Is CBG the Next CBD? Here's What You Should Know

Plus a clear breakdown of the differences between CBD, THC, and CBG. 

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Chances are, you know at least a little something about CBD. This chemical substance—derived from cannabis plants—is a type of cannabinoid that has a range of possible health-promoting effects. Some CBD gummies, lotions, or oils may even be in your bathroom drawer right now.

But you might be less familiar with another cannabinoid, called CBG (short for cannabigerol). Like CBD, this substance is thought to provide healing benefits without altering mood or perception. Most cannabis plants only contain trace amounts of CBG—about 1 percent. But its properties are garnering attention from health professionals and consumers regardless.

To better understand CBG and how it differs from CBD, we spoke with Matthew L. Mintz, MD, FACP, an internist and primary care physician practicing in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also a clinical associate professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine.

What Is CBG, Exactly?

To begin, the term cannabinoid refers to substances that interact with cannabinoid receptors in the human body. Cannabinoids and their receptors are part of our body's system to help regulate a variety of normal functions, including pain, appetite, and inflammation. This system is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The human body makes its own cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids). "The body has been doing this for 600 million years,” Dr. Mintz says. The two main cannabinoid receptors in the body are CB1 and CB2, the former more associated with the nervous system and the latter more associated with inflammation.

The cannabis plant also produces cannabinoids. “The cannabis plant has only been around for 30 million years but contains hundreds of substances that have biological activities," says Dr. Mintz. "That includes many plant-based cannabinoids, which are called phytocannabinoids.”

The two phytocannabinoids that people are most familiar with are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“Essentially, plant-based CBD and THC affect the human body by interacting with our CB1 and CB2 receptors," Dr. Mintz says. "In addition to CBD and THC, there are several other phytocannabinoids, and they are all derived from a parent cannabinoid called cannabigerolic acid (CBGA).”

CBGA is the precursor to the acidic forms of THC and CBD (called THCA and CBDA). With heat and time, THCA and CBDA get converted to THC and CBD. Both acid and non-acidic (or neutral) cannabinoids have effects on the body. CBG is the non-acidic form of CBGA, and similarly gets converted with time and heat.

Differences Between THC, CBD, and CBG

Here's the main, important difference between CBD and THC: While THC can make you high, CBD has no psychoactive effects. “The majority of research on CBD by itself has been focused on preventing seizures, and the FDA has recently approved a pharmaceutical-grade CBD for use in severe seizures in children. However, some research shows that CBD can be beneficial for anxiety and inflammation, and may even have anti-cancer properties,” explains Dr. Mintz.

CBG is similar to CBD in that it also is non-psychoactive. There is very little research into the effects of CBG on humans. Still, interest is growing. It's thought that different non-psychoactive cannabinoids may have many distinct clinical uses.

Potential Benefits of CBG

“Animal studies have shown that CBG stimulates receptors involved in pain and heat sensation. It can also stimulate the receptors in the brain and blood vessels that are involved in blood pressure regulation,” says Dr. Mintz. “Thus, CBG might have a role in blood pressure regulation and pain. CBG may have some anti-inflammatory properties as well."

Of course, all of these effects are also seen with CBD, so it’s unclear whether or not CBG has any differentiating properties. But there are hints of some future promise.

“In regards to specific diseases, there are two animal studies showing that CBG may be beneficial in inflammatory bowel disease (like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) and Huntington's disease (an incurable brain disease). Test tube studies have also shown CBG to have anti-bacterial properties and may prevent colon cancer,” he adds.

And CBG may increase dopamine levels as well as support sleep and appetite regulation. CBG has also shown support for the treatment of glaucoma, colon cancer, and MRSA. But more research and clinical studies need to occur before drawing any major conclusions.

So what is next for the CBD industry?

"We hope to see the industry grow with a mindset for increased access, equity, inclusion, and integrity," says Gabe Kennedy, the co-founder of Plant People. "And we'd like to see investment in regenerative practices, treating people and the planet with respect. CBD is only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of cannabinoids yet to be explored, understood, and utilized."

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