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CBG vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?

Like its non-intoxicating cousin CBD, CBG— short for Cannabigerol, is one of the more than 120 cannabinoids found in hemp and now federally legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill

In this post, we’ll be looking at: 

  • How CBD wouldn’t exist without CBG
  • The differences between CBG vs. CBD 
  • The unique challenges posed by working with CBG

CBG vs. CBD— More like Uncle vs. Nephew 

The biggest difference between CBG vs. CBD are their different chemical makeups.

Both CBG and CBD come from the same parent cannabinoid: Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGa.) Cannabigerolic Acid turns into CBG through the decarboxylation process during which the CBGa molecule drops a carboxyl group via heat. 

Side note: decarboxylation is also a key step during the edible making process. You can read more about it here in our Guide to Making Hemp Edibles.  

Cannabigerolic Acid is also the precursor to CBD by way of CBDa Synthase; a process in which CBGa transforms into both CBDa and hydrogen peroxide. It’s believed that this synthase step may help contribute to the hemp plant’s own self-defense system. CBDa can then become CBD through the same decarboxylation process described above.

CBGa synthase and decarboxylation diagram
Cannabigerolic Acid is the precursor to both CBG and CBD. One big happy family.

 Because of its ability to transform into CBDa, THCa, and CBCa; CBGa is known affectionately to some cannabis hemp scientists as the “Mother of Cannabinoids.”

Affectionately to Effectively: CBG vs. CBD

Unlike CBD studies, which are increasingly common, CBG research is relatively new and in pre-clinical stages. That said, early the benefits of CBG are being studied in animals and there are some promising signs: 

  • Like CBD, CBG is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • In early animal models, CBG has been shown to slow and inhibit tumor growth. 
  • CBG is believed to have neuroprotective properties. If this is true, the molecule could help further research into treatments for Huntington’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and several other diseases. 

What we do know: CBG interacts with the brain differently than CBD. Whereas CBD interacts with your body’s periphery endocannabinoid system, CBG interacts directly with the brain’s CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.

The difficulties of working with CBG vs. CBD 

There’s a reason that CBG hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of adoration being given to CBD these last few years: CBG is difficult and expensive to produce. 

CBGa, as mentioned earlier, is the precursor to several different cannabinoids found in hemp. So many in fact, that after most of the synthesis takes place, only <1% of CBG is left present in hemp as a percentage of dry weight.  

Most of that CBGa in high-CBD hemp strains is turned into CBDa which then decarboxylated into our CBD. That’s by design.

Back to the drawing board with CBG

To harvest any significant amount of CBG, cannabis breeders and scientists recently revisited the drawing board to figure out how to genetically alter hemp to give us a different cocktail of cannabinoids. 

Early breeding efforts have been somewhat successful, but CBG-specific strains still need some work. Whereas CBD hemp strains are large and hearty plants that can grow upwards of eight feet tall, many CBG-dominant strains are smaller and more susceptible to blights like powdery mildew.  

As CBG genetics improve, expect to see CBG become a more prevalent cannabinoid.

 

Updated August 5, 2021

Sources: 

  1. “Farm Bill.” USDA, United State Department of Agriculture, 2018, <www.usda.gov/farmbill.>
  2. Gstalter, Morgan. “McConnell Bill Would Legalize Hemp as Agricultural Product.” TheHill, 26 Mar. 2018, <thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/380287-mcconnell-bill-would-legalize-hemp-as-agricultural-product.>
  3. Shapiro, Gary E. “P.S. Docket No. MLB 18-39.” USPS, 8 Nov. 2018 <https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/judicial/admin-decisions/2018/mlb-18-39-fd.htm>
  4. Taura, Futoshi, et al. “Purification and Characterization of Cannabidiolic-Acid Synthase from Cannabis Sativa L.” Journal of Biological Chemistry, no. 29, Elsevier BV, July 1996, pp. 17411-16. Crossref, doi:10.1074/jbc.271.29.17411. 
  5. Navarro, Gemma et al. “Cannabigerol Action at Cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 Receptors and at CB1-CB2 Heteroreceptor Complexes.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 9 632. 21 Jun. 2018, doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00632