What is CBG – Cannabigerol?
Many people from consumers, to brands and raw ingredient manufacturers are touting CBG as the ‘next big thing’ but is it really or are companies pushing CBG interest to sell more product? With even less known about CBG than our friend CBD, is CBG really on the brink of something big or is it just another flash in the pan. In this post, we will break down what CBG is and the emerging scientific evidence for its potential use in the context of human health.
What is CBG – Cannabigerol?
Cannabigerol, abbreviated as CBG, is one of more than 120 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Many cannabinoids, CBD and CBG included ,have acidic forms, abbreviated as CBDa and CBGa (cannabigerolic acid) respectively. CBGa is the parent molecule from which other cannabinoids are made. This alone has led many to believe, wrongly or rightly, that CBG may be a sort of ‘super-cannabinoid’ as it is required to create all the others. During the development of the cannabis plant, the vast majority of CBG, up to 99%, is used to create other cannabinoids, namely CBD and THC, leaving about 1% CBG in the mature plant by weight of total cannabinoids. Therefore, despite its critical importance in cannabinoid creation, it is a minor cannabinoid by amount in the matured plant.
For those organic chemistry buffs amongst you, the pathway below highlights how even fairly minor modifications to CBGa can create cannabinoids with a wide range of different physiological effects.
For years pioneering cannabis farmers and scientists have been manipulating the cannabinoid content of their plants through selective breeding and genetic manipulation and some are now attempting to produce plants with higher natural CBG content. Other companies are carefully timing the point at which they begin extracting cannabinoids to target the plant when CBG is highest before the cannabinoid is sued to synthesise other cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
The Science of CBG
The current literature surrounding CBG is fairly sparse although this will likely change in the coming years. What studies there are, are of generally good quality but focus on very specific biological systems often using very specific animal models or cell lines. While the emerging data is very interesting and even promising, we require much more complete data before drawing decisive conclusions about how CBG may be used therapeutically in humans. Let’s take a look at some of these studies:
One study suggested that cannabinoids like CBG may have potential therapeutic use in the treatment of glaucoma which is an eye disorder typified by increased blood pressure within the eye itself. Numerous cannabinoids, including CBG, have shown some promise in experimental models of high blood pressure due to their vasodilation effects.
Other research has shown that CBG may be useful in combating inflammation that results from inflammatory bowel disease. This experiment used a specific animal model of IBS; CBG was shown to attenuate colitis as well as immune cell infiltration and the production of key inflammatory cytokines. The authors suggest that CBG could be considered for use in IBS patients.
CBD has previously been shown to have neuroprotective properties in rodent models and some data suggest CBG may have similar characteristics. In a model of Hunting’s Disease, CBG was shown to normalise otherwise aberrant protein production in certain parts of the brain – a key feature of the disease. Additionally, CBG was found to be ‘extremely’ protective against chemically induced neurotoxicity, improving motor deficits and protecting striatal neurons against 3NP toxicity. The researchers suggest CBG may find utility either alone or in combination with other drugs in the treatment of Huntington’s Disease.
As with number of cannabinoids, CBG has shown efficacy in limited anti-cancer and anti-bacterial studies. When administered to a mouse model of colorectal cancer, CBG was shown to hamper colon cancer progression and selectively inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells. The authors concluded that CBG should be considered translationally in colorectal cancer prevention and cure. In relation to cancer; cancer-induced cachexia is a serious problem that impacts prognosis. Cachexia is a progressive wasting and weakness of the body due to chronic illness and is often associated with cancer. Although cancer itself does not always induce nausea and wasting (it certainly can however), first line treatments for the disease such as chemotherapy do, and lack of food intake further exacerbates the wasting. Isolated CBG more than doubled the total food intake of rats and increased the frequency of meals with no negative impact to neuromotor abilities. The authors urge the continued exploration of CBG as a novel hyperphagic drug in the use of cachexia treatment.
In another interesting study, 5 cannabinoids including CBG and CBD showed potent anti-bacterial properties against a variety of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which may have great clinical relevance considering the rise of anti-biotic resistant ‘super bugs’.
Growth of Unsubstantiated Claims
As of the end of 2019, there have been precisely zero clinical investigations into the effects of CBG on human health.
Why then are so many brands and companies promoting CBG? Because CBG is relatively unknown thus can command a higher price tag. I have even seen medical doctors promoting CBG as a ‘cure for colitis’ amongst other things on various cannabis blogs.
‘It alleviates colitis in experimental models of colitis in mice so we can extrapolate that to humans’.
No, you can’t. That’s not how science works and it’s certainly not how drug development works. This is such an error in thinking and especially egregious when coming from a doctor. Typically, you need good, solid evidence of an effect first in cell lines then in progressively detailed rodent studies followed by small and then larger scale human trials before you even come close to making claims like ‘it cures colitis’.
To be clear cannabinoids like CBG offer a range of POTENTIALLY very useful therapeutic qualities but we need carefully thought out and conducted clinical studies to say this definitively.
We have always said to be wary of companies making un-realistic medical claims about cannabinoids and CBG is a prime example of this. While this happens all the time with CBD, the fact that we know even less about CBG makes these claims even more laughable.
The bottom line is you should NEVER trust an individual, brand or company that claims their cannabinoid product can cure/alleviate certain diseases unless this has been definitively proven in a high-quality clinical setting.
CBG is an interesting compound at the beginning of its research journey. Despite being identified a number of years ago the literature remains sparse regarding its mechanism of action on mammalian systems. What evidence is emerging is certainly encouraging and will hopefully form a solid bedrock of data which will generate enough interest to warrant studies and eventual trials in humans for a range of diseases including but not limited to:
- Huntington’s Disease
- Certain bacterial infections
- Colitis – and/or other inflammatory diseases of the intestines