What Is CBG (Cannabigerol)?

CBG 101 Guide: The benefits of CBG in cannabis, its effects, and why it's known as "the mother of all cannabinoids."
Last Modified: February 07, 2019

CBG (cannabigerol) is one of the minor compounds found in marijuana. “Minor” means it’s not present in large concentrations. Research is showing that despite its small amounts, CBG still plays a big part in how marijuana affects those who consume it.

What is CBG?

CBG is a cannabinoid, meaning that it’s one of the active ingredients in the cannabis plant. Marijuana has over a hundred cannabinoids, and each has a specific effect on the human brain and body.

Depending on whether someone consumes THC, CBD, CBC, CBN, or CBG, cannabinoid effects can range from a happy euphoria and relaxation to anxiety and lightheadedness. Except for THC and CBD, it’s hard to consume the other cannabinoids in high percentages, and this is because of the way they’re produced within the marijuana plant.


How Is CBG Produced?

CBG starts out as CBGA, also known as cannabigerolic acid. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to CBG; cannabinoids all begin their lives as acidic compounds. THC begins as THCA, CBD begins as CBDA, and so on.

These cannabinoids lose their “A’s” through a process known as decarboxylation, which happens whenever cannabis is heated. Common decarboxylation methods include lighting marijuana before smoking it or baking it in the oven before using it for edibles. This removes the carboxylic acid from the molecule, turning CBGA into CBG.

Decarboxylation transforms the cannabinoids into their pharmacologically-active forms. THCA, for example, can’t create a euphoric high like THC does. Because most of the research has focused on the activated versions of cannabinoids, it’s unclear whether minor cannabinoids like CBGA must be decarboxylated in order to make the most of their effects.

CBGA: The Origin of Many Cannabinoids

To understand CBG’s full importance, you’d have to go back even further in the life of a cannabis plant. Without CBGA, none of the “big six” most widely-researched cannabinoids – THC, CBD, CBC, CBN, THCV, or CBG – would exist.

All of these cannabinoids start out as CBGA before they’re transformed by enzymes within the marijuana plant’s trichomes. As this reaction occurs, the CBGA synthesizes into THCA, CBDA, CBCA, and so on. During a typical flowering cycle, this process usually takes six to eight weeks.

There’s only so much CBGA in a plant, so if large amounts of it synthesize into THCA, this leaves a smaller amount to transform into other cannabinoids (or continue on as CBGA). This is why most marijuana strains are high in THC, but relatively low in all the other cannabinoids.

This process has earned CBG – or more accurately, CBGA – the nickname of “the Mother of All Cannabinoids.”


The Effects of CBG

Because CBG is present in such low concentrations in marijuana, it would be impossible for someone to smoke a particular strain and feel any specific effect that they could directly contribute to CBG. By isolating CBG and studying it on its own, however, scientists have been able to determine certain factors about how CBG affects people.

Non-intoxicating: It’s clear that CBG is non-intoxicating, similar to CBD. This can be confusing to people researching the benefits of CBG vs CBD, but the two cannabinoids bind with completely different receptors and work in entirely different ways.

Inhibits the high of THC: When THC creates an intoxicating high, it does so by binding with the CB1 receptors in the brain. CBG reduces the high created by THC by inhibiting the CB1 receptor, preventing THC from stimulating it as strongly.


The Medical Benefits of CBG

CBG’s ability to counteract the psychotropic effects of THC, in addition to the way it works when used by itself, make it a potentially promising treatment for a wide variety of medical disorders.

Anxiety and Depression

As discussed above, CBG acts as a CB1 antagonist, helping prevent some of the high (and associated anxiety) created by THC. It may also boost levels of anandamide, a natural “bliss molecule” found in the brain that regulates things such as appetite, sleep, and mood. It’s likely that CBG helps block serotonin receptors, making it a potentially useful antidepressant. CBG also works as a GABA uptake inhibitor, meaning that it may help reduce anxiety and relax muscle tension.

Glaucoma

For years, patients have used THC-rich marijuana to treat their glaucoma, but what effect does CBG have on the disease? Studies have shown that cannabigerol, as well as other cannabinoids, works well to reduce intra-ocular pressure when given both topically and systemically. While the amount of CBG in most marijuana strains may not be high enough to have an individual effect, this serves to boost the “entourage effect” theory that suggests that cannabinoids can work together towards a common purpose.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Over the years, there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence from patients saying that cannabis helped calm their inflammatory bowel disease. A 2013 study helped to back up these experiences with evidence. It found that CBG helped lower bowel inflammation in mice. The CBG was so effective that the researchers recommended it for clinical experimentation in human IBD patients.

