Cannabigerol (CBG) is becoming increasingly popular and is advertised as a cannabinoid with great potential. While the potential of CBG is undeniable, (despite little evidence to suggest specific therapeutic value), many consumers know little about it. So, what is CBG?
The cannabis plant produces cannabinoids at the end of its growth cycle, mostly in the flowers of the plant. Specifically, cannabinoids are primarily produced in small glandular hairs on the flower known as trichomes. Cannabis first creates CBGa (the acid form of CBG) and subsequently converts CBGa to THCa and CBDa, among others. A marijuana cultivar favors high levels of THCa, an industrial hemp cultivar produces mostly CBDa. CBG-rich hemp strains don’t perform much conversion at all, resulting in high levels CBGa, and little CBDa or THCa. Because the plant uses CBGa to produce all other cannabinoids, CBG has been dubbed “the mother” of all cannabinoids. Since CBGa is the precursor to CBDa, one can imagine that the molecules are very similar, as seen below:
While basic research on CBG is promising, there is only speculative evidence to support claims of therapeutic value. We may see CBG act in ways that suggest a role in disease states, but little work has been done looking specifically at these diseases. Our best knowledge currently comes from individual experiences. With CBG now available in large quantities, it is possible for the first time to explore these hypotheses.
In terms of physical characteristics, pure CBG isolate is a white powder, much like CBD. Its melting point is 52°C (a bit lower than CBD’s melting point). It is extracted through the same methods as CBD. Extraction starts with either ethanol or CO2 extraction of CBG-rich hemp, followed by winterization, decarboxylation and distillation to provide a CBG-rich distillate. Because CBG is a solid, just like CBD, crystallization of the distillate can be performed with solvent to produce pure CBG isolate.
CBG can be used in the same way as CBD. A fat-soluble very stable white powder, CBG isolate is easy to measure and dose accurately and can be formulated into tinctures, just as readily as CBD. It is easy to bake with and can be used in the same manner as CBD for nearly any application.
While much is unknown about CBG, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam said it best, “I believe that the cannabinoids represent a medicinal treasure trove which waits to be discovered”.
Now, CBG for Geeks
The cannabis plant first synthesizes CBGa, which is then enzymatically converted to THCa or CBDa. Because of this, CBGa is often thought of as a starting unit to access all cannabinoids. This does not, however, mean much in the way of biological activity. While CBG can be thought of as the progenitor in a biosynthetic sense, in terms of therapeutic potential, not much is known.
On a molecular level, CBD and CBG are rather homologous. Both compounds share the pentyl hydrocarbon chain and phenolic moiety that make up the olivetol scaffolding common to cannabis-derived phytocannabinoids. Both CBG and CBD have two free phenols (unlike THC and CBC), however the terpenyl moieties are quite different. While CBD possesses a free-rotating ring structure, CBG’s terpenyl moiety is a long geranyl chain. This chain gives CBG many more possible architectures in 3-dimensional space, opening up more possibilities for receptor binding and interaction not found with THC or CBD.
While CBG is of particular interest currently, there is a lot of research to be done. From receptor binding studies to phenotypic work, there is little evidence in the primary literature to back any health claims associated with CBG. Access to pure CBG isolates on a large scale will provide the necessary materials to support these very needed studies.
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