What is Cannabigerol (Cannabinoid)?

What is CBG of Cannabigerol?

There are over a hundred distinct cannabinoids known to science, and many more are being discovered as cannabis research continues to expand. As new cannabis terms are introduced into our lexicon daily, you might have heard of a new one actively competing for its share of the spotlight alongside THC and CBD—CBG.

Cannabigerol, or CBG, has created an enormous amount of buzz in the cannabis industry over the past few years for its novel properties (more on that later) as well as the simple fact that it’s a new cannabinoid for consumers and medical users to try. In more mature markets, new blended products have been hitting the shelves that offer CBG and THC along with other minor cannabinoids that provide new experiences and new purported benefits.


Image from the “The Pharmacological Case for Cannabigerol” by Rahul Nachnani, Wesley M. Raup-Konsavage and Kent E. Vrana | Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics February 2021, 376 (2) 204-212. https://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/376/2/204


What is CBG?

One of the most interesting things about cannabigerol is that CBGA, CBG’s acidic form prior to decarboxylation, is the precursor molecule for the most abundant phytocannabinoids in both cannabis and hemp, namely THCA and CBDA (Nachnani et al., 2021). There’s a reason it’s become known as “the mother of all cannabinoids” – that’s because according to the molecular chemistry of cannabis, it actually is. CBG is also known as a “minor,” or “rare” cannabinoid, and it’s typically produced in much smaller quantities by even high-CBG cannabis strains when compared to high-THC or high-CBD plants. It wasn’t until relatively recently that this formerly mysterious cannabinoid, known previously only to scientists and extraction experts, became a hot topic for businesses. The compound’s obscurity is waning rapidly these days as the arms race between cannabis companies to offer new and distinct experiences to customers—especially in mature markets—is not about to let up any time soon.


There is still much to be discovered about CBG, but early scientific research indicates that it is one of the most promising new cannabinoids for medical purposes, with properties that may assist in a huge array of future therapies. Incredibly, according to the same article cited earlier, CBG may become medically useful for everything from neurological disorders like Huntington’s Disease, to multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons, as well as for its antibacterial properties, which help patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Here, as elsewhere, research is ongoing; CBG is promising but still largely untested. Another study on three synthetic CBG derivatives (HUM-223, HUM-233, and HUM-234, which are known as maleic acid salts) showed that these compounds had analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects (Kogan et al., 2021). This same study demonstrated that HUM-234 also specifically prevented obesity in field mice fed a high-fat diet. This suggests that CBG may even be useful in creating derivatives that help obesity treatments—imagine that! Even though almost no businesses in the commercial cannabis industry will be seeking something as specific as HUM-234 ratioed with other cannabinoids, we can be sure that the use of plant-derived CBG will unfold into all kinds of different medicinal and recreational applications.


What many purchasers care about at the end of the day are the effects of any given hemp or cannabis product they are consuming, and CBG offers a wide spectrum of possible effects. While CBG is known as a non-psychotropic cannabinoid (meaning it doesn’t get you “high” in the way that THC does), it does activate with what the Kogan study calls the “classic” CB1 and CBR2 cannabinoid receptors in our brain (Kogan et al., 2021). Anecdotally, numerous people do in fact report a stronger effect from CBG compared to CBD isolate-based products, which has certainly helped fuel demand. There are numerous articles on the internet which claim that CBG is the perfect remedy for everything under the sun from energy enhancement to sleep to appetite stimulation, but businesses and prospective customers should be cautious when making or believing such broad-stroke effect-based assumptions word for word. Every person will experience CBG differently, especially when it is blended with other cannabinoids or taken in certain mood-stimulating settings. What this means is that businesses should be cautious about diving into effect marketing for CBG, and they would be wise to keep their messaging high level.


Image source: Big Sky Extracts, Instagram (@montanabigskyextracts)


While we’ve made this point in other articles, it’s worth remembering that hemp and cannabis are the same species of plant but with different physical characteristics and legal distinctions. CBG can ultimately be derived from either, but where the CBG you are using comes from dictates what you can do with it and where you can sell it. Legally speaking in the United States, hemp-derived CBG falls under the purview of the 2018 Farm Bill, which categorizes it alongside other primarily hemp-derived, non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN. While non-psychoactive, hemp-derived cannabinoids can be distributed more freely than their cannabis-derived counterparts, this doesn’t mean that businesses can just make any CBG-based SKU and sell it across state lines. In order to be compliant, any hemp-derived product containing CBG still has to contain no more than 0.3% THC. In most cases, CBG is decarboxylated for use in edibles and tinctures, but even raw high-CBG flower is for sale now, too. These products all meet the THC limit requirement. While not as prevalent yet as CBD, new CBG online stores that are virtual clones of their CBD-focused counterparts are popping up everywhere. This is creating major opportunities for businesses to use CBG in a variety of ways, especially in markets where THC can be legally sold medically or recreationally. As we’ll soon discover, smart businesses are already adding CBG distillate with THC into everything from gummies to beverages, and many cultivators are working hard to get their hands on high-CBG strains to offer traditional dry flower or dabbable concentrates with test results indicating high CBG content.


How CBG is Produced

While cannabis and hemp plants are capable of producing many different cannabinoids throughout their life cycles, CBG is in fact a metabolic precursor to all other major cannabinoids, although different cannabis and hemp strains end up with variable final concentrations after maturation of CBG itself. Anecdotally, younger flowering plants may contain higher amounts compared to ones further along in maturity. At present, most commercially-available CBG-infused products are primarily made from hemp, starting with crude CBG oil which is then refined via the process of distillation.

CBG crystals forming in a Lab Society Flask. Image source: Elite CS Labs, Instagram (@elitecslabs)


A handful of the most popular high-CBG hemp strains available for purchase by farmers today are Jack Frost, John Snow, Sour G, Lemon Cream Diesel, and White Widow—but don’t get them confused with their high-THC counterparts that many readers will be familiar with. Seeds for many of these hemp strains and others with purportedly high CBG levels are available online from multiple retailers, but their top-tier cannabis cousins, which are high in CBG, THC, and other cannabinoids, tend to be a lot harder to acquire. This is because the process of pheno-hunting high-CBG strains (the process of selectively breeding plants then testing them for specific physical traits and/or chemical production) is expensive and time consuming and once a winning mother plant has been established, it is rarely shared. Beyond processing high-CBG cannabis plants, in order to get the purest possible CBG oil, distilling crude CBG from hemp is the method of choice for many extractors. Very few if any cannabis or hemp strains produce CBG at the same levels as CBD or THC, which means even more thorough processing is typically required to create a high quality end product.


For businesses that intend to pursue crude CBG production, ethanol extraction is often used for its massive hemp processing throughput. This is a very challenging part of the market to operate in for newcomers unless they have significant investment behind them. Many existing small and mid-scale CBD ethanol extractors, for example, were largely wiped out of the market in the past two years as massively-scaled, highly-efficient competitors entered the space with building-sized ethanol extraction machinery. Some of these gigantic operations are powered by Precision Extraction’s equipment. Many top-output ethanol systems are prohibitively expensive for hemp companies and tend to have very large footprints that demand a lo