A 2018 study from scientists at the University of Bath provided even more support when it found that marijuana-based cannabinoids mimic the body’s natural endocannabinoids that help turn off the gut inflammation response. While doctors have yet to rubber stamp cannabis as an IBD cure, these results are promising when it comes to using cannabinoids like CBG as a treatment for the disease.

Neuroprotective agent

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes the nerve cells within the brain to break down over time. In 2015, scientists investigated whether cannabigerol could help protect brain cells in people struggling with the disease. Studies on rats showed that CBG has neuroprotective properties, and although further research is needed to learn how it may be used by itself or combined with other therapies, this has opened the door for CBD as a possible treatment for this devastating disease.

Cancer

Scientists have been looking into whether many individual cannabinoids have anti-tumor properties, and CBG is no exception. In a 2014 study on colorectal cancer in mice, researchers found that CBG can help inhibit carcinogenesis (the formation of new cancer cells). What this means for treatments outside of the laboratory remains to be seen, but the results are promising.

Antibacterial

With antibiotic resistance becoming a huge problem across the globe, scientists have started investigating alternatives to traditional medications used to kill bacterial infections. In one study, they looked at the antibacterial effects of cannabigerol (CBG), in addition to cannabichromene (CBC), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabinol (CBN). All five cannabinoids showed potent activity against MRSA strains of bacteria, although researchers were not able to determine their mechanism of activity.

Appetite stimulation

THC has long been known to be an appetite stimulant, which is why marijuana makes such an effective treatment for people losing weight due to AIDS or side effects from chemotherapy. Researchers found, however, that even when they removed the THC from marijuana, it still successfully stimulated the appetite of the rats they were studying. Their theory is that CBG within cannabis helps increase appetite – and without any of the unwanted psychotropic effects caused by THC.

Bladder Disorders

In 2015, scientists decided to investigate anecdotal claims that cannabis was useful for people with bladder dysfunctions. One study found that along with other cannabinoids, CBG was helpful in decreasing bladder contractions in mice, as well as in the human bladder.


CBG FAQ

What is CBG?

CBG, also known as cannabigerol, is a cannabinoid – an active ingredient in cannabis. Along with the other 100+ cannabinoids, it helps create marijuana’s signature effects and health benefits. CBG is present in marijuana in very low concentrations, making it a “minor” cannabinoid.

Why is CBG called “the mother of all cannabinoids?”

The precursor to CBG is CBGA. Before a cannabis plant reaches maturity, its CBGA synthesizes and turns into THCA, CBDA, and the precursors to several other cannabinoids. Once those cannabinoids are decarboxylated, they turn into their better-known versions: THC, CBD, etc. Without CBGA, none of these cannabinoids could exist at all.

What are the effects of CBG?

Because it’s present in very small amounts compared to cannabinoid giants like THC and CBD, the CBG in most marijuana strains doesn’t create noticeable effects. Researchers believe that because it stimulates the production of natural endocannabinoids in the brain, CBG may lessen anxiety and elevate mood.

Does CBG get you high?

Not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: CBG works as an inhibitor to the CB1 receptor through which THC gets people high. This means that in addition to causing no psychotropic effects of its own, CBG may actually work to lessen the high that’s created by THC.

What are the medical benefits of CBG?

Like CBD, CBG can help boost the levels of natural chemicals in the brain, possibly making it useful as an anti-anxiety treatment and antidepressant. It helps reduce eye pressure in people with glaucoma and is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Doctors are looking into CBG as a neuroprotective agent for people with degenerative brain diseases such as Huntington’s disease, as well as potential tumor-inhibitor for certain kinds of breast cancer. It also kills bacteria, stimulates appetite, and decreases bladder contractions in people with bladder disorders.


Unlocking the Secrets of CBG

Because CBGA, the precursor to CBG, is the parent to many major cannabinoids, it’s the source of a great deal of the power packed inside of the cannabis plant. Apart from the fact that its precursor synthesizes into other cannabinoids, scientists are still learning about CBG’s many effects that make it a powerful cannabinoid in its own right. Further study will help reveal the mechanisms through which CBG (cannabigerol) works and what this means for recreational and medical marijuana users around the world.


Category Pages:Related Categories:
  • Cannabis 101 - Information about cannabis life, culture, and consumption methods.
  • Cannabis Types - A guide to the different types of marijuana: sativa, indica, hybrids, hemp, and ruderalis.
  • Concentrates & Extracts - An exploration of cannabis concentrates & extracts from BHO and beyond.
  • Cannabis & Health - A guide to the many benefits of marijuana, including medical and general health uses.

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