If we start to know CBD and THC well, we know less that there are a lot of components – cannabinoids – in the hemp plant, less abundant but equally interesting. Among these molecules, cannabigerol (CBG) has been attracting the attention of researchers for several years because of its presumed benefits: as the “mother of cannabinoids”, CBG could have significantly stronger effects than its congeners.
Nevertheless, the small amount of cannabigerol in the natural hemp plant (less than 1%) makes it a difficult component to produce, and therefore difficult to access. Let’s take a closer look at what it is and what its alleged positive effects are.
What is CBG?
To understand the links between the different cannabinoids present in cannabis (the “phytocannabinoids”, as opposed to the “endocannabinoids” produced by the body), we need to imagine a family tree.
At the top of this tree is cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the precursor of the three main branches of cannabinoids: THC, CBD and CBC. It is, in short, the first of the phytocannabinoids generated by the hemp plant, the “mother” of the family, the component from which the others are synthesized.
This unique position in the cannabinoid tree surrounds CBG with a certain therapeutic aura, and makes it the object of growing interest from the scientific community since its discovery in the 1960s.
Indeed, given the benefits attributed to the most abundant cannabinoids, notably cannabidiol (sold largely in the form of CBD oils) and tetrahydrocannabinol (considered a narcotic in many countries due to its psychotropic effects, and therefore illegal), it is logical to think that their precursor is likely to produce even more powerful effects – as if it were a “concentrate” of all the other components.
How does cannabigerol affect the body?
Does it live up to its promise? To answer this question, it is necessary to understand how cannabinoids act in a more global way. These molecules, when ingested, “mimic” the compounds naturally produced by the body through the endocannabinoid system – a vast network of receptors throughout the body.
These receptors (CB1 and CB2) play a role in regulating a number of organ and hormonal processes: metabolism, mood, appetite, but also a response to pain and inflammatory processes. When cannabinoids interact with these receptors, they induce a specific response which in turn produces physiological changes.
This explains the “therapeutic benefits” observed by THC and CBD users in the treatment of various pathologies (multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, psoriasis…) and multiple conditions (anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, appetite reduction, nausea…).
These benefits, although theoretical, are nevertheless validated by the use of therapeutic cannabis in a growing number of states, and by the development of cannabinoid-based drugs such as Sativex.
At this stage, it is known that CBG acts in exactly the same way as CBD or THC, by contacting the receptors of the endocannabinoid system and inducing a specific response. Its presumed effects would therefore be similar. What is the reality?
What does the research say about CBG?
It is necessary to specify that research is still in its infancy. There is not much research on CBG and the only components of hemp that have been studied in detail are THC and CBD. Nevertheless, several lessons can be drawn from the existing studies – exclusively preclinical.
CBG may have a neuroprotective effect. This is suggested by a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics which analyzed the effects of cannabigerol on mice inoculated with Huntington’s disease. Result: CBG would relieve various symptoms related to this pathology, without its role in this process being well understood. This could lead to a more global effect of CBG on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson or Alzheimer.
CBG would act against inflammation. A 2013 study looked at the potential of cannabigerol in relieving irritable bowel syndrome patients. The experiment was conducted on mice that were induced to have inflammatory bowel disorders, and whose colitis was alleviated by taking CBG. The study concludes by recommending clinical trials.
CBG would relieve persistent pain. A 2008 review of studies on the use of phytocannabinoids to relieve pain resistant to conventional treatments suggests that cannabigerol may have greater analgesic potential than THC. A suggestion that, to date, has not been investigated further.
CBG would be able to fight resistant pathogens. A 2015 study highlights the positive role of cannabigerol in treating drug-resistant bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. If the results are to be believed, its effectiveness would be superior to antibiotics.
CBG could slow down the development of certain cancers. An Israeli study has highlighted the stagnation of cancerous cells of the colon in response to repeated intake of cannabigerol (the tests were conducted on mice). Thus, the consumption of CBG would potentially have the effect of slowing down the progression of the disease.
We have only cited the main studies. Others have looked at the effects of CBG in the treatment of glaucoma (the molecule would be able to reduce intraocular pressure) or in the inhibition of muscular contractions (especially those of the bladder).
Should we throw ourselves on CBG-based products?
These presumed benefits of cannabigerol are hopeful for patients suffering from various pathologies, and draw more and more attention to products made from this molecule.
However, the rarity of cannabigerol poses a real problem. In most cannabis strains, CBGA is immediately converted into THC and CBD, leaving little room for CBG. It is estimated that at harvest time, the mature hemp plant has less than 1% cannabigerol content. As a result, much larger amounts of biomass must be extracted to isolate small amounts of CBG, which explains the high price of existing products. As such, cannabigerol is sometimes referred to as the “Rolls Royce of cannabinoids”.
To date, there are two processes for increasing the amount of cannabigerol harvested:
Producing synthetic varieties of hemp with a higher CBD content in the mature plant, as is already done for CBD (this achieves 10% cannabigerol).
Harvesting hemp earlier in the development cycle of the plant, when the amount of CBG is higher – without exceeding 5%.
For all these reasons – scarcity of the component, lack of studies – CBG is not yet on the radar of the population. The public already has its hands full with the most abundant and common cannabinoids.
Until cannabigerol becomes more widely available, it is best to look for CBD-based products – which have the merit of not generating undesirable effects while providing significant potential benefits, especially when consumed in oil form. The important thing is to choose quality products, made from organic hemp plants, and purchased from qualified retailers.