What Is Cannabigerol (CBG)?
(CBG) is a type of cannabinoid obtained from the cannabis plant. It’s often referred to as the mother of all cannabinoids. This is because other cannabinoids are derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), an acidic form of CBG.
CBG is found in smaller quantities than other cannabinoids in cannabis plants. In most strains of the plant, only 1% of CBG can be found compared to 20 to 25% of CBD or 25 to 30% of THC.1
How CBG Is Made
CBG is derived from young cannabis plants because they contain higher amounts of CBG than fully developed plants.
Both CBD and THC start as CBGA, an acidic form of CBG. This is why younger cannabis plants contain higher concentrations of CBG.
In fully developed plants with high concentrations of THC and CBD, you’ll find very low concentrations of CBG. This happens because most of the CBG has already been converted to CBD and THC as the plant developed.
Due to the difficulty of getting CBG, cannabis growers have been experimenting with cross-breeding and genetic manipulation to help cannabis plants produce more CBG.
How CBG Works
CBG is processed by the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is made up of molecules and receptors in our bodies that are responsible for keeping our bodies in an optimal state regardless of what’s going on in our external environment.
In our bodies, CBG imitates endocannabinoids the natural compounds our body makes.
Cannabinoid Receptors in the Body
Our body contains two types of cannabinoid receptors—CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in the nervous system and brain, while CB2 receptors are located in the immune system and other areas of the body.
CBG works by binding to both receptors where it’s thought to strengthen the function of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in enhancing pleasure and motivation, regulating appetite and sleep, and alleviating pain. Unlike THC, CBG has no psychotropic effects, so it will not give you a high.
Like CBD, CBG has been used to combat pain without having the intoxicating effect of cannabinoids like THC.
Research shows that CBG can also have therapeutic effects. However, human studies on this are sparse and more research needs to be done in this area.
Some promising animal studies show that CBG might ultimately be found useful for the following therapeutic benefits listed below.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease is a condition that causes chronic inflammation in the bowel. It affects millions of people across the globe and is incurable.
An experimental animal study conducted in 2013 observed the beneficial effects of CBG on inflammatory bowel disease.2
Researchers induced inflammations similar to IBD in the colons of mice and then administered CBG. CBG was found to reduce the inflammation and the production of nitric oxide. It also reduced the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the intestines. They concluded that CBG should be considered for clinical experimentation in IBD patients.
In an animal study, researchers found that CBG has therapeutic potential for the treatment of glaucoma.
Reseachers administered CBG to cats with glaucoma and noticed a reduction in eye pressure and an increase in aqueous humor outflow, a fluid produced by the eye which maintains eye pressure and provides the eye with nutrition.3
Huntington's disease is a condition that causes a breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. In a 2015 study, researchers examined the potential neuroprotective properties of CBG and other cannabinoids in mice who had an experimental model of Huntington’s disease.
It was observed that CBG acted as a neuroprotectant, protecting the nerve cells in your brain from damage. It also improves motor deficits and preserves striatal neurons against 3-nitropropionic acid toxicity.4
A 2020 study on the antibiotic potential of cannabis, found that CBG has antibacterial properties. Especially against methicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacteria which causes staph infections and is drug-resistant.5
Fighting Cancer Cells
In a 2014 study, researchers observed the effects of CBG on rats with colon cancer. They observed that CBG showed some promise in blocking the receptors that cause cancer cell growth and inhibiting the growth of colorectal cancer cells.
They suggested that the use of CBG should be considered translationally in the cure and prevention of colon cancer.6
How to Use CBG
The most common way CBG is produced for consumers is as an oil. You can get the benefits of CBG by using pure CBG oil. However, CBG oils are rare and expensive.
The good news is that you can also get some of the benefits of CBG from using broad-spectrum CBD oils. Broad-spectrum CBD oils contain all the cannabinoids found in a cannabis plant including CBG, but it doesn’t include THC.
When cannabinoids are used together, they can increase the effectiveness of each other by a phenomenon called the entourage effect.
CBG vs. CBD
CBG is often compared to CBD because it shares many similarities and they both act on the endocannabinoid system.
Both CBG and CBD are non-psychoactive which means they will not alter your state of mind in the way THC will.
They can however reduce the psychotropic effect of THC if you consume a cannabis plant. One of the biggest differences between CBD and CBG is the quantity which is found in most cannabis plants. Most cannabis plants contain only 1% of CBG, but up to 25% of CBD.
CBG may be a promising treatment for several conditions. Keep in mind, this isn't definitive proof, and while some studies show promise, the assertations are "unfounded as of now," says Dr. Solomon. Cannabigerol has not been studied in humans. But it has been investigated for its anti-inflammatory, appetite stimulant, neuroprotective, and cholesterol-lowering effects.
- Cannabigerol is non-psychoactive, so if you're wondering, "does CBG get you high? - the answer is no. While there is still limited information on this minor cannabinoid, it is recognized that CBG is an antagonist against THC and actually works as a buffer to save you from the possible anxiety and paranoia that can accompany it .
- A study looking at 5 different cannabinoids found CBG to be the most helpful in bladder issues and dysfunctions, affecting the contractions of the bladder.
