What Is CBG? Benefits, Risks And More


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Gerry McNally, Ph.D. Contributor
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More than 60% of U.S. adults have tried cannabidiol (CBD), according to a recent Forbes Health survey conducted by OnePoll. However, CBD is no longer the only cannabinoid rising in popularity. Cannabigerol (CBG), another active compound found in hemp and cannabis sativa plants, is becoming increasingly common, appearing alongside CBD in many products.

Like CBD, CBG is derived from hemp, but it doesn’t have intoxicatingly psychoactive effects like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Read on to discover how CBD and CBG are alike and different, as well as potential benefits and risks of consuming the emerging cannabinoid.

What Is CBG?

CBG, often referred to by experts as “the mother of all cannabinoids,” is the cannabinoid from which other types of cannabinoids (including CBD) are derived, says Michelle Sexton, a naturopathic doctor who works at the Pain Trauma Institute in San Diego. “CBG is the first compound in the biosynthesis (the production of chemical compounds by a living organism) of the other cannabinoids,” she adds.

Since CBG is a starting compound in the cannabis plant, young cannabis plants are typically used to source the cannabinoid because when the plant is ripe, there isn’t much CBG left; instead, the plant is more abundant in THC and CBD, according to Dr. Sexton. Young cannabis plants contain cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), an acidic form of CBG, and, as the plant grows, the CBGA is naturally converted into CBDA and THCA—which can later be converted into CBD and THC when activated by heat, she explains.

CBG is available in many forms, including tinctures, gummies, capsules and topical creams and lotions. CBG is often coupled with CBD in these products because the two cannabinoids can provide complimentary benefits, such as decreasing inflammation and pain, says Fraser Smith, a naturopathic doctor, as well as assistant dean and associate professor at the National University of Health Services in Lombard, Illinois.

How Are CBG and CBD Different?

Although CBD and CBG are similar in that neither has psychoactive properties, Dr. Sexton says they have different molecular makeups, causing each to have a slightly different effect on the body.

Experts agree one key difference between CBD and CBG is that much more research explores CBD’s actions and uses than those of CBG. Dr. Sexton says scientific studies focusing on CBG are primarily conducted either on animals or a small group of people. For this reason, she says the potential benefits of CBG are unsupported by research.

With that said, there are some known similarities and differences between CBG and CBD. For example, CBD and CBG are both non-psychoactive compounds (meaning neither one produces a “high” reaction) and have anti-inflammatory properties, according to Dr. Sexton. However, both experts say that since the cannabinoids’ molecular structures are different, they have slightly different effects.

For instance, CBG is more likely to be an appetite stimulant per preliminary studies while CBD is more likely to be an appetite suppressant, though more research is needed to confirm these and other mechanisms.

Potential Benefits of CBG

Like CBD, CBG may help with chronic pain, anxiety and sleep. However, Dr. Sexton reiterates more robust research into how CBG affects the body is necessary to support these potential benefits.

While scientific research on CBG is in preliminary stages, Dr. Smith says he’s especially hopeful about its potential to help with chronic pain because of its proposed anti-inflammatory properties. “CBG may help with overall inflammation, as well as [specific ways to] reduce pain,” he says.

Since CBG can increase appetite, Dr. Smith says it could also be helpful for people undergoing cancer treatments who may be experiencing a loss of appetite. Additionally, researchers are beginning to explore whether CBG may be beneficial in protecting against certain types of cancer, especially when combined with CBD, though concrete human trials are lacking.

Potential Risks of CBG

CBG products aren’t currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To ensure product safety and accurate labeling, third-party testing is crucial. These results should be easily accessible on a company’s website, along with the product’s certificate of analysis (COA).

Dr. Sexton says CBG is generally regarded as safe, as long as what’s being consumed is truly what’s advertised: As mentioned, the lack of regulation means it’s important to do your homework before purchasing products with CBG. Anyone with underlying health conditions or taking supplements or medications should speak with a health care provider prior to trying any product containing CBG.

Who to Speak With About CBG

Dr. Smith recommends speaking with a naturopathic doctor to learn more about CBG.

Naturopathic doctors may be more knowledgeable about herbs (including hemp) than traditional doctors, he adds. When speaking with a naturopathic doctor about CBG, be sure to explain why you’re interested in trying the cannabinoid, disclose any underlying health issues you have and whether you’re taking any other medications, supplements or substances.

If after talking with a naturopathic doctor you decide that CBG is a good fit for your health goals, be sure to purchase it from a respected source who can prove the products have been third-party laboratory tested, with COAs readily available on the product’s website.

Researchers are still learning about the ways CBG may benefit the body, but the scientific research that does exist is promising.

Read more about how Forbes Health covers CBD and other Cannabinoids here.

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