Understanding Cannabinoids: Cannabigerol
Of the more than 100 special medicinal molecules produced by the hemp and cannabis plants called cannabinoids, few are as unique or important as cannabigerol (CBG). Unlike it’s infamous sibling tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBG produces no psychoactive effect, but delivers a wealth of wellness and other benefits. In addition, it plays a special role in the production of a variety of sibling cannabinoids.
Like other “minor” cannabinoids, CBG is found in relatively low quantities in most cultivars (strains) of cannabis and hemp (typically below 1 percent). Despite its low volumes, this cannabinoid is very common. The importance of CBG is rooted in the fact that it is the genesis, or source, for many other cannabinoids—including the most popular variants, cannabidiol (CBD) and THC.
Mother of Cannabinoids
Molecules often develop and morph from one form to another based on exposure to environmental elements such as heat, oxygen, and light. All cannabinoids evolve from something called an acidic precursor that can be considered the larval form of the active cannabinoid that results.
The acidic precursor to CBG, CBGA (sometimes denoted as CBG-A or CBGa), is even more important than CBG. This is because it is the source of the acidic precursors of other critical cannabinoids, including those for CBD (CBDA), THC (THCA), and cannabichromene (CBC; cannabichromenic acid, or CBCA).
For example, CBGA converts to CBCA, which in turn yields CBC after exposure to ultraviolet light or heat. If not for CBGA and resulting CBG, molecules such as CBD and THC would not exist.
Like many other cannabinoids, CBG provides a variety of medical benefits to users. It has been found, through both formal research studies and anecdotal evidence, to deliver anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-cancer, and antibacterial benefits.
The efficacy of this cannabinoid includes reductions of intraocular pressure, a benefit to glaucoma sufferers. In animal studies, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBG have been found to improve inflammatory bowel disease. Other studies have indicated that CBG may be a viable treatment for colon cancer. Unlike some cannabinoids, which cause cancer cells to experience a process called apoptosis (in which the rogue cells kill themselves), CBG instead may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. In addition, this cannabinoid has been found to act as an appetite stimulant, making it of value to those suffering wasting syndromes like HIV and varieties of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s.
A 2017 research study involving mice entitled “Beneficial Effect of the Non-psychotropic Plant Cannabinoid Cannabigerol on Experimental Inflammatory Bowel Disease” that was published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology investigated how CBG might help those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The study’s authors concluded, “CBG could be considered for clinical experimentation in IBD patients.”
A 2016 research study entitled “Cannabigerol is a Novel, Well-tolerated Appetite Stimulant” that was published in the journal Psychopharmacology investigated the ability of CBG to stimulate appetite (hyperphagia). The study identified the safety profile of CBG, reporting that it conveyed “no adverse effects on any parameter in the neuromotor tolerability test battery.”
Concluded the study’s authors, “We demonstrate for the first time that CBG elicits hyperphagia, by reducing latency to feed and increasing meal frequency, without producing negative neuromotor side effects.” The study recommended “investigation of the therapeutic potential of CBG for conditions such as cachexia and other disorders of eating and body weight regulation.”
A 2015 research study entitled “Neuroprotective Properties of Cannabigerol in Huntington’s Disease” published in the journal Neurotherapeutics investigated the ability of CBG to help in the fight against Huntington’s disease (HD), a condition involving “a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure,” according to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.
The study’s authors concluded, “our results open new research avenues for the use of CBG, alone or in combination with other phytocannabinoids or therapies, for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as HD.”
A 2008 study entitled “Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis Sativa: A Structure-activity Study” that was published in the Journal of Natural Products researched the antibacterial role of several cannabinoids, including CBG, cannabichromene (CBC), THC, and cannabinol (CBN). The study tested these cannabinoids against “a variety of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) [virus] strains.”
While the researchers found clear and potent antibacterial benefits derived from these cannabinoids, it also failed to determine the exact mechanism by which this antibacterial activity occurs. Concluded the study’s authors, “[the cannabinoids’] high potency definitely suggests a specific, but yet elusive, mechanism of activity.”
A 1990 study entitled “A Comparison of the Ocular and Central Effects of Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabigerol” that was published in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology sought more information regarding the role of cannabinoids such as THC and CBG in reducing the ocular pressure involved in glaucoma (which in severe cases can result in blindness).
The study’s authors found that both CBG and THC “produced a two to three fold increase in aqueous outflow facility” and concluded, “These results suggest that cannabigerol and related cannabinoids may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of glaucoma.”