>Another Promising Cannabinoid: CBG’s Benefits & How It Differs From CBD
Another Promising Cannabinoid: CBG’s Benefits & How It Differs From CBD
Phytocannabinoids have been used medicinally for thousands of years.
Published June 6, 2021
Updated June 24, 2021
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Their use for the treatment of malaria, arthritis, and menstrual pain was first documented around 2800 B.C. in traditional Chinese medicine 1 Iversen, L. (2008) The Science of Marijuana (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. . It is now known that cannabinoids can act as anti-inflammatories, help to block painful stimuli, and play a role in the control of cell survival, particularly in the brain 2 Guzmán, M., Sánchez, C. & Galve-Roperh, I. (2002) Cannabinoids and cell fate. Pharmacol Ther 95:175–184. 3 Pertwee, R. G. (2008) The diverse CB 1 and CB 2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. Br J Pharmacol 153:199–215. .
In addition to the well-known components of the cannabis plant, CBD and THC, research has identified the presence of approximately 100 other cannabinoids, most of which are non-psychotropic 4 Turner, S. E., Williams, C. M., Iversen, L. & Whalley, B. J. (2017) Molecular Pharmacology of Phytocannabinoids. Prog Chem Org Nat Prod 103:61–101. . Another promising cannabinoid that has recently gathered attention in therapeutic circles is cannabigerol (CBG). So, what is CBG? What are its benefits and how does it differ from other well-studied cannabinoids like CBD?
CBD & CBG: The Basics
The majority of cannabis research conducted thus far has focused on the two most abundant constituents of the hemp plant: THC and CBD. These are the components that show up most often in popular culture and have generated a great deal of buzz in the past decade. CBD has proven effective in animal models of neurodegeneration and mental health disorders. Clinical trials have confirmed the benefits of CBD in the mitigation of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease 5 Iuvone, T., Esposito, G., De Filippis, D., Scuderi, C. & Steardo, L. (2009) Cannabidiol: A promising drug for neurodegenerative disorders? CNS Neurosci Ther 15:65–75. .
Among the other 100 or so identified cannabinoids, CBG has garnered recent scientific interest. Not to be confused with CBD, CBG is known to act uniquely on serotonin receptors in the brain 6 Cascio, M. G., Gauson, L. A., Stevenson, L. A., Ross, R. A. & Pertwee, R. G. (2010) Evidence that the plant cannabinoid cannabigerol is a highly potent α 2-adrenoceptor agonist and moderately potent 5HT 1A receptor antagonist. Br J Pharmacol 159:129–141. . CBG possesses antibacterial and antitumoral properties and may serve as a treatment for glaucoma 7 Colasanti, B. K. (1990) A Comparison of the Ocular and Central Effects of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabigerol. J Ocul Pharmacol 6:259–269. 8 Baek, S. H., Kim, Y. O., Kwag, J. S., Choi, K. E., Jung, W. Y. & Han, D. S. (1998) Boron trifluoride etherate on silica-A modified Lewis acid reagent (VII). Antitumor activity of cannabigerol against human oral epitheloid carcinoma cells. Arch Pharm Res 21:353–356. 9 Appendino, G., Gibbons, S., Giana, A., Pagani, A., Grassi, G., Stavri, M., Smith, E. & Rahman, M. M. (2008) Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: A structure-activity study. J Nat Prod 71:1427–1430. .
CBG’s Beneficial Properties
In addition to its influence on human serotonin receptors, it has been established that CBG is a potent adrenoceptor agonist. This is intriguing since no other cannabinoid is known to behave this way in the brain, and this mechanism could be beneficial for pain relief 6 Cascio, M. G., Gauson, L. A., Stevenson, L. A., Ross, R. A. & Pertwee, R. G. (2010) Evidence that the plant cannabinoid cannabigerol is a highly potent α 2-adrenoceptor agonist and moderately potent 5HT 1A receptor antagonist. Br J Pharmacol 159:129–141. .
It was recently found that a chemical similar to CBG produced neuroprotective effects (protecting nerve cells from damage) and slowed the death of neurons in a mouse model of Huntington’s disease 12 Díaz-Alonso, J., Paraíso-Luna, J., Navarrete, C., Del Río, C., Cantarero, I., Palomares, B., Aguareles, J., Fernández-Ruiz, J., Bellido, M. L., Pollastro, F., Appendino, G., Calzado, M. A., Galve-Roperh, I. & Muñoz, E. (2016) VCE-003.2, a novel cannabigerol derivative, enhances neuronal progenitor cell survival and alleviates symptomatology in murine models of Huntington’s disease. Sci Rep 6:1–15. .
