Cannabis is an extremely complex plant and contains many cannabinoids other than THC and CBD. Cannabigerol (CBG)—a non-psychoactive cannabinoid which can help treat various illnesses—is one of them, and is gaining much popularity due to its medicinal value. CBG has fascinating medicinal properties, but what really makes it unique is its ability to mutate into THC, CBD or cannabichromene (CBC) under the right conditions.
CBG is the great unknown of the cannabis plant, not only because it is found in tiny quantities (less than 0.5%) but because the current restrictive legislation does not leave much room for research beyond THC and CBD. CBG is the first cannabinoid to form in the plant. It is therefore thought of as the "cannabis stem cell" or the "father of all cannabinoids", since it is essential to the creation of THC and cannabidiol (CBD) (the two most abundant cannabinoids).
CBG is the non-acidic form of CBGA, the original molecule from which various cannabinoids are produced. By the time a cannabis plant has reached fully maturity most of its CBG has turned into CBGA, which in turn later transforms into THC, CBD and other cannabinoids found in smaller quantities. CBG is just a short stopping-off point on the way to producing other cannabinoids and therefore disappears.
The somewhat limited research available suggests that CBG works in synergy with other cannabinoids to balance the effects of cannabis. CBG is also thought to modulate the psychoactive effects associated with THC so that the user remains fully functional. In this sense, CBG has similar properties to CBD. In fact, CBG acts on the body's central nervous system without creating any psychoactive effects. As a result, users of this substance do not have to worry about any side effects.
Generally speaking, CBG has similar medicinal properties to CBD although some experts claim they are even more powerful. Several scientific studies have shown that CBG relieves pain, reduces the inflammation caused by some diseases such as Crohn's, induces sleep and relieves anxiety. CBG can also block serotonin receptors, suggesting that it may play an important role in treating depression.
CBG inhibits the growth of cancerous cells and helps to delay the progression of colon cancer. In addition, CBG could be a powerful ally in treating glaucoma given it reduces intraocular pressure and is an effective vasodilator. Similarly, over recent years CBG has been found to have extremely active neuroprotective properties, particularly with respect to Huntington's disease. These properties may be useful in treating many neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
Is CBG the new CBD?
CBG has recently gained much popularity owing to its array of medicinal properties. However, CBG has one unique feature that makes it doubly interesting: to obtain plants with high concentrations of CBG, care must be taken to prevent it from transforming into other cannabinoids. That is precisely what Hemp Trading has done. Together with the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spanish acronym UPV), this Spanish company has developed the first THC-free cannabis strain with high medical potential. The new variety is free of psychoactive components and has a high concentration of CBG, meaning it is completely legal.
The team has developed a strain that blocks some steps along the cannabinoid biosynthesis pathway to prevent the formation of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the illegal and psychoactive component of cannabis. Whereas cannabigerol (CBG) was previously found only in small amounts, its concentration in this new strain is increased. The UPV is one of only six Spanish bodies licensed to grow cannabis for scientific purposes. Not only was THC eliminated from cannabis during the research by this university, the concentration of CBG was increased to above 15%. The normal level is usually between 0.1 and 0.5%.
The development of such strains means that CBG can be obtained on an industrial scale, thus opening the door to large scale legal production and encouraging more research to evaluate its medicinal properties. What is more, the CBG extraction process requires less purification than in the case of CBD, another non-psychoactive medicinal component enjoying a surge in popularity. CBD-rich plants including hemp and marijuana contain a THC fraction that must be separated and discarded in the purification process. In these new strains, however, CBG is obtained in a pure form. That is, there are no other cannabinoids present, meaning it is guaranteed to be free of THC.
Developments in the United States
Oregon is another CBG mecca. The hemp market in this US state has been well established for several years, and with more than 7,000 acres planted in 2018 it is the third largest hemp industry in the USA after Montana and Colorado. The size and diversity of the Oregon hemp market has turned it into a hotbed of innovation that is turning all eyes to CBG as the next cannabis revolution.
One example of genetic research to create CBG-rich strains is being carried out by Oregon CBD. Over the last two years the company has been working on the first CBG-dominant varieties ready for seed production.
The company has developed what it calls "the first pure CBG Type 4 line," with a ratio of "100-1 CBG to THC,". Furthermore, "some individual varieties can go over 300-1." The Oregon CBG website highlights a strain registered under the name Stem Cell CBG "whose cannabinoid profile is 99.5% CBG". The product contains less than 0.3% THC, which is below federal limits.
Other North American companies including True Terpenes and Panacea Plant Sciences are developing CBG-rich cannabis plants which could produce this cannabinoid in concentrations up to 100%. Some sources also suggest that the British company GW Pharmaceuticals is studying this secondary cannabinoid more deeply using a line of plants which can produce pure CBG.
It makes commercial sense to bring products to market which contain just one cannabinoid and to broaden the CBG market to include non cannabis users. Moreover, it is a fantastic way to disseminate research and to educate the general public on the benefits of consuming medical marijuana.
The medical cannabis industry is changing to make room for these varieties and we will see a greater interest in CBG-based products in the short term, given cannabis users are also evolving and honing in on how this plant can help them get the most out of their lives.