Updated: Jul 15, 2019
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Cannabis culture is rife with unique words and abbreviations—from the easy-to-understand grass and weed to the where-in-the-world-did-that-come-from chronic and reefer. Few of these words, though, are as important to your understanding of marijuana as the three- and four-letter terms:
Why are these abbreviations so important? Because they’re the building blocks—and the cause—of everything that makes the cannabis plant so great. These abbreviations, and their multisyllabic scientific names are known collectively as cannabinoids.
One hundred and thirteen cannabinoids have been identified so far, each with its own distinct effects. Among those 113 different chemical compounds, one cannabinoid stands out as more significant than all the others. That cannabinoid is cannabigerol (CBG).
But what is CBG? Why is it so important? And what are its benefits? Let's reveal the facts about this little-known cannabinoid and show you why it can be considered the stem cell of the medical-marijuana world.
We’ll also investigate the questions:
Will CBG get you high?
Does CBG have any side effects?
Should you try CBG?
Before we address CBG directly, though, it’s essential that we talk briefly about basic cannabis plant biology.
Basic Cannabis Plant Biology
Pretty much everything that happens in the cannabis plant occurs because of biosynthesis. Biosynthesis is the combination of chemical compounds to form new chemical compounds. In the case of the cannabis plant, the important chemicals to remember are:
Geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP or sometimes GDP).Olivetolic acid (OLA).
These two chemicals are the building blocks—the parent molecules, if you will—of all 113 cannabinoids we mentioned earlier. When they combine, some pretty cool stuff happens!
We’ll continue tracking the production of CBG in the section CBGA: Where It All Begins. For now, though, it’s vital that we learn a bit about the chemistry of cannabinoids so we fully understand what’s going on.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in your brain. THC is the most well-known cannabinoid because of its psychoactive effects. But other cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, and, yes, CBG are gaining in popularity thanks to their powerful medicinal effects.
For the rest of this article, we’ll focus on a specific class of cannabinoids known as phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are produced naturally in plants and are what you get when you smoke, dab, eat, or in all other ways consume marijuana.
The other classifications of cannabinoids include endocannabinoids (produced in your body), and synthetic cannabinoids (manufactured in a lab).
“Wait, back up,” you say, “did I just read that my body produces cannabinoids all by itself?” Yes, sort of. But it’s not what you think.
You can’t somehow concentrate real hard and produce enough endocannabinoids to get you high or relieve your pain. Your body doesn’t work that way. In fact, there’s really no plausible situation where your endocannabinoids would produce the same results as smoking a joint or ingesting a CBD medication.
“So what is it that my endocannabinoids do?” you ask. Good question. The cannabinoids that your body produces naturally are primarily responsible for keeping your body in homeostasis.
“Homeo-what-sis?” Homeostasis. It’s your body’s natural tendency to remain in equilibrium. “Equi-what-brium?” Ok, last time. The next time you don’t understand a word, crack a dictionary.
Equilibrium is a state of physical balance. Picture a teeter-totter (or see-saw) with really hot on one side and really cold on the other. Your body maintains a balance (an equilibrium) between too hot and too cold so that cells don’t die. That’s homeostasis.
And temperature isn’t the only system kept in homeostasis. You’ve got O2/CO2 (oxygen/carbon dioxide) levels, nutrition and waste, fluid balance, and many more. And what governs this equilibrium — this homeostasis? The endocannabinoid system.
Your body produces just enough endocannabinoids to keep the system running smoothly. It’s only when you flood your system with phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant that you feel any different.
So, really, your body’s cannabinoid system (of which endocannabinoids are a part) is the reason why we’re able to get high or feel relief from a CBD medication in the first place. Without it, the cannabis plant would just be another green, leafy vegetable like spinach — pretty much just good for a salad.
But let’s move our attention away from human biology and back to the phytocannabinoids that we know and love.
In the next two sections, we’ll subdivide the broad class of phytocannabinoids into smaller pieces until we reach the focus of this article, CBG.
Acidic And Non-Acidic Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids come in two distinct types: acids and non-acids. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the non-acidic forms, while THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) are the acidic forms.
For the most part, the acidic form occurs in raw cannabis, while the non-acidic form occurs in heated cannabis. We can illustrate this in the following way:
THCA and CBDA + Heat = THC and CBD
The critical point of all this chemistry talk is that the acidic form of each cannabinoid doesn’t offer the same medical effects as the non-acidic form. To get the most from your marijuana, you have to decarboxylate.
