The legalization of cannabis in multiple states has allowed for a broader industry to flourish, around the resale of high THC cannabis and associated phytocannabinoids.
In parallel, the 2018 US farm bill has opened up a federal hemp market given the final product contains < 0.3% THC, bolstering growth.
The combination of these two changes has ramifications across the whole cannabis industry. In legal cannabis states, the exploration of cannabis is at an all-time high, with products only available emerging R&D as a consequence of legalization.
In other states, the exploration of Hemp has led down a windy road of Isolating cannabinoids which have as of yet been largely unexplored outside of science. One of which is Cannabigerol aka CBG.
CBG – The New Hemp Frontier
Hemp companies have begun looking for the next cannabis compound, which could be as exciting and marketable as CBD.
Overall, the signals currently point to a minor cannabinoid called cannabigerol, otherwise known as CBG.
Usually found in low concentrations in both hemp and high THC cannabis, CBG Isolate and Oil derived from hemp are already available across the US and have begun popping up in Europe too.
What is CBG Oil?
CBG was initially isolated by an Israeli scientist called Raphel Mouchelm in 1964, the same individual who first isolated THC.
Cannabigerol is found naturally in low concentrations (< 1%) in the trichomes of cannabis or hemp flowers, and it is considered a minor cannabinoid.
Interestingly, the compound is otherwise known as the mother cannabinoid. It’s precursor, cannabigerol acid (CBGA) is the parent of four phytocannabinoids: Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Transformations from acid to cannabinoid occur under ultraviolet light, oxidation or heat, under a process known as decarboxylation. Chemicals in the plant transform from phytocannabinoid acids into the active phytocannabinoids we are familiar with, such as CBD and THC.
What is the difference between CBD and CBG oil?
CBD is the primary cannabinoid constituent found in hemp and CBD oils are often whole plant extracts diluted in a carrier oil such as hemp oil.
Although, other forms such as broad spectrum (whole plant minus THC) and pure CBD Isolate oils also exist, full spectrum is the most common followed by broad spectrum.
CBG Oil is often the combination of both full spectrum CBD Oil and CBG Isolate. Although you can combine CBG with the other CBD oils mentioned above too, it’s not as common (yet). Otherwise, it is available in an isolated form, with pure CBG and a carrier oil such as MCT.
Does CBG get you high?
No, CBG is a non-intoxicating compound, and it cannot get you high, which is why it’s gaining such cult popularity – following in the steps of the early adoption of CBD.
It’s lack of a high also means the benefits of CBG oil can be felt without any psychotropic effects.
Why is CBG oil so expensive?
CBG is a minor cannabinoid, meaning creating it is an expensive and often difficult task, and it takes hundreds of kilos hemp biomass to produce small quantities of CBG Isolate.
While there are hemp strains which often contain up to 15% CBD, making full spectrum CBD oil extraction a (relatively more) economical affair, it is notoriously difficult to find hemp yielding more than 1% CBG.
As a result, hemp extraction can produce 20x less CBG than it does CBD, giving cannabigerol the colloquial name of the Rolls Royce of cannabinoids.
Also, as noted earlier, CBGA turns into one of three cannabinoids, and due to the way cannabinoids are synthesised more CBG means less CBD/THC.
Hemp plants which are harvested earlier in the cycle, are more likely to produce CBG over the other two compounds. Meaning yields are either sacrificed early to produce CBG Isolate or harvested later to generate full or broad spectrum CBD Oil.
Either way, you cannot have both, and that is why CBG oil is so expensive!
How is CBG made?
Like other cannabinoids, CBG is extracted from hemp. However, as noted earlier, its precursor CBGA is found in larger quantities in younger plants and hemp harvested for CBG production is usually 6-8 weeks premature compared to those used to produce CBD oil.
However, to extract CBG from hemp extract, most manufacturers use a process called chromatography, which requires costly machinery. The process itself can also take some time, which together adds to the already expensive unit economics.
What are the effects of CBG oil?
While research documenting the benefits of CBG oil is somewhat limited, it is clear its effects are derived through interactions with the endocannabinoid system.
Known as the ECS for short, this system works via two receptors known as CB1 and CB2. The interactions of cannabinoids with these receptors is what maintains balance within our body, known as homeostasis and governs adjustments in other bodily systems which have additional effects downstream.
The few studies which have explicitly looked at cannabigerol, have done so under the guise of analysing the therapeutic benefits of Cannabis Sativa L.
While none of these studies thus far are clinical, overall they suggest that CBG acts as a partial antagonist to both the CB1 and CB2 receptor, binding directly and thus directly impacting the ECS.
Generally, researchers believe “CBG, may exert beneficial actions with therapeutic potential via cannabinoid receptors”.
More specifically, studies have reviewed specific use cases associated with further delving into the potential therapeutic benefits of CBG.
Including a 2013 study of inflammatory bowel disease, suggesting the compound reduced colitis in rodents and a 2017 study related to stress, concluding: “CBG may hold great promise as an anti-oxidant agent”.
It’s critical to note these studies are all in vivo, meaning they are pre-clinical, and further research is required to understand the impact this compound could have on humans.
The bottom line
CBG will likely become more inexpensive as time progresses. Innovations in both cannabis genetics and improvements in extraction will likely bring the cost down.
Some farms are already experimenting with creating CBG flower derived from a hemp strain, which is dominant in CBG over other cannabinoids. It’s early, but it looks like the prohibitive cost of this compound is temporary.
With respect to the potential benefits of CBG, research paints a picture that clearly requires more investigation. It’s likely across the next five years we will learn more about CBG and cannabinoids in general, to conclude what their potential uses might be.