Studies have unveiled the antidepressant and antihypertensive properties of CBG 13 Russo, E. B. (2011) Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol 163:1344–1364. . CBG oil has also proven effective against breast cancer and reducing intestinal inflammation 14 Ligresti, A., Moriello, A. S., Starowicz, K., Matias, I., Pisanti, S., De Petrocellis, L., Laezza, C., Portella, G., Bifulco, M. & Di Marzo, V. (2006) Antitumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 318:1375–1387. 15 Beaugerie, L. (2012) Inflammatory bowel disease therapies and cancer risk: Where are we and where are we going? Gut 61:476–483. .
Unlike CBD, which acts predominantly via indirect interactions with the endocannabinoid system, CBG is known to bring on some of its therapeutic benefits through direct, albeit relatively weak, interaction with the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the brain 16 Borrelli, F., Pagano, E., Romano, B., Panzera, S., Maiello, F., Coppola, D., De Petrocellis, L., Buono, L., Orlando, P., Izzo, A. A. (2014) Colon carcinogenesis is inhibited by the TRPM8 antagonist cannabigerol, a Cannabis-derived non-psychotropic cannabinoid. Carcinogenesis 35:2787–2797. .
The Drawbacks of CBG
Although research into the therapeutic effects of CBG is in its preliminary stages, CBG certainly has the potential to become popular and effective in the world of medicinal cannabis. However, significant limitations surround its production. CBG is known to be one of the most expensive cannabinoids to produce, earning it the title “the Rolls Royce of cannabinoids.”
In short, most cannabis plants contain negligible percentages of CBG, meaning cultivators have to extract significantly more biomass to obtain useable concentrations of the cannabinoid. CBG extraction also requires specialized high-performance chromatography production equipment. Pure CBG oil is available to purchase from licensed cannabis distributors in Canada, ranging from $80–100 per 1,000mg.
CBD: Tried & True
Unlike CBG, the therapeutic properties of CBD have been extensively researched in recent years. . Interestingly, CBD has also been reported as neuroprotective in several preclinical and clinical studies associated with neurodegenerative disease 20 Campos, A. C., Fogaça, M. V., Sonego, A. B. & Guimarães, F. S. (2016) Cannabidiol, neuroprotection and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pharmacol Res 112:119–127. .
CBD and CBG share the biochemical similarity of a generally low affinity to the endogenous cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The specifics of cannabinoid molecular targets in the brain are complex and murky, but CBD and CBG are known to exhibit independence from one another in how they influence neurological receptors, transporters, and systems.
CBD Extraction & Uses
CBD is typically extracted from the hemp plant using solvents such as hexane. However, the use of solvents for cannabinoid extraction is becoming increasingly restricted due to environmental and toxicological risks. Recently, supercritical carbon dioxide has been selected as a widely available, recyclable, and non-toxic alternative to solvent extraction of CBD 21 Attard, T. M., Bainier, C., Reinaud, M., Lanot, A., McQueen-Mason, S. J. & Hunt, A. J. (2018) Utilisation of supercritical fluids for the effective extraction of waxes and Cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp wastes. Ind Crops Prod 112:38–46. .
An array of CBD products are available on the market today in many different forms. CBD can be ingested orally and sublingually, applied as a topical cream or oil, and inhaled. Based on its safety and efficacy, CBD oil is one of the premier therapeutic cannabis products on the market today.
CBG vs CBD: Take-Home Message
As the stigma surrounding cannabis and its derivatives is slowly dismantled, the expanse of their beneficial properties continues to be revealed. Based on the current research, CBD has proven safe and effective for a wide array of conditions 22 White, C. M. (2019) A Review of Human Studies Assessing Cannabidiol’s (CBD) Therapeutic Actions and Potential. J Clin Pharmacol 59:923–934. .
Although CBG is only now emerging as a therapeutic candidate and further research needs to be conducted, it is evident from existing studies that CBG has the potential to be unique and targeted, particularly for neurological conditions 23 Echeverry, C., Prunell, G., Narbondo, C., de Medina, V. S., Nadal, X., Reyes-Parada, M. & Scorza, C. (2020) A Comparative In Vitro Study of the Neuroprotective Effect Induced by Cannabidiol, Cannabigerol, and Their Respective Acid Forms: Relevance of the 5-HT1A Receptors. Neurotox Res 39:335–348. .
Ultimately, both CBD and CBG can be efficacious therapeutic options. It is also possible that using CBD and CBG together can promote the entourage effect. This is the idea that the synergistic relationships between some cannabinoids can enhance their advantageous effects when administered simultaneously.
There are always risks associated with using medicines that haven’t been widely studied, so make sure to consult your physician before trying CBG or any other cannabinoid.
Adam Ravalia is a researcher and science writer with a passion for neuroscience, the environment, and mental health. A native of Newfoundland and Labrador, now residing in British Columbia, Canada, Adam is an avid outdoors person, yogi, and musician. He holds a B.Sc. in neuroscience and a M.Sc. in Medicine from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Adam is a true believer in the healing powering of natural and plant-based therapeutics such as cannabis and psychedelics. He hopes to harness this belief and help empower people who are suffering to seek natural therapeutic treatments.