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CBG vs. CBD: Properties, Benefits and Beyond

Cannabidiol has, without question, catapulted into the mainstream — market forecasts from Brightfield Group project sevenfold growth for the CBD market, with sales on track to reach $23.7 billion through 2023. With so much growth generated by those enjoying the potential benefits of cannabidiol for both mental and physical wellness, the question of “what’s next?” becomes a very exciting proposition. And the answer, as it turns out, might just be the CBD’s cannabinoid cousin, the minor cannabinoid known as cannabigerol.  

An Intro to CBG

While THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are both cannabinoids (the group of compounds that actively compose cannabis plants), their intoxicating properties — or lack thereof —serve as a key differentiator; THC’s intoxicating nature means that it makes users feel the sensations that we associate with being “high,” while CBD is non-intoxicating, so while it produces similar benefits, it does not make users feel “high.” The latter is also true of CBG, which is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid. In the natural world, CBG occurs most abundantly in strains of cannabis that are low in THC and high in CBD, such as hemp. As such, the larger discussion is more often about how CBG works alongside CBD rather than CBG vs. CBD.

Structural Makeup

You’ll sometimes hear CBG referred to as “the mother of all cannabinoids.” This is in reference to the fact that cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) is the first identifiable cannabinoid produced during the cannabis plant’s natural development. In this way, cannabigerol is the precursor to the three key cannabinoid lines of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA). When exposed to ultraviolet light or heat, those acidic components synthesize into common major cannabinoids like THC and CBD, with little CBGA — which is not just a minor cannabinoid, but something of a proto-cannabinoid in this process — left over. 

The Observer expands on cannagiberol’s place as a less abundant cannabinoid, noting that it typically only makes up about 1% of harvested cannabis plants by weight. However, numerous cannabis breeders are currently hybridizing plants in an effort to obtain higher yields of cannabigerol, as well as perfecting more efficient new extraction methods for the cannabinoid, as Leafly reports. 

CBG and the Endocannabinoid System

Don’t let the “minor” moniker mislead you, though; like CBD and THC, the cannabinoid CBG is extremely active within the body. Cannabinoids interact with the human body by binding to various receptors throughout a nervous system network known as the endocannabinoid system (or ECS). The signals delivered by these receptors — such as the common CB1 and CB2 receptors —  help the body regulate homeostasis, or balance, within the body.

While CBG interacts with many of the same receptors as CBD, it also networks with a different series of receptors than those activated by other cannabinoids, most notably the alpha-2 adrenergic receptor. This unique interaction may lend CBG equally unique benefits compared to other cannabinoids. In a Women’s Health source, emergency physician José Torradas, M.D., chimes in on the subject of CBG vs. CBD: “In terms of how well it connects to CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBG seems to be much more effective and direct than CBD.” 

CBG and You

While THC is federally illegal, with state legality varying widely, CBG — like cannabidiol — remains legal in commercial use. Those curious about CBG may experience some of its effects by choosing a full-spectrum CBD product, as full-spectrum products contain small amounts of various different cannabinoids. For those already using cannabinoids, cannabigerol may serve as an effective additional supplement, due to what is known as the entourage effect, the mechanism by which cannabis compounds act synergistically to exert a greater effect. As is the case with CBD, always choose cannabigerol products that have been tested in independent, third-party labs to help ensure both safety and quality. 

Naturally, cannabis a personal experience for every individual. As the cannabis community continues to explore the potential of CBG, don’t hesitate to reach out to a cannabis-trained nurse for a guiding hand on your cannabigerol journey.  

Dan Ketchum is an LA-based freelance lifestyle, fashion, health and food writer with more than a decade of experience. He’s been fortunate enough to collaborate and publish with companies such as FOCL, Vitagenne, Livestrong, Reign Together, Out East Rosé, SFGate, The Seattle Times and more.