Hemp plants make over 67 unique cannabinoids — but most of the attention is on CBD and THC. Now, more research is coming to light about another cannabinoid called CBG.
Here’s what you need to know.
Most people have heard of the two dominant compounds in cannabis plants — THC and CBD.
But did you know there are dozens of related compounds with impressive benefits of their own?
Today, we’re going to be investigating CBG (cannabigerol) — a cannabinoid that’s becoming more popular in recent months.
We’ll cover what it is, what it’s used for, and why you should know about it.
Let’s begin by covering the best CBG products available to get you started.
CBG is short for cannabigerol. It’s often referred to as the “stem cell” of cannabinoids because it serves as the precursor molecule for CBD (cannabidiol), THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and CBC (cannabichromene).
This molecule begins to form in the hemp plant around weeks 3 and 4 of the flowering cycle. By week 6 CBG starts to convert into THC, CBD, or CBC as it’s exposed to UV light.
Some cannabis plants convert most of the CBG into THC (marijuana plants), others convert most of it to CBD (hemp plants). As the plants convert CBG into other cannabinoids, the total levels of CBG begin to drop. By the time it’s ready to harvest the plants, most cannabis contains less than 1% CBG.
Cannabis breeders can play around with the cannabinoid levels in their plants through selective breeding, or more advanced gene-editing techniques. Both methods have the same goal — to play around with the enzymes responsible for converting CBG to other cannabinoids.
If the breeder wants more CBD, they select strains that have more CBD-converting enzymes. The same goes for both THC and CBC as well.
Some breeders are even creating cannabis strains that knock out all of these enzymes completely — yielding much higher concentrations of CBG instead.
A simpler method to preserve CBG is to simply harvest the plants early (around the 6-week mark of an 8-week flower cycle) before they’ve had a chance to convert CBG to other cannabinoids.
Hemp plants have more of the CBD-converting enzymes and very few THC enzymes.
Research on the effects of CBG is still early, but there are already a variety of interesting studies involving this novel cannabinoid.
One of the driving factors behind the rising popularity of CBG products is their effect on anxiety. Some experts suggest CBG is even more reliable for managing anxiety than CBD.
The anti-anxiety effects of CBG rely on its ability to inhibit the reuptake and destruction of an important neurotransmitter known as GABA. Once a neurotransmitter is released, the neurons reabsorb it and begin to break it down. By blocking this effect, neurotransmitters like GABA increase in concentration around the neurons — producing a stronger relaxant effect.
GABA is the primary neuro-inhibitory compound in the brain. It’s tasked with controlling excessive electrical activity induced by stress and anxiety. GABA is also important for our parasympathetic nervous system — which is responsible for our “rest and digest” response.
Most of the anti-anxiety medications used today employ this same neurotransmitter — GABA. They work by reducing the reabsorption and destruction (just like CBG) or enhancing the binding activity of GABA directly. Drugs like Xanax and other benzodiazepines work through mechanisms like this to induce a sense of calmness and relaxation.
CBG itself is completely non-psychoactive. This means that no matter how much you take, it won’t make you feel high.
But it goes even one step further.
CBG not only doesn’t make you high, but it can also negate the psychoactivity of THC — which is the active compound responsible for the high induced when using marijuana.
THC makes us high by activating the CB1 receptors — which are one of the main endocannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system. Once activated, the CB1 receptors cause a cascade of neurotransmitter release, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It’s this influx of neurotransmitters — particularly serotonin — that causes changes in perception associated with the marijuana high.
THC also activates two specific serotonin receptors directly — known as 5HT1A and 5HT2A. Both receptors are directly involved with changes in perception, mood, and various other biological processes (such as heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature).
CBG has been shown to block many of the psychoactive effects of THC by binding and blocking the CB1 receptors as well as the 5HT1A serotonin receptors . This explains why marijuana strains that have been harvested too early (higher CBG levels) are far less potent than marijuana flowers that are allowed to ripen.
Some people are combining CBG extracts, or CBG-rich flower with marijuana to limit the psychoactive side effects.
The endocannabinoid system plays a critical role in the health of the eye. There’s a dense concentration of endocannabinoid receptors within the eye tissue, responsible for maintaining the health of this sensitive organ. This is one of the reasons why cannabis products are so effective for supporting eye conditions like glaucoma.
A Polish study published in 2008 clearly demonstrated that CBG was one of the primary powerhouses of cannabis providing a reduction in intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma .
It’s thought this ability to reduce intraocular pressure is a result of the potent vasodilator (blood-vessel dilating) effects of CBG.
This effect is important because other studies have shown that CBD itself isn’t an effective treatment for glaucoma — forcing patients to use psychoactive cannabis products instead. Many people using cannabis products aren’t interested in getting high and see this as a negative. Now, with CBG, patients may be able to get relief from glaucoma without the psychoactive side effects.
Several cannabinoids have been linked with increased cancer survival rates in the past. While a lot of this research has been focused on THC and CBD, other studies have been going on to investigate some of the novel cannabinoids like CBG as well — with promising results.
