I can’t recall the first time I became aware of CBD. All I know is that I suddenly noticed the cannabis compound everywhere—CBD-infused lotions for achy muscles and joint pain; bars hawking CBD cocktails; droplets of it put in coffee at hip cafes; and, of course, the endless articles and news shows proclaiming it as an all-natural healthy alternative to addictive pain medicine. As sales soared, the market continued catering to the seemingly endless hunger for CBD. From candles to even clothing, CBD (aka cannabidiol) was being put into everything. In recent weeks, though, I became aware of CBG—the cannabinoid now being touted by many as not just the next CBD but perhaps an even better, more beneficial option.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s taken notice of CBG. (Full disclosure: I first noticed CBG this past November while buying my usual supply of CBD oil, which I use for sleep and relaxation.) Early converts claim CBG produces the same calming, pain-reducing effects as CBD, except it’s even more powerful–kind of like CBD on natural, wholistic steroids. One thing is certain, the early response from consumers has been enthusiastic. As MaryAnn Stanger, a Naturopathic Doctor and the founder of the CBD seller Zatural, told me her business only recently began carrying CBG, but it’s already “selling like hot cakes!”
“CBG is interesting. It’s probably not just a fad, I think we’re going to learn more about it, and it will be earning its stripes,” Dr. Daniel P. Stein, a neurologist and medical marijuana expert, told me.
Before going any farther, I should state that it’s recommended to speak with your doctor before introducing anything new to your body. CBG, like CBD, is not FDA-approved, though as the popularity and research and cannabinoids continues to surge, that may soon change. But, for now, “there’s a lot of Wild West when it comes to producing these non-regulated supplements,” cautioned Dr. Stein. This makes it all the more important to do your due diligence before buying CBG to make sure the company is reputable. (When in doubt, try to check for independent lab testing verification.)
As of right now, CBG has no known ill side effects. And for the completely uninitiated into the world of cannabinoids, everything being discussed here is perfectly legal. You can order CBD products online and have them delivered to any state in the country. (Note: While all CBD is legal under federal law, some states restrict the use of CBD products that contain low levels of THC; though there are plenty of THC-free options.) Chances are, your local pharmacy or health-food store stocks a CBD product. Recreational marijuana (and the THC compound contained within) is what can get you in trouble with the law—depending on where you live—though that’s becoming increasingly less so in many places.
The basic difference is THC gets you high; CBD and CBG do not. For pretty much that reason alone, the latter two are perfectly legal. What then is the difference between CBD and CBG? And why might CBG indeed be the next big thing?
CBG (full name: cannabigerol) is “‘sometimes called ‘mother cannabinoid’ since almost all other cannabinoids start as CBG,” said Dr. Stanger. This is because CBGA, the acidic precursor to CBG, functions as a precursor in cannabis plants for other cannabinoids, like CBDA, THCA, and CBCA. Those eventually break down even more to transform into CBD, THC, and CBC. Even further processes involving decarboxylation or other extraction methods make other cannabinoids, like CBN or Delta-8. But let’s not get too lost in the, er, weeds, with all that now. As Dr. Stanger noted, “Cannabis is a complex plant with more than 150 cannabinoids and over 400 chemical entities. Just to study that plant alone and its benefits on the environment, would amaze you.”
In limited studies, CBG has shown powerful anti-anxiety and muscle-relaxing effects, perhaps more so than THC or CBD. This reaction in human bodies is caused by CBG binding to endocannabinoid receptors in the brain that mitigate anxiety and pain, according to scientists.
CBD and CBG both interact with the same receptors in the body and both appear to have anti-inflammatory effects. However, some early evidence suggests CBG does have some a different and fuller range of health benefits than CBD.
What’s important to keep in mind is that while there’s been quite a bit of research done on CBD, CBG is only recently being seriously studied by the wider scientific community. As its popularity grows, that will surely change, but for now studies have shown a variety of potential for the medicinal use of CBG, like reducing inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease. You’ve likely heard one of the principal benefits of medical marijuana is for treating glaucoma. Now, it’s believed CBG might be at least partly the reason for this as CBG could reduce intraocular pressure that so often causes the condition. But that’s not all: Studies in recent years have shown promise in CBG helping with bladder dysfunctions, treating Huntington’s disease, killing bacteria responsive for dangerous infections, and even cancer. Yes, believe it or not, a 2014 study examined colon cancer in lab rats and found CBG might reduce cancer cell growth and other tumors.
So what is holding some companies back in regards to marketing CBG as lustily as they did for CBD? Well, first off, it hasn’t been studied on the level of CBD. Remember, marijuana for most of its existence in our country was seen as a recreational—and even dangerous—drug. That’s of course changed. In relative terms, CBD only recently became a big fad. For now, CBG is also more expensive. Looking at tinctures containing CBG on popular CBD sites, you’ll see a higher price tag than on pure CBD.
Since cannabis is mainly harvested for recreational or medicinal marijuana (or CBD extracts), there aren’t many cannabis strains that currently contain CBG in significant amounts. Because CBGA is the starting point for the development of other substances in the cannabis plant, harvesting large amounts of it has been problematic.
That will soon change, too, Dr. Jeremy Riggle told me. Dr. Riggle is an analytical chemist and the Chief Scientist at Mary’s Medicinals, which has recently added some CBG products to complement its popular CBD line. He explained that with how strains of cannabis can be manipulated now, it’s possible to make plants that are almost 100 percent CBG. As popularity of CBG increases, the need for more availability will follow, and a price decrease should occur shortly thereafter.
While CBG may well be the next big thing for cannabis compounds, don’t expect it to be the last. The three doctors I interviewed all saw great potential in other cannabinoids as well. Dr. Riggle spoke highly of the benefits of CBN, which so far has a reputation as a sleep aid, though he believes its list of benefits will be adjusted once it receives more notice. Dr. Stanger mentioned the uses of CBC, which has already shown promise for its anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and Stanger said further research could reveal even more “incredible benefits.” Meanwhile, Dr. Stein talked about how recent studies on THCV shows it could significantly reduce metabolic syndrome and help treat obesity and diabetes.
Back to CBG, though: Is it really just a souped-up version of CBD or its own, unique entity? “I do think eventually we’re gonna learn a lot about it, and it’s gonna have a different indication profile than what we see for CBD,” said Dr Riggle.
As with so much, time will be the ultimate decider. But anyone remaining skeptical about CBG might do well to remember that most people once wrote CBD off as a passing fad. If that is indeed the case, it’s a fad that currently has a market worth close to an estimated billion dollars and expected to grow to $5.3 billion by 2025.