By now, most people are familiar with cannabis have heard of THC and CBD and their effects. A lesser-known cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG), while not present in large quantities in most strains, is nonetheless worth learning about for a number of reasons.
CBG, also known as cannabigerol, is an active compound in cannabis that is mostly known for its anti-bacterial effects. However, very recent research has found that, whilst not traditionally though to be very prevalent within most cannabis strains, it is likely to be the “template” or “stem cell” for both THC and CBD. This means that both THC and CBD start out as CBG. CBG has also been found to inhibit the uptake of GABA, this causes a feeling of relaxation that is normally associated with CBD. These findings have spurred new ongoing research into the cannabinoid, meaning it may have even larger implications.
CBG is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it doesn’t produce the “highs” that are synonymous with THC. Because it is present in low levels (usually less than 1%) in most cannabis strains, CBG is considered a minor cannabinoid. Amazingly, however, THC and CBD start out as CBG—it’s the chemical parent of THC and CBD (Figure 1). Cannabis plants produce cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the precursor to the three main cannabinoid lines: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA).
CBG has been found to act on very specific physiological systems and problems, and results for medicinal use are promising:
- Endocannabinoid receptors are prevalent in eye structures, and interestingly, CBG is thought to be particularly effective in treating glaucoma because it reduces intraocular pressure. It is a powerful vasodilator and has neuroprotective effects to boot.
In animal experiments involving mice, CBG was found to be effective in decreasing the inflammation characteristic of inflammatory bowel disease.
- In a recent 2015 study, CBG was shown to protect neurons in mice with Huntington’s disease, which is characterized by nerve cell degeneration in the brain.
- CBG is showing great promise as a cancer fighter. Specifically, CBG was shown to block receptors that cause cancer cell growth. In one such study, it was shown to inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells in mice, thereby slowing colon cancer growth. CBG inhibited tumors and chemically-induced colon carcinogenesis, therefore demonstrating a very exciting possibility for a cure for colorectal cancer.
- European research shows evidence that CBG is an effective antibacterial agent, particularly against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) microbial strains resistant to several classes of drugs. Since the 1950s, topical formulations of cannabis have been effective in skin infections, but researchers at the time were unaware of the plant’s chemical composition.
In a very recent 2017 study, researchers showed that a form of CBG purified to remove delta-9 THC was a very effective appetite stimulant in rats. This may lead to a novel non-psychotropic therapeutic option for cachexia, the muscle wasting and severe weight loss seen in late stage cancer and other diseases.
- In a study that looked at the effects of five different cannabinoids on bladder contractions, CBG tested best at inhibiting muscle contractions, so it may be a future tool in preventing bladder dysfunction disorders.
It is worth noting that due to the fact that CBG is non-psychoactive, it is not considered an illegal substance in most countries, and can be grown in abundance in legal industrial hemp. In fact, it tends to be found in naturally higher concentrates within industrial hemp than it does in most strains of cannabis.