Thankfully, this is no problem if you’re smoking or dabbing. You instantaneously decarboxylate your weed when you light it on fire. For other methods of consuming, though, you first have to bake your raw ganja in the oven.
So we’ve established that the acidic cannabinoids are the precursors of the non-acidic cannabinoids. We’ve also established that those non-acidic cannabinoids are where all the psychoactive and medicinal benefits reside.
Let’s set up another word picture to help us with this and the next section (the > symbol means “yields” or “turns into”):
THCA and CBDA and CBCA > THC and CBD and CBC
Now, let’s turn our attention to CBG and see where it fits into the big picture.
CBGA: Where It All Begins
In the plant biology section of this article, we talked about two chemicals—geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid (GPP and OLA respectively)—and how they combine to create all 113 cannabinoids.
In the previous section, we talked about how the acidic cannabinoids turn into the non-acidic cannabinoids when heat is applied. But we actually skipped a step in-between, and it’s where CBG becomes so important.
In raw cannabis plants, geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid combine to produce cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA then combines with enzymes in the plant to produce the other main acidic cannabinoids (THCA, CBDA, CBCA). Here’s another word picture to help you visualize:
Geranyl pyrophosphate + olivetolic acid > CBGA + enzymes > THCA, CBDA, CBCA
The dried Sour Diesel you buy from the budtender at your local dispensary is made up of CBGA, THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. When you apply heat, all of those acids transform into their non-acidic “children” molecules (CBG, THC, CBD, and CBC).
We know that can be a bit much to keep track of, but the point to remember is that the acidic form of CBG (CBGA) is much like stem cells in the human body—with a little help, it can become a wide variety of chemical compounds. That brings us to the next crucial question.
What Exactly Is CBG?
CBG (cannabigerol) is a non-acidic cannabinoid produced when heat is applied to the CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) molecule. Its close chemical relatives are THC, CBD, and CBC.
CBG is found mainly in hemp products, and strains bred for high THC usually contain very low amounts of CBG (less than 1%). High CBD strains, on the other hand, contain much higher concentrations of this essential cannabinoid.
Will CBG Get You High?
No, CBG will not get you high. CBG is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid much like CBD. In fact, in brain-chemistry terms, CBG is what’s known as an antagonist because it interferes with the trippy high created by THC. That’s not a bad thing.
In fact, it underscores the danger of producing strong weed strains with ultra-high THC concentrations because, without CBG, it’s entirely possible to go from buzzed to bad trip in just one drag.
What Are The Benefits Of CBG?
The benefits that CBG has to offer are closely tied to what it does in the human body. In the right dose, CBG acts as an:
Analgesic (relieves pain)
Antibacterial (slows bacteria growth)
Anti-convulsive (reduces seizures and convulsions)
Anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation)
Anti-insomnia (aids sleep)
Anti-proliferative (inhibits cancer cell growth)
Antidepressant (raises mood)
Bone stimulant (promotes bone growth)
Brain cell stimulant (promotes neuron growth)
Appetite stimulant (increases appetite).
As you can see, CBG has the potential to make many sick people well again.
What Disorders Can CBG Treat?
Because of its long list of benefits, CBG can be used to treat:
Inflammatory bowel disease
Methicillin-resistant microbial strains such as MRSA
Low appetite (resulting from chemotherapy and other treatments)
Research into CBG is still ongoing, so this list will likely grow longer in the future.
Does CBG Have Any Side Effects?
CBG does not have any side effects when taken in therapeutic doses. The key words there are “therapeutic doses.” You can experience negative side effects if you consume too much of any substance…even water.
Thankfully, CBG only becomes a problem when taken in excess of 300 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
For a 180-pound person, that means they would have to consume 54,000 milligrams of CBG for it to become dangerous. To put that in perspective, a 180-pound person suffering from severe pain should take, at the most, 25 milligrams to feel relief.
If it’s hard to visualize milligrams, think of it this way:
25 milligrams = ⅛ of a teaspoon54,000 milligrams = almost 11 tablespoons
And that 25 milligrams of CBG will likely be administered in a few drops of tincture or a small amount of an edible. So you can see that there’s a huge difference between a “therapeutic dose” and one that would cause side effects.
That’s why we can effectively say that CBG has no side effects.
Should You Try CBG Products?
Yes! With all the benefits you can reap and the extremely low risk of side effects, there’s really no reason not to try CBG products.
If you’re looking for medical benefits or seeking treatment for one of the disorders listed above, talk to your doctor and the fine folks at your local dispensary so see if CBG is right for you.