What is Cannabigerol (CBG)?

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Nov 29, 2023
Last updated:
May 2, 2024

As the field of medical cannabis grows, so does our knowledge about the plant itself. There are more than a hundred cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and we’re only now starting to understand how they affect the body and the individual and combined benefits they may have.

One cannabinoid of particular interest is cannabigerol or CBG. Despite belonging to the ‘minor’ cannabinoids family, CBG is the seed from which all other cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are born.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids come in two forms: endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids exist naturally in our bodies, while phytocannabinoids come from the cannabis plant and are introduced into our bodies when we consume cannabis via ingestion or inhalation.

All cannabinoids interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system – a complex cell-signalling network composed of CB1 and CB2 receptors that are found throughout the body. When cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system, it can affect our mood, pain sensation, appetite and other bodily functions.

You’re likely aware of THC and CBD, the two most well-known cannabinoids, but you may not know much about the dozens of other minor cannabinoids. Among these minor cannabinoids is what’s sometimes called the ‘mother cannabinoid’ – CBG.

How Is CBG Produced In The Cannabis Plant?

Why is CBG known as the mother cannabinoid? Essentially, its acidic form, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) is the most abundant cannabinoid found in a young cannabis plant. All other cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, are born from CBGA.

Once the cannabis plant begins to mature, a process takes place whereby CBGA converts into the acidic forms of THC and CBD: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). A very small amount of CBGA (about 1%) remains unconverted. These acidic precursor cannabinoids aren’t psychoactive but may also hold some medical significance.

Finally, THCA, CBDA and the trace amounts of leftover CBGA convert into their non-acidic, active counterparts – THC, CBD and CBG. This conversion happens through a process called decarboxylation, which essentially refers to activating the cannabinoids by heating them.

It’s this form of THC that creates the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while CBD, CBG and other minor cannabinoids such as cannabinol (CBN) aren’t psychoactive but may have several health benefits. CBD and CBG share some similarities, but have different chemical structures and interact with the endocannabinoid system in slightly different ways.

How Does CBG Interact With The Body?

Like all cannabinoids, CBG interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Specifically, CBG binds weakly with both types of cannabinoid receptors, but may have a slightly stronger bond with the CB2 receptors. The CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune system, which is why researchers are interested in CBG for its potential ability to help modulate the immune system.

CBG does not cause psychoactive effects like THC. THC primarily creates its psychoactive effects through its interaction with the CB1 receptors, found largely in the brain. CBG may also bind to the CB1 receptors, but only weakly.

CBG may also influence the endocannabinoid system through extending the lifespan of other cannabinoids. There’s some evidence that CBG could reduce the activity of an enzyme that breaks down anandamide, an endocannabinoid that helps regulate pleasure, motivation, sleep, appetite and pain.

Does CBG Have Medical Uses?

The vast majority of cannabis research focuses on THC and CBD, but CBG may have some medical significance as well. One review examined CBG’s potential neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, and concluded that CBG may have a role to play in the prevention of some neurodegenerative disorders. Another recent review highlights CBG’s potential anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

While encouraging, most studies included in the reviews were still in the preclinical stage, meaning human studies are needed to confirm this. Before we can say with confidence that CBG might have medical significance or health benefits, there needs to be more high-quality research.

Does CBG Have Any Side Effects?

Medical cannabis is usually well-tolerated, when used for therapeutic effect at the dosages prescribed by your medical practitioner. A survey from 2022 looked at 127 patients using CBG-dominant cannabis products and found that 44% of the patients experienced no side effects, while others reported mild effects such as dry mouth and sleepiness.

Some other rare but possible side effects that you may experience with CBG are dizziness and digestive issues. Speak with your doctor if you experience any uncomfortable side effects while using medical cannabis, and they may be able to find a cannabis formulation that you can tolerate better.

How Can I Use CBG?

CBG is present in several medical cannabis products, but usually in small amounts. Full-spectrum CBD oil contains, as the name implies, the full-spectrum of the cannabis plant, which includes CBG as well as other cannabinoids such as THC. Vaping the dried cannabis flower is another way to consume CBG.

Speak with your doctor if you’re interested in accessing the lesser-known compounds in cannabis such as CBG. A doctor will assess you and your condition and recommend an appropriate medication.

Is CBG Legal?

THC cannabis products became legal for medical use in Australia in 2016, but you need a valid prescription from your healthcare provider to access them.

The legal status of products containing cannabis extracts without THC is more complicated. Cannabis oils with the THC removed are technically legal to buy over the counter in Australia, but companies must go through a lengthy and expensive process to gain approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) before their products are available in pharmacies.

No THC-free cannabis oil products have gone through this process yet, so it will be a while before you’re able to buy CBG oil from your local chemist. In the meantime, you can speak with your doctor or book an appointment with a cannabis clinic to see if you’re eligible for a medical cannabis prescription.

CBG - The Mother Cannabinoid

It’s easy to see why some people describe CBG as the most important cannabinoid: without it we wouldn't have THC, CBD or any other cannabinoids. While we don’t know much about CBG’s effect on humans yet, early research has shown that it’s worthy of attention, and in the future we may see more CBG-dominant medications used for their therapeutic benefits.

Studying the ‘minor’ compounds in cannabis gives us a richer understanding of the science behind the plant, increases understanding of how the medication works and can help you and your doctor make informed decisions about medical cannabis and your health.

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