- May treat glaucoma and relieve intraocular pressure. This could be a huge deal because CBD on its own does not help with glaucoma, but THC does-so for patients who want to treat glaucoma using cannabis, this may be a way to do so without the intoxication effect. A 1990 study looked at the use of CBG for glaucoma and found that "cannabigerol and related cannabinoids may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of glaucoma." However, you should continue to take doctor-prescribed glaucoma medication, and only take CBG or cannabis as an addition to your Rx meds and after consulting your doctor, says Dr. Solomon.
- Have antibacterial properties, particularly for MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or "MRSA" is a type of staph infection that is resistant to methicillin (a common type of antibiotic), rendering it a particularly threatening or even fatal bacterial infection. In a 2008 study, CBG showed promise for treating MRSA as an antibacterial agent. Dr. Solomon said this is an area where CBG shows real promise. "It's thought to help with MRSA," he said. "CBG has potential to treat bacteria that are resistant to traditional antibiotics."
- Contributes to GABA reuptake inhibition. CBG inhibits GABA uptake, which could lead to muscle relaxation, tension relief, and sensation of calm and peace in the body and brain, according to Bonni Goldstein, M.D., a physician with a distinguished background in pediatrics and a current specialty in cannabis medicine, as she noted in a recent video. A 1975 study corroborated this. Pharmacologically, GABA uptake inhibitors are already used to treat anxiety. Dr. Solomon adds that because of this decreased "GABA uptake," CBG could "potentially decrease anxiety."
- Could help inflammatory bowel disease and colitis. Rats were studied in 2013 for the use of CBG for colitis, and the results were positive, concluding that CBG reduced the effect of colitis. According to the study, IBD patients have been experiencing "successful management of abdominal pain, joint pain, cramping, diarrhea, poor appetite, weight loss, and nausea" with the use of cannabis, but there are not many studies just yet exploring CBG as an isolated compound.
- May work for Huntington's and neurodegenerative diseases. A 2015 study on mice found that "the use of CBG, alone or in combination with other phytocannabinoids or therapies, [could be a] treatment of neurodegenerative diseases," such as Huntington's disease. "CBG normalized expression of abnormal genes linked to brain degeneration, showing that it's a neuroprotective compound," says Dr. Goldstein to Shape.
- Potentially fights cancer. "CBG is also proven in laboratory studies to inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells," says Dr. Goldstein. A review article in 2009 showed that CBG could potentially slow tumor growth. Another study from 2016 concluded that "the preclinical data strongly support the notion that non-psychoactive plant-derived CBs [cannabinoids, including CBG] can act as direct inhibitors of tumor progression as well as enhance the activity of first-line therapies." A 2014 study found similar results, reporting that CBG inhibited tumor growth in colon cancer, and 2006 study including cannabigerol noted it may help with breast cancer. In 2016, it was shown to be an appetite stimulant in rats, which could help patients undergoing chemotherapy.
- Showing major promise for inflammation, including of the skin. A 2007 study looked at CBG's ability to treat eczema and psoriasis, and as mentioned, it may help reduce the inflammation caused by IBD.
The human body’s built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS) works to keep the body in its balanced state of homeostasis. While there are specific details about how cannabinoids work, in general the endocannabinoid system performs different functions specific to each area of the body. For example, at an injury site, the ECS can help regulate immune cells to limit inflammation.
CBG has been found to act on very specific physiological systems and problems, and results for medicinal use are promising:
- Endocannabinoid receptors are prevalent in eye structures, and interestingly, CBG is thought to be particularly effective in treating glaucoma because it reduces intraocular pressure. It is a powerful vasodilator and has neuroprotective effects to boot.
- In animal experiments involving mice, CBG was found to be effective in decreasing the inflammation characteristic of inflammatory bowel disease.
- In a recent 2015 study, CBG was shown to protect neurons in mice with Huntington’s disease, which is characterized by nerve cell degeneration in the brain.
- CBG is showing great promise as a cancer fighter. Specifically, CBG was shown to block receptors that cause cancer cell growth. In one such study, it was shown to inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells in mice, thereby slowing colon cancer growth. CBG inhibited tumors and chemically-induced colon carcinogenesis, therefore demonstrating a very exciting possibility for a cure for colorectal cancer.
- European research shows evidence that CBG is an effective antibacterial agent, particularly against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) microbial strains resistant to several classes of drugs. Since the 1950s, topical formulations of cannabis have been effective in skin infections, but researchers at the time were unaware of the plant’s chemical composition.
- In a very recent 2017 study, researchers showed that a form of CBG purified to remove delta-9 THC was a very effective appetite stimulant in rats. This may lead to a novel non-psychotropic therapeutic option for cachexia, the muscle wasting and severe weight loss seen in late stage cancer and other diseases.
- In a study that looked at the effects of five different cannabinoids on bladder contractions, CBG tested best at inhibiting muscle contractions, so it may be a future tool in preventing bladder dysfunction disorders.
Scientists are excited about these initial CBG results and are promoting future research with CBG alone or CBG in combination with other cannabinoids and therapies for the treatment of multiple maladies. Because it is non-psychotropic, CBG has a promising wide range of potential applications not only for the problems mentioned above, but also as an analgesic, therapy for psoriasis, and as an antidepressant.