Over the last few years, the CBD (cannabidiol) market has grown beyond measure. Vendors tout the hemp-derived compound for practically every ailment you can imagine, from anxiety to epilepsy.
Now, though, there’s a new kid on the block: cannabigerol (CBG). And everyone wants to know more about the benefits it offers and how it differs from CBD. We're going to dig deep into CBG vs. CBD to help you know which one will benefit you most?
What Is Cannabigerol (CBG)?
CBG is a cannabinoid derived from cannabis plants, just like regular CBD. However, its chemical origins are different.
CBG comes from CBGA or cannabigerolic acid via a chemical process called decarboxylation.
It sounds complicated, but in reality, it’s actually quite simple. Decarboxylation just refers to reactions that cause acids to lose carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules. So, when CBGA goes through decarboxylation, it releases carbon dioxide molecules, yielding CBG.
However, this CBGA reaction is rare. Most CBGA reactions in hemp plants go in a different direction.
It turns out that CBG makes up less than 1 percent of the total cannabinoid content of hemp plants. By contrast, THC comprises between 25 and 30 percent of cannabinoids in the cannabis harvest, and CBD accounts for a further 20 to 25 percent.
Currently, the profound benefits of CBG are not widely known, so demand is not high. However, as more science comes through, this will change, and CBG-containing salves and tinctures will become increasingly desirable.
What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
CBD also comes from CBGA but through a totally different chemical pathway. CBGA converts into cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) with the help of the CBDA synthase enzyme. The enzyme facilitates a type of reaction called oxidative cyclization which changes the position of the hydroxyl group on the molecule. CBDA then converts in CBD via our old friend, decarboxylation.
CBGA is sometimes called the “mother of all cannabinoids” because it is the starting point for so many cannabinoid reactions. As mentioned, the reaction it undergoes to produce CBG is rare compared to the CBD-producing reaction. As hemp plants grow, the enzyme CBDA synthase converts the majority of CBGA molecules into CBDA. Only a small fraction of CBGA goes through direct carboxylation into CBG.
Growers are now experimenting with new strains of cannabis they hope will produce more CBG. They’re trying to cultivate varieties to produce less CBDA synthase, allowing more CBGA to undergo direct carboxylation. They are also using science to determine the optimal CBG extraction window, harvesting plants when their CBGA content is high.
The Benefits Of CBD vs. CBG
Okay - now onto the topic that you care about the most: how CBG’s benefits stack up against CBD.
Before we get this discussion started, please note that the science of CBG is far less mature than CBD. In many cases, we don’t have a lot of experimental evidence backing up claims.
With that said, CBG appears to offer many of the same benefits as CBD.
For instance, studies suggest that CBG may:
- Decrease inflammation in the bowel: Evidence suggests that CBG could help treat patients with inflammatory bowel conditions, such as colitis. Studies found that the cannabinoid reduces gastrointestinal inflammation in rats, reducing abdominal pain, cramping, weight loss, nausea, and loss of appetite.
- Inhibit the growth of cancer cells: There’s also some indication from laboratory studies that CBG may inhibit or slow cancer tumor growth.
- Kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria: The hospital superbug MRSA is dangerous because it can resist all known antibiotics. However, CBG may be a promising treatment for patients infected with the bug.
- Treat glaucoma: Glaucoma is an eye condition. An early study from the 1990s investigated whether CBG could treat the condition. The study found that there was substantial evidence that the cannabinoid was a potential glaucoma therapeutic.
- Fight neuronal disorders, such as Huntington’s disease: A study in mice found that feeding mice with CBG alone or in combination with other cannabinoids helped to fight certain neuronal conditions. The researchers found that it was able to normalize the expression of genes associated with brain degeneration.
CBD may also treat a range of conditions. These include:
- Chronic pain and inflammation
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative disorders (including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s)
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Metabolic syndrome disorders
- Anxiety disorders
What’s more, both of these compounds are what researchers call “benign”, meaning that they have low-toxicity.
