THC, despite the fact that CBG is the precursor to THC production.
Although CBG and CBD share many similarities, they carry unique molecular structures and activate endocannabinoid receptors in different ways, therefore inducing different effects on the body. CBG is also a minor cannabinoid that is found in smaller quantities than CBD, which is considered a major cannabinoid that is prolific in most cannabis plants.
Combined, CBG and CBD induce an entourage effect where each cannabinoid’s therapeutic advantages work synergistically to produce a more potent healing boost. This can be particularly helpful for those suffering from debilitating conditions who find that isolated cannabinoids don’t pack quite the punch they were looking for.
What are the health benefits of CBG?
CB1 receptors are located within the nervous system and the brain, and CB2 receptors are largely found in the body’s immune system. Because CBG stimulates both receptors, the cannabinoid interacts with not just the body’s internal systems, but also the effects of other cannabinoids. It also strengthens the function of anandamide, a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays an active role in alleviating pain, regulating sleep, influencing appetite, and enhancing motivation.
In 2022, researchers conducted a survey where participants reported that CBG-rich cannabis reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression while also inhibiting chronic pain. Interestingly, many patients also claimed that CBG alleviated these issues better than traditional medicines.
This study found evidence that, by acting as an agonist to alpha-2 adrenoreceptors in the brain, CBG regulates blood pressure, heart rate, and sympathetic nervous system activity. By extension, this indicates that CBG may be beneficial for those suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
One study indicates that CBG reduces intraocular pressure and acts as a vasodilator neuroprotectant. As such, CBG may offer a promising treatment option for those suffering from glaucoma.
CBG’s neuroprotective properties may additionally aid in the treatment of Huntington’s disease as noted in this 2015 study. Researchers here found that CBG protects neurons while also stymieing the progression of nerve cell degeneration that is characteristic of this disease.
Another study found that isolated CBG reduced intestinal inflammation in mice suffering from induced colitis. This indicates that CBG may be an auspicious alternative treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Additionally, this 2021 review of CBG-specific research reported that CBG appears to reduce malignant cell proliferation in certain types of cancer, including human breast, colorectal, and prostate carcinomas, gastric adenocarcinoma, C6-rat glioma, rat basophilic leukemia, and transformed thyroid cells.
Finally, CBG appears to act as an antibacterial agent per this 2020 study, where the cannabinoid was found to stave off methicillin-resistant strains of MRSA.
Although CBG is not nearly as well-known as CBD, its therapeutic benefits simply cannot be ignored. We hope that, as interest increases and researchers delve deeper into the mechanisms of CBG, we gain a better understanding of how the cannabinoid may treat a variety of health concerns.