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

By Betty Gold
August 28, 2019
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By now, most of us are fairly familiar with the trendiest new ingredient on the block, cannabidiol (aka CBD). But cannabigerol (CBG) is another interesting non-psychoactive cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant. Most cannabis genetics only contain trace amounts of CBG—about 1%—but its properties are garnering attention from health professionals and consumers regardless. 

To help us 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, Md. He is also a clinical associate professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine.

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What Is CBG, Exactly?

“In order to discuss CBG and the differences between CBD and CBG, it is important to understand some basic terms,” explains Dr. Mintz. To begin, the term "cannabinoid" refers to substances that interact with cannabinoid receptors in the human body. The two main cannabinoid receptors in the body are CB1 and CB2, the former being more associated with the nervous system and the latter more associated with inflammation. Cannabinoids and their receptors are part of our own body's systems of helping regulate a variety of normal functions including pain, appetite, and inflammation. This system is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

“Our body makes its own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and has been doing so for over 600 million years,” Dr. Mintz says. “The two main ones are Anandamide and2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The cannabis plant has only been around for 30 million years, but contains hundreds of substances that have biological activities, including many plant-based cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids).”

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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. 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 the 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. As mentioned, in most cannabis plants, there is actually very little CBG—usually less than 1 percent.

Differences Between THC, CBD, and CBG

The main difference between CBD and THC is that 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, there is also some research in humans that shows that CBD can be beneficial for anxiety and inflammation, and may even have anti-cancer properties,” explains Dr. Mintz.

CBG, on the other hand, is similar to CBD in that it also is non-psychoactive. There is very little research into the effects of CBG on humans, though interest is growing as it is 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 and can also stimulate a2-adrenergic receptors in the brain and blood vessels, which 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, which again is produced by the plant in much lower quantities, has any differentiating properties.

“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 prevent colon cancer,” he adds.

In addition, according to may increase dopamine levels as well as support sleep and appetite regulation. CBG has also shown support for treatment with glaucomacancer, and MRSA

Clearly, though there is some information that indicates promising benefits of CBG, more research and clinical studies need to occur before drawing any major conclusions.

So what is next for the CBD industry? According to Gabe Kennedy, the co-founder of Plant People, "We hope to see the industry grow with a mindset for increased access, equity, inclusion and integrity; 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 for function." 

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