In 2014, a study looked at the anticancer potential of CBG for colon cancer cell lines (carcinoma). The study found that CBG inhibited the growth of colon cancer in mice .
Researchers in this study suggested that the primary anti-cancer benefit of CBG was a result of its ability to inhibit a receptor in our cells known as TRPM8 (Transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M). This receptor is commonly referred to as the “menthol receptor” because it’s used to produce the trigger “cooling” sensation of menthol.
TRPM8 is important because it’s involved in the growth, proliferation, and survival of certain cancer cell lines . Blocking this channel is one of the key areas of research for developing new anticancer medications.
Specifically, TRPM8 has been implicated in the following cancer types:
The colon cancer study also suggested CBG had an inhibitory effect on colon cancer through its potent anti-inflammatory effect profile specific to the colon. Studies have shown that chronic inflammation in the colon and the upper digestive tract was linked to the development of colon cancer .
There have been several studies looking at the antibacterial abilities of cannabis derivatives.
CBG, in particular, was found to work by reducing the permeability of the bacterial cell wall — effectively disrupting its ability to obtain nutrients to survive.
CBG essentially causes the bacteria to starve to death.
One of the most prominent health benefits of cannabis is its anti-inflammatory effects. While a lot of this activity is the result of CBD, other cannabinoids have also been shown to reduce inflammation in other ways.
CBG was recently shown to block a series of separate inflammatory channels in the body that are specific to inflammatory bowel disease in mice .
In the study, CBG had an inhibitory effect on inflammatory regulators including myeloperoxidase, iNOS expression, IL-1, IL-10, and interferon-γ.
CBG also reduced nitric oxide production in the macrophages and increased the production of superoxide dismutase — one of the key antioxidants produced by the body to defend against inflammation.
At the end of the study, the colon of the inflamed mice was weighed and found to have dramatically reduced in weight — which indicates a dramatic reduction of inflammation in the colon.
It’s common knowledge these days that marijuana gives you the munchies. While there’s a lot of humor around this effect in pop culture references, this also has some therapeutic benefits of its own.
People suffering from eating disorders, cachexia, or lack of appetite as a side effect of cancer therapies are all common reasons for using an appetite stimulant.
Studies involving CBD have found this popular cannabinoid not only lacks appetite-boosting effects, it actually has the opposite effect — reducing our appetite even further.
Recent studies have shown that CBG instead offers powerful appetite-stimulating activity. This gives patients looking to increase their food intake another option that doesn’t bring the psychoactive side effects of marijuana products.
Animal studies involving CBG found that mice dosed with CBG ate twice as much food as mice not given the cannabinoid .
CBG is the precursor for CBD, so it’s no surprise the two have a lot of similarities.
The hemp plant uses an enzyme known as CBDA synthase to alter the structure of CBG and convert it into CBD. During this process, the structure, and effect profile of the molecule changes.
Where it’s Most Abundant
Ripe Hemp Flowers
Premature (Early Harvest) Hemp Flowers & Specialty Strains
Effects on Appetite
Effects on Inflammation
↑↑↑ Anti-Inflammatory Effects
↑ Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Effects on Pain Inhibition
↑↑↑ Very Strong Pain Inhibition
↑ Mild Pain Inhibition
Cost per mg
$0.05 – $0.30 per milligram
$0.20 – $0.40 per milligram
Hard to Find
CBG products are controlled under the same laws as CBD.
The main distinction relies on whether the CBG product comes from hemp or marijuana plants.
As long as CBG products are made from hemp plants (less than 0.3% THC) they’re completely legal to buy and use. In Europe, the maximum amount of THC is slightly lower, at 0.2%, and in many parts of South America, this number is higher (1%). Some places mandate 0% THC for CBG or CBD products to remain legal.
For specific information on the legal status of hemp extracts check out our international guide to legal hemp products. We provide updated information on CBD, CBG, and hemp laws in countries around the world.
If you were to look for CBG products 5 years ago — you’d be completely out of luck. There were virtually no CBG products available on the market whatsoever until about mid-2019.
Today, there’s a growing number of reputable CBD companies now offering CBG versions of their products. You can find CBG flower (specially-bred hemp strains that contain high CBG concentrations), CBG tinctures, CBG extracts, and more.
Here are some of the best CBG products currently available.
For those of you who want to know the specific receptors CBG interacts with, here’s a summary of what the research has found so far:
CBG is the new kid on the block. There’s been a lot of attention around CBD in recent years, but little focus on the other cannabinoids. Researchers are now starting to focus on the effects of peripheral cannabinoids we’re seeing some very promising results.
Many companies are now producing CBG versions of their oils, capsules, and extracts thanks to the unique differences CBG has to conventional cannabinoids like CBD and THC. Selective breeding, early harvesting, and isolation of CBG are now becoming more common within the industry.
CBG is non-psychoactive and is often used to negate or reduce the psychoactive effects of THC products.
This cannabinoid has shown promising effects on fighting anxiety, promoting relaxation, supporting glaucoma and bacterial infection, and curbing inflammation (especially in the gut). CBG also has powerful appetite-stimulating effects.
Have you tried CBG? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.