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Cannabinoids 101: What is CBG?

As of late, the most famous cannabinoids, CBD and THC, have gained much media attention. However, it is only a matter of time before their chemical counterparts fascinate the medical world. There are a range of cannabinoids within the cannabis plant. But many other phytocannabinoids such as CBG are less well known. 

This article takes a look at the rising star of the cannabinoid scene, CBG. But first, we need to make sure we understand what exactly a cannabinoid is.

Macro photo of trichomes on a cannabis plant.

What exactly is a Cannabinoid?

A Cannabinoid is a chemical found in the Cannabis plant. These are made in structures called glandular trichomes, a special kind of hair that makes up a large part of plant chemistry. These are most concentrated in the flowers and leaves, but can be found throughout the plant. The most famous two cannabinoids are CBD and THC, but there are over 100 known cannabinoids. Cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body, which we all have! The two main receptors are CB1 and CB2, associated with the nervous system and inflammation respectively. 

What is CBG?

Cannabigerol, also known as CBG, is one of the many cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant. It’s acidic version, CBG-A, is essentially the precursor to many other cannabinoids. 

The raw cannabis plant actually does not contain cannabinoids such as CBG, CBD or THC. 

In fact, CBG-A (Cannabigerolic Acid) is found in cannabis. CBG-A is the acidic form of CBG, indicated by the suffix ‘-A’.  This cannabinoid maintains the plant’s general health and often is seen as the ‘mother’ of cannabinoids. 

During the extraction process, each acidic cannabinoid breaks down into its well-known form. For instance, CBG-A converts into CBG. This heating reaction is decarboxylation, a chemical process that ‘activates’ cannabinoids. The cannabinoid that is created is dependent on the enzyme that catalyses the reaction.

What does CBG do?

CBG is thought to directly interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, unlike CBD. These are part of the endocannabinoid system, and target various sections and functions of the body. This affects almost every biological function we have! 

Research on CBG is still preliminary, partly due to how expensive it is (which we shall discuss shortly). However, what we do currently know is that CBG is non-psychoactive, like CBD. This means that it doesn’t get you “high” like THC does. In-fact, some say that CBG can counteract the psychoactive effect of THC! 

Most studies at this stage are still being done on animals, meaning that their relevance to humans is unclear. In animal studies, CBG has shown promising results. However, Animal tests can be poor predictors of the human response. So, these must be read with a pinch of salt. These results display the need for further studies on CBG, as well as it’s promise!

The issue with producing CBG

Most strains available only have trace amounts of CBG, as it is much less abundant than CBD. Hemp is usually only 1% CBG and under! However, a current issue is that modern hemp has been bred to maximize CBD and THC. As these are made from converted CBG-A, more CBD or THC naturally means less CBG. 

Furthermore, the longer the plant grows, the more likely it’s CBG and CBG-A will have converted. This means that to produce large amounts, you must sacrifice your hemp crop early on before other cannabinoids are made. These low levels of CBG also mean that more specialized extraction methods are vital. Otherwise, even more plant material gets wasted! This means that high-performance chromatography equipment is essential, which is incredibly costly. So, CBG is currently one of the most expensive cannabinoids to produce and buy. Some have even described it as ”the Rolls Royce of cannabinoids”, costing around $30-50k per kilo!

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