We simply don’t have the data to know whether CBG assists in these diseases as well. But as we found earlier, there seems to be an overlap between the two.
What Channels Does CBG Work Through?
Interestingly, evidence suggests that CBG and CBD work through entirely different channels.
It is well known that CBD doesn’t interact directly with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Instead, it works indirectly by stimulating the body’s production of anandamide - an endocannabinoid that binds to these sites.
CBG on the other hand is exciting because it does work by binding to CB1 and CB2, effectively eliminating the middle-man.
Does CBG Cause Side Effects?
Now, we know what you’re thinking: THC - the psychoactive molecule in hemp - also binds to these sites. So does that mean that CBG can make you high?
Not likely. Early evidence suggests that CBG blocks the action of THC and does not produce a psychoactive effect of its own. Instead, it more closely resembles the body’s own endocannabinoids, effectively eliminating the risk of psychoactive response. Furthermore, CBG, like CBD, appears to block the action of THC on the nervous system because of its ability to bind preferentially. So it may actually inhibit psychoactive effects.
So far, we don’t have much clinical information about the effects of CBG on people. However, early indications suggest that it is well-tolerated in rats. It does not appear to cause them to experience psychoactive episodes, as they might if researchers gave them THC.
Does CBG Interact With Medications?
We don’t yet know a great deal about how CBG interacts with prescription and over-the-counter medications. However, there are suggestions that CBD may affect the rate at which the body processes traditional medications by inhibiting an enzyme that breaks them down. So something similar could happen after consuming CBG. Medicines may stay in the body longer (implying that CBG users should take a lower dosage). As always, speak to your doctor if you’re taking any cannabinoids in conjunction with regular medications.
Taking CBG vs. CBD: What Are Your Options?
Today, you can find dozens of CBD products on the market for practically every kind of person. It comes in the form of tinctures, edibles, salves, topical ointments, and tablets.
The market for CBG is not yet as developed as CBD. However, there are still ways that you can gain access to this potentially powerful molecule.
Full Spectrum CBD
One option is to take a full-spectrum CBD product. Full-spectrum CBD contains both CBD and other compounds from the cannabis plant, including CBG.
Taking a full-spectrum product might seem like a bad idea because you’re not getting the pure substance you want. However, there is evidence that suggests that cannabinoids work better together than individually.
The concept is a little bit like the difference between consuming vitamin C and eating the whole orange. Vitamin C provides some benefits, but not as much as eating the whole fruit. When you consume the flesh of an orange, you’re getting both vitamin C plus a whole range of phytonutrients which add to its effect. So consuming more of the cannabis plant might actually be a good thing.
Check out our recommendations for the Best CBG Oil.
Your other option is to take CBG isolates.
Because CBG is found in such small quantities in the cannabis plant, isolates are rarer. However, they are starting to make an appearance. Many isolates come in the form of crystal batches. You scoop the product out of the container and then mix it with either a carrier oil or an e-liquid (or bake with it if the mood strikes you). Isolating CBG is good because it lets you mix it with other constituents in a ratio of your choosing.
Whenever you choose an isolate, be sure to check for third-party testing. If the brand claims lab proof for the purity of its products, always follow up by contacting the lab itself.
Final Thoughts: CBG vs. CBD
CBG and CBD are chemically two different compounds. And they interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system through fundamentally different pathways. CBD activates the production of the body’s own cannabinoids while CBG binds directly to cannabinoid sites.
Practically speaking, though, the differences appear minor. There seems to be considerable overlap between the purported benefits of each. Both compounds appear to address similar issues in the body. So while the channels they use are different, the ultimate effects are similar.
Getting hold of CBG isolates is a little more difficult than pure CBD. But you can always get cannabigerol by consuming full-spectrum CBD products. In fact, given the synergistic effect of cannabinoids, that might be the best approach for you.
Interest in CBG is on the rise, so expect to see much more interest in this fascinating